Recorded in the early months of 1969 at Art Snider's Sound Canada studios in Toronto and pressed up in very limited quantities, Royal American 20th Century Blues is an impossibly rare psych-rock curios that has sold for close to $2000.
The band (guitarists Ron Dove and Mike Clancy, along with bassist Paul Lachapelle and drummer Rick Vallieres) formed in Toronto in 1968, with the older Clancy having once recorded with rockabilly acts Jack Bailey and The Naturals and Jerry Warren and The Tremblers. Royal American... seems to have one foot planted on either side of the Atlantic, flitting from Brit-infused freakbeat ('Very Strange') to acerbic West Coast guitar jams ('Thirteen Miles Down'), sometimes even in the same song (the amazing five-minute title track). “T.O. Town” is the greatest psych rock tribute to the city of Toronto. And the sombre piano reprise that closes side two is a sober lament - almost frighteningly so - on our own royal American twentieth century futility. The record is not without its detritus, but still, how Royal American 20th Century Blues could have gone so unnoticed remains a mystery.
Snider kept the band busy later that year, employing them as session musicians on a couple of equally arcane endeavours, Hyde's obscure folk LP on Quality and, a few years later, for Snider's wife's project, Jackie Allen and the Allen Sisters. But aside from a solo seven-inch by Dove, the band responsible for one of Canada's rarest records was never heard from again.
The copy shown here is the only known sealed copy of this album.
The photo cover was by Neil Evans.
“30 Jazzmos dropped into Nushenko’s one day, and Neil couldn’t stop laughing. Everyone started making soap. White, blue, and red soap. Great bubbles filled the room. All the little jazzmos laughed, and worked hard trying to make good soap. Some was spilled along the 401, some dropped into T.O.
R.J. is Mike, and Mike is Neil, and Neil is Paul, and Paul is Rick and everyone was Nushenko. A great voice came through the room filled with bubbles and laughing, and all those things that happen on a winter nite.
30 Jazzmos are seeing that the bubbles are all red, white and blue, and seeing that Neil won’t stop laughing, and all kinds of stuff like that. I shall call your soap “ROYAL AMERICAN TWENTIETH CENTURY BLUES”!”
The album was originally re-issued on CD on Mystic Dive Records, Montreal, Canada. It was later re-issued on the Shadocks label in a 180 gram deluxe exact limited pressing of 450 numbered copies. The Shadoks re-issue came with a non-LP 7”.
-With notes from Robert Williston and Michael Panontin. Visit Michael's site here: http://www.canuckistanmusic.com
Museum of Canadian Music