The Strawberry Alarm Clock – Incense and Peppermints (1967; 2011 reissue)

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Sprouting forth from the San Fernando Valley, located in Los Angeles County, the Strawberry Alarm Clock acquired instant success when their debut single, “Incense and Peppermints” zoomed to the No. 1 spot on the national charts in the autumn of 1967.

Drafted of zany lyrics, culled from a rhyming dictionary, the song not only mirrored the creative insanity of the era, but subsequently flashed drifts of cool and groovy moves. Rigged with fizzy fuzz guitars, escorted by the tinny tone of a bubbly keyboard, a clingy chorus and bucking breaks, “Incense and Peppermints” ably integrated pop sensibilities with acid-informed expressions.

The swinging tune appeared on the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s first album, pressed on the Uni label, and was also called Incense and Peppermints. The disc has recently been reissued by Sundazed Records, but copies are limited, so you best hurry and place an order quickly because this is definitely required listening for those who go for far out sounds.

Armed with a variety of instruments, the Strawberry Alarm Clock took full advantage of such toys, resulting in an album stocked with exotic, esoteric and inventive dips and curves. Colorful songwriting, combined with layers of sun-kissed harmonies played a big part in making Incense and Peppermints the jewel of the effort that it is as well.

Tapping into the improvisational side of the Strawberry Alarm Clock is “The World’s On Fire,” an 8 minute plus track assembled of thrashing congas, weaving guitar escapades and repetitious but right on drumming. Hypnotic to the core, the long winded piece demonstrates just how good the fellows were at doing the jam thing.

An ethereal film encompasses the warm and gentle “Birds In My Tree,” while “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow” offers a similar approach. Diversified and running wild with imagination, the Strawberry Alarm Clock proved to be equally at home performing mellow material as they were the quirky psychedelic stuff.

Spinning round and round with jagged and joyous tempos, “Paxton’s Back Street Carnival,” really does reflect the festive flavor of a carnival, where “Pass Time With SAC” is a bouncy and catchy little instrumental. Rushing rhythms cap the rocking “Lose To Live” and “Unwind With The Clock,” and then there’s “Strawberries Mean Love,” a tranquil but trippy slice of paisley patterned poetry.

Parked somewhere between the freaky frequencies of the Doors and the beautiful vocal pop of the Association, Incense and Peppermints is a stunning album. A five-star review all the way!

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