The Enfields / Friends Of The Family – The Songs Of Ted Munda [1966/1967] (1991)

“You’re not part of the life I’m leading / how can you say it’s wrong?”

enfields

This is yet another classic move on my part—that is, in replacing a long gone CD with a vinyl edition. I adore the recordings by these two related Delaware bands, but also recall my attention waning with the final tracks on the CD, so this smaller dose ought to hit just the spot. Finally got my grubby hands on the LP, the contents of which I haven’t heard it in 7 or 8 years—first side consisting of the singles of one band, the flip the first demos of the other, both equally raw. Of course these are relics from a half century ago, and the surface noise and low fidelity bridge that distance in the most pleasing way. The Enfields may not be the first emo band (some say Beach Boys?) but they indulge in their sadsackery with the best of ’em (“I’m alone, I could die”) when pondering their place “In The Eyes Of The World.” I’m always impressed by compilations that by sheer happenstance feel like an album, and “I’m For Things You Do” plays like an ideal second track—and girl, what could be more sensitive than the title sentiment? Their pretty harmonies sometimes throw the listener off the trail of a band that also rocks, and the tasty guitar leads and punchy rhythm section (and unexpected modal breakdown) on “She Already Has Somebody” probably made even more of an impact live (where they could dispense of this premature fade). “You Don’t Have Very Far” offers encouraging advice for a lost friend, and makes me think of the Rising Storm or a more introspective Ugly Ducklings track (the harmonica alone begs comparisons to “Not For Long”). “Face To Face” is a corker with as dissonant a guitar solo as we’re gonna get from these nice boys. Interestingly, the liner notes peg “Face” with a “Taxman” riff, though I hear it more in “Time Card.” In any case, with the intervening “Twelve Month Coming” it’s a side-closing triple whammy with a stunningly abrupt ending.

Side two resumes with Friends Of The Family—a group that transitioned out of The Enfields with their new bass player and the emerging dominance of Ted Munda as the sole songwriter. A trickier approach is apparent with the aptly named “Time Music” and while one might worry that the sound “festers in [his] brain,” Ted’s “happy once again.” The bizarrely poignant “Wallace, He Plays With Frogs” makes a case for reclaiming childhood innocence, even at a price (“In the backdrop of my mind it’s clear, there is no one I can really be near”) but our hero is also the source of envy (“Don’t you wish you and I could get by with friends like that?”). The next tune seeks solace in similarly odd company, namely “Funny Flowers”—an impeccable and improbably deep pop song that shoulda gone top ten. I’m not sure Munda concocted it to be a single, but the balance of the six song demo leans more progressive, and “Blue Boat Makes Me Sad” likely scared off any producer who may have sniffed a smash in the previous number. “Jello Lights” veers even further from the hit parade course, like these guys had album-orientated rock ambitions before such a thing existed, and is downright psychedelic in its observation “You’re acting like you’ve had that Jello before.” (The absent CD tracks stretch out even further, with “Hot Apple Betty” teasing Southern rock, and Munda later going a little bit country in contributing a 1968 Blues Magoos b-side and full-on with a group called Hotspur in the 70s). Don’t ask me what “Bambi’s March” is all about, but the trotting rhythm perfectly evokes the title. An arbitrary finish perhaps to a record with a structurally-sound first side, and while the proper album I keep trying to impose on these groups was not in the cards, Friends Of The Family did release a compromised single before calling it quits. For me and one less LP to covet—and three spins this week—I’m happy once again.

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