Conceived by producer Gary Zekley, the Yellow Balloon featured an interesting cast of characters, most notably Dick St. John of Dick and Dee Dee, actor Don Grady from “My Three Sons,” and Daryl Dragon, who later soared to success as one-half of the Captain and Tennille. The main band involved in the project, however, hailed from Arizona and were originally called the Five of Us before relocating to Los Angeles, California.
Spring 1967 saw the Yellow Balloon net a nationwide Top 25 hit single with “Yellow Balloon,” which appeared on the band’s only album of the same name (Canterbury Records). Coated with a bright and breezy sing-a-long chorus, supported by a dizzy psychedelic-buttered break, a carefree gallop, and a parade of cranium-bobbing hooks, the tirelessly catchy tune announced an ardent devotion to the Beach Boys. In fact, the entire Yellow Balloon album could actually be viewed as a valentine to the Hawthorne heavyweights. From the concentrated song structuring to the sweet and sophisticated harmonies to the sparkling gold textures, each track on the disc apes the Beach Boys in a direct and convincing manner.
Aside from the standard pop rock setting consisting of electric guitars and drums, The Yellow Balloon is pockmarked with a variety of cool instruments like a glockenspiel, harpsichords, violins, cellos, trombones, a washboard, and banjos. A chair and an ashtray are even employed in the mix! The record was clearly inspired by Pet Sounds, the wildly influential album the Beach Boys cut the previous year, but despite such exploratory measures the tunes never really go off the deep end and are wholly accessible.
There’s seriously not a lame track to be found here, with “Stained Glass Window,” “How Can I Be Down,” “Follow The Sunshine,” and “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love” especially ranking high in the sky as blue ribbon pop confections. Radiant vocals are tattooed across the grooves, aided by stabbing melodies, infectious rhythms and pristine padding. Stepping away from the Beach Boys fixation for a moment, the Yellow Balloon strap on their dancing shoes and wiggle their rumps to “Panama Red,” a jaunty vaudeville-styled ditty that makes not-so-subtle hints at smoking grass.
Not only will Beach Boys boosters dig the doings on The Yellow Balloon, but fans of the Cyrkle, the Cowsills and bubblegum music will appreciate the disc as well. Driven by a playful and cheery vibe, alive with color and form, the album is a classic of its genre.
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