Album review: The Serpent Power (1967)

Source: album artwork

In a never ending stream of West Coast flavored psychedelic music, it’s only inevitable that bands impressive as The Serpent Power would become buried beneath the surface of the musical saga of the 60’s. With the majestic vocals of Tina Meltzer included, it’s beyond astounding that this group never truly received the recognition they deserved. It wasn’t just Tina whose captivating vocals shone so magnificently, husband David Meltzer, was a highly capable singer in his own right. The married couple diligently carried out their vocals in ways that many could only wish to do. Playing at gigs around San Francisco, the band caught the attention Ed Denton, who managed Country Joe and the Fish. Signing to Vanguard records, they released their self-titled debut.

The album opens with the infectious “Don’t You Listen to Her.” Containing fierce organ sounds from John Payne and a bouncy rhythm throughout, it introduces the band in an appreciable way. The musical atmosphere here is purely optimistic, quite contrary to the lyrics themselves…Things get more mellow with gentler sounding songs, like the fitting title of “Gently, Gently.” The hypnotic ride of musical enchantment will keep you spellbound in ways that only dreams can instil. The same thing goes for “Flying Away”, possibly the best song on here, and the first song on the album that is sung by Tina Meltzer. Capturing magic on a recording is no easy feat but The Serpent Power manage to achieve just that.

Tina could also work that same magic on more upbeat tracks, such as “Up and Down” What a fun sounding song, and one filled with nostalgia. It reminds the listener of simpler times in their lives, without the cares and hassles that may come as they grow older. The third and final song on here that Tina sings is “Forget”, however the impression of the song itself is anything but forgetful. With a swirling guitar and a charming organ sound included, you can’t ask for much more when those two instruments are mixed so suitably with Tina’s smashing vocals.

As stated, Tina’s husband, David Meltzer was no slouch either. He had that familiar West Coast style voice, similar to Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane and Alan Brackett of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. He had a way of holding a tight command on a song vocally, which he does on “Sky Baby,” a stinging acoustic guitar oriented song that is ever so memorable. He also holds his own on “Nobody Blues” the only bluesy number on here. If all of that was not amazing enough for you, look no further to the album closer “Endless Tunnel” Yes, it is highly reminiscent of the Doors’ “The End”, but don’t let that distract you from the ominous feeling that permeates throughout the track so brilliantly. The band convey such a dark tone on the song, that it becomes borderline frightening. A fantastic way to close on such a fantastic album.

Unfortunately, after disappointing album sales, the band broke up. Forming a husband and wife musical duo, David and Tina Meltzer released ‘Poet Song‘ in 1969. Additionally, as a solo act, Tina recorded a children’s album in 1984 entitled ‘Faces (New Songs For Kids)’. A second album was released in 2007 called ‘Ourobouros‘ containing unreleased material that was recorded for another album that they attempted to make back then.

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