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Paper Garden

This New York group recorded an accomplished album of psychedelic pop in 1968, drawing liberally from the Lovin' Spoonful and Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles, as well as the block harmonies of the 1967-era Zombies. Bassist, 12-string guitarist, and singer Joe Arduino; rhythm guitarist, keyboard player, and singer Sandy Napoli (who also played sitar); lead guitarist and singer Paul LoGrande; drummer Jimmy Tirella; and keyboard man John Reich had been playing together all through 1967, building up a solid live show that used the sounds of the Beatles' Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band albums as a jumping-off point -- they had enough flexibility between them, as multi-instrumentalists, to do very well by the music on-stage, and in addition to their three voices, Arduino, Napoli, and LoGrande were all good songwriters gifted with various levels of talent. They'd already begun building a serious local reputation on college campuses and by 1968 were good enough to impress producer Geoff Turner, an Englishman who was working for Art Talmadge's New York-based Musicor Records. Musicor was perhaps best-known for releasing the work of Gene Pitney during the early and mid-'60s, and like any other label they were always interested in exploring more cutting-edge pop sounds that had come along since 1967, and the Paper Garden seemed to offer this opportunity. With Turner running the sessions, the quintet recorded an LP in 1968 -- rather than recording the songs that Turner had heard them doing, however, the Paper Garden decided to make the most of this chance by writing a whole new, more ambitious repertory. Paper Garden proved more ambitious and expensive than Turner or Musicor had intended, but the producer and label decided to go for broke by cutting it, complete with string orchestra arrangements on some of the songs and major contributions from a session violinist, trumpet man, and trombonist, and very elaborately arranged and recorded harmonies. The whole record came off as a kind of vestpocket successor to Revolver or Odessey & Oracle, not terribly original and a little precious at times -- especially for 1968 -- but also very accomplished. Paper Garden received good reviews, but sales were minimal without a single to reach the airwaves or a major label's promotional muscle behind it, and by 1970 the group had broken up.
© Richie Unterberger & Bruce Eder /TiVo

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