Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mike Stuart Span/Leviathan - s/t 1968-1969

A band with a confusing name and a confusing history, the Mike Stuart Span did manage to record a
classic British psychedelic single in 1967, "Children of Tomorrow." With it's driving power chords, squealing guitar leads, and haunting harmonies, the song struck a classic midpoint between hard mod-pop, and the early psychedelia of UK groups like the Pink Floyd and Tomorrow. The problem was that hardly anyone had actually heard the record, as it was pressed in a run of 500 copies on a small independent label.
The Brighton group had been around since the mid 60's, and recorded a few other singles for Columbia and Fontana with a much more convetional pop approach. There was actually no one named Mike Stuart in the act, which began to rely much more on self-penned psychedelic material in 1967. Most of this never got beyond the demo/peel session stage, though. The band was pressured by management to make an out-and-out pop single in 1968 that flopped, helping to squelch ant prospects of the musicians asserting themselves as a significant presence in the British psych/prog scene.
In the late 60's, the Mike Stuart Span were actually featured on a BBC TV documentary called AYear in the Life (Big Deal Group), which charted the bands successes and (more commonly) failures over the course of a year. By the time it aired in September '69, however, the group had just changed their name to Leviathan, signed with Elektra. released a few singles, completed an unreleased album, and broke up.  Nothing else they recorded matched the brilliance of "Children of Tomorrow", though much of their original material was infused with the same yearning for some sort of just-passed-the-horizon utopia. But they left behind a number of demos that demonstrated a promising a promising ability to wed hard psychedelic guitars with a fair knack for melody and harmony. Interest in the band increased in the 80's when "Children of Tomorrow" was featured on a few psychedelic compilations. An entire albums worth of tracks, culled from singles, demos, and a BBC session Finally saw the light of day in the mid '90's.  - Richie Unterberger

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