The kind folks at Folk Evaluation have excavated another fine privately pressed gem in the form of SENSATION’s self-titled 1976 album. SENSATION was the collaboration between two University of Wisconsin students, Donald S. Fisher and Jeffrey S. Engel, and it’s one helluva fine slice of lost, pastoral sunshine folk rock with just the right dash of power pop.
There are times when this album hits that post Beatles-esque sweet spot so much so that I find myself checking to see if the album is adorned with those iconic Apple Records labels. Honestly, this couldn’t have come at better time for me, as all I seem to be doing these days is listening to Emmit Rhodes, trying to track down a copy of the McGear album, and ordering the Rasmussen album off Discogs. That’s just to give you an idea of how far down the rabbit hole I’ve gone with this type of stuff, never mind the nearly worn out grooves on my Big Star albums.
The album kicks off with what sounds like the canned applause of an enthusiastic crowd prior to the albums’ opening instrumental. You can really get a feeling for the wide-eyed optimism, along with the hopes that the duo must have had about the prospects of their two-man band with that gesture, and really in the end they deserved better. The album was tracked at a local recording studio, L & R (which was run by two cats, Jeff Rockel and John Loper), and basically consisted of a 4 track along with some hand wired effects. The minimal studio set up lends a certain home-brewed vibe to the proceedings, which only serves to enhance the timelessness of the music contained herein.
As far as the song themselves, there is a lot to love on here, especially for fans of some the musicians I mentioned above. There’s the potential A.M. Gold of “Southern Bell,” and the Ram-era McCartney meets Wicker Man soundtrack vibe that kicks off the intro of “Running Still” just prior to it transforming into a beautiful Loaded era V.U. styled romp. Elsewhere, “Will You Be Back?” sounds like it could be a lost Badfinger demo. Not to say this whole thing is just these guys copping the sounds of their contemporaries. There are plenty of unique vibes and hooks that Fisher & Engel cooked up all on their own, such as the plastic funkiness of “Starting New” complete with it’s electronic organ meltdown, and the outsider ode to Engel’s Appaloose horse, “Black Cherry.”
In addition to the entire Sensation album, the folks at F.E. have also included a bonus single collecting the groups’ collaboration with soul singer, Tina Smith (another highly sought after rarity in its own right), and two never previously aired demos recorded following Sensation’s release. It’s on one of those demos, “Never Let Me Go,” where you can hear really the tape degradation, which was probably the result of the demos spending years in someone’s attic or basement. Songs that were victims to the ravages of time and indifference, and it drove home how long it took for someone to rescue these tunes. Just goes to show that the spirit and camaraderie of this duo managed to create some great art which managed to transcend the years. It just took a little while longer than expected for the rest of us to catch up.
BUY the LP from Folk Evaluation – it comes with an additional 7″ !
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