Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Free Design

Hey, put aside The Monkees, Bubblegum and other joker-band gimmicks, there was a serious tradition of mellow West Coast sunshine pop, easy listening with an intelligent edge. Yeah, there was the upbeat contrived sound of The Mamas and the Papas, The Carpenters and all that lot, but they're weighed down by cursed moneybags, trapped in some horned-acid otherdimensional obscurity over the hill behind Satan's Sunset Stripe, where a black mirror awaits through the bloodstained looking glass and Scary Mary gave birth to a monster magnet. Where it's at is THE FREE DESIGN! The crème de la crème of fantastickness.

Birthed at the end of 1966 in New York City, they soon became in vogue amongst the Greenwich Village coffeehouse folk circuit, signed to the Project 3 Enoch Light label, then put out an album a year between 1967-1972 (and also another one in 1970, Songs For Very Important People, that compiles their previously-released child-friendly songs with new ones on this theme).

Not one track of their entire output is duff or filler (well, the later stuff could be a bit frumpy-dunk: jury's out), and it's a baffling mystery why they never hit it big. Elegant is the word, and "the kindly ones": beautiful male-female voices of celestial harmony, very fine production and irresistibly catchy arrangements brew a sure cure for depression; taste the warm golden syrup of their own material and flipping killer cover versions of The Doors' 'Light My Fire', etc.

Love is the drug here, a cuddly sherbet high, the bubbles in your nose are strange balloons of fun and everything's groovy-cool and zonky, where the fresh smell of summer washing caresses the green shoots of recovery, Robin Hood lives happily ever after with Florence Nightingale, and the Smarties tube never runs out. A joy-bell Utopia, like, with no dust or insects, and all wankers automatically lose the right to gravity so are pulled off into space, or are fused together and thrown down a disused well by purple ravens, never to return. Too right.

The Free Design Vinyl LP Discography:
Kites Are Fun (1967)
You Could Be Born Again (1968)
Heaven/Earth (1969)
Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love (1970)
Sing For Very Important People (1970)
One By One (1971)
There Is A Song (1972)

The Free Design split in 1975, alas, but we danced like Mad March Hares when, happily, this glorious band made a spiffing 2001 reunion comeback with their Cosmic Peekaboo CD. Seek and ye shall find.

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