Track-by-track album review of This Is Us (1969) by British “sunshine-pop” band Harmony Grass.
In 1969, former members of the group Tony Rivers & The Castaways released sunshine-pop record, This Is Us, which perfectly encapsulated everything associated with the sub-genre. When listening, one might get the feeling of kites being flown, eating pancakes on a Sunday morning, and laying down on the grass on a breezy afternoon. This is an album packed with good vibrations, ones that are hard to overlook.
The album is remarkably consistent, thirteen songs that demonstrate great song writing, or at least a clever way to cover a song. Even though Harmony Grass and this album are relatively unknown, they did score a hit with the album opener Move in a Little Closer Baby that reached #24 in the UK in 1969 – this one had to grow on me, as it’s melody isn’t as strong as most songs on the rest of the album. However, it is a solid opener for an album that generally gets better and better.
Next, My Little Girl, is a ‘cute’ kind of track, with harmonies coming out of every direction possible. GREAT harmonies, might I add, with guitarist Tony Ferguson delivering light and breezy guitar solos throughout. What a Groovy Day has a great chorus, but relatively weak verses. On an album where most songs have both the choruses and verses delivered well, this is somewhat of a letdown, but nothing too detrimental.
Now, we have the best track on the album with the absolutely hypnotic, I’ve Seen To Dream. The atmosphere of the song is similar to walking on an ocean, being able to touch the clouds with ease, and looking at a blue sky with a psychedelic reddish hue. A swirling guitar starts off the track, and an all out assault of spellbinding vocal delivery is made, with beautiful falsetto by Tony Rivers making it all the more wonderful. You have to hear it to believe it. (It Ain’t Necessarily) Byrd Avenue and Chattanooga Choo Choo are relatively similar, while both being equally humorous. While they might not be the tracks you will remember from this album, they serve their purpose nonetheless.
The second half of the album begins with Good Thing. This was slated to be the band’s second single, before it was changed to the non-album track First Time Loving. If the album opener could become a hit, then why not this one? Both are equal in quality, and both being one of the few songs on the album with a focus on horns. Not the best on the album, but solid anyway. This goes into the folk-pop Simon & Garfunkel style tune, Mrs. Richie, a beautiful song with equally beautiful lyrics, it is unique in that the band never recorded anything else quite like it. It turns out they were equally good at folk as they were with pop!
Summer Dreaming is drenched in that syrupy pop feeling. If syrupy songs, (ones that are overly sentimental in a corny ‘corn syrup’ kind of way) are not for you, then you might want to skip this one; this then goes into the jazzy I Think Of You. Like a lot of ‘jazzy’ songs, I picture listening to this at night with a full moon present in the sky. A very smooth track I must say.
Now, we come to the second best track on the album, with Ballad of Michael. This one is unique, with it’s fast-paced tempo, mesmeric guitar and key changes, it has the potential to amaze any listener, not only for the quality, but its diversity as well. Tom Dooley is a throwaway A Capella track, which has similarities to And Your Dream Comes True by The Beach Boys. In fact, it seems that Harmony Grass directly lifted the vocal harmony from that track. The ballad What Do You Do When Love Dies could have been a single, since it had as much potential as Move In A Little Closer Baby to become a hit. It’s quite lovely, although maybe not for everybody. Don’t forget to look up the non-album B-side I Remember, which is one glorious musical achievement that should have been included on the album.
All in all, This Is Us by Harmony Grass is a classic example of 1960’s sunshine-pop. Although it was released in 1969, the album has more of a ’66 or ’67 feel, which must have made it sound a bit dated back then. Additionally, it does have a mid 1960s Beach Boys influence to it, as well as this, lead singer Tony Rivers has a voice reminiscent of Frankie Valli at times. However, don’t let that sway you from checking this one out if you’re not particularly into those artists. Harmony Grass are quite different from them, they incorporate the best sounds from the two into something sweet and satisfying.
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