Taos “Taos”

Here’s an unusual jewel, released on Mercury Records in 1971. The band Taos was actually a quintet pieced together by a group of young men who had moved to the legendary Taos commune in the early 1970s, namely: Jeff Baker on guitar and vocals, Steve Oppenheim on keyboards and vocals, Albie Ciappa on drums, Burt Levine on guitar and banjo, and Kit Bedford on bass, with the occasional intermixing of instruments going on in between cuts. If the band’s commune connection leads you into expecting some sort of stoned, improvisational musical meanderings, however, you’re in for a surprise: their sole, self-titled record is pop music all the way.

Indeed, the band itself is surprisingly together, tempering mildly eccentric diversions into psychedelia and country music with a solid foundation in 1960s rock and roll. If there’s one band to which Taos owes its biggest debt, I’d say it would have to be The Beatles. Kit Bedford’s warm, melodic bass work channels Paul McCartney all the way, while the group’s vocal harmonies show a tendency to lean more towards the ragged schoolboy charm of the Four than the choirboy constructions of American groups such as the Byrds, or the Mamas and Papas. This influence is not to say that Taos lacks an identity of its own, however. On the contrary, they manage to take this influence in surprising directions, whether it’s the lonesome cosmic cowboy pastiche “After So Long” or the phased psychedelic boogie of “Twenty Thousand Miles In the Air Again”.

Despite the general cohesiveness of the album, however, there are the occasional faults, such as the unnecessary, repeating theme “The Day Begins,” which should have simply been turned into a full-fledged song rather than left as fragmentary interruptions in the tracklist. Every now and again the musicians also reveal a slight weakness in the vocal department, as the slightly squirrely lead on “Morning Sun” illustrates. Lastly, the song lyrics aren’t really worth shedding too much ink over – there’s certainly no metaphysical contemplation or social commentary going on here, whatever other Sixties sensibilities the record may boast. These latter complaints border on quibbling, though, because the music here is almost too much fun to criticize. Again, this is pop music, and should be enjoyed for what it is. I think that Taos is certainly consistent enough that, if you’re digging the tracks below, you’re gonna like what you hear the rest of the way through.

Unfortunately, Taos is currently unavailable digitally. Yeah, there had to be a bum note at the end of all this. It looks as if you all are going to have to search this one out on vinyl, though at the time of writing this article it looks as though there are at least a few copies haunting eBay for around ten or fifteen dollars apiece, which certainly ain’t bad. And speaking of the vinyl, this record comes adorned in a really great gatefold sleeve, with pictures of the band rehearsing and bumming around Taos. I’m almost tempted to imagine the psychedelic, southwestern Hard Day’s Night bouncing around in these kids’ heads.

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“After So Long (So Long)”

:) Original | 1970 | Mercury | search ebay ]

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  • Nik Rayne

    Though on second listen I probably didn’t provide the best tracks to back up my whole under-the-influence-of-the-Beatles spiel. In a way I reckon that’s telling, though – the best music that the band made was that which ventured furthest from their core set of influences.

  • Scott Schuler

    I’ve enjoyed this album for 40 years. This is one band that repeated “googling” provides almost no information for. They aren’t on iTunes either. I’d be interested in whether any of them were able to make a living in the music business after this. If you ever make another song available might I request “Take Good Care.” In any case, thanks.

  • Louis Landes

    Albert, the drummer was my step father and listend to this album quite a bit as a kid!

  • Jeannine Menger

    Hi Scott and Nik – Well I have good news for you. Kit is my friend and oh by the way I found out he is a hell of a musician. He and his wife Katherine live in Half Moon Bay South of San Francisco. I live in Pacifica just North of that and I do a monthly show called ‘Sing The Beatles’. Well as fortune would have it Kit is now playing bass for us and yes indeed he channels McCartney. I saw all the TAOS stuff at his house last night and the material is indeed available on CD from his wife. Kit also has all the original material and posters and stories. Oh my gosh what interesting stories. The crazy van rides cross country on bald tires with guys stacked on equipment to the roof and the ‘WHAT IF’ moment of the Atlanta festival. Anyway email me or call and I will let Kit know. I specifically asked him last night if it was OK if I posted stuff about him on line and he said OK. I want to do this carefully and let him and Katherine control it though. My email is in this post phone is 760 six nine six 0 2 four seven. OK? Call or email with questions. I will be following this web page for updates.

  • kathy desmond

    Steve Oppenheim (aka Steve Sidhly) lives in the Boston area and is still a gigging musician, he can be reached at: Steve@jahspirit.com

  • Jeannine Menger

    OK I got a copy of “Rising Storm” Saturday from Kit. It is FANTASTIC. I was so inspired I laid down the main guitar and main vocals then a slide guitar into Garage Band “I am Flying”. It is a bit off and needs work but I am hoping Kit wants to start doing Taos material around town because it emphasizes harmony singing. Man if I had heard this stuff in 1971 I would have bought the album. It is really good. The one about the airplane is good too. It is in my CD player in my car until I get sick of it and I have it all memorized.

  • Douglas Barrett Jones

    Good news! The Taos record IS available on digital. Kismet has put it out (see CD Universe online) as a British import, with great sound and graphics. It meets the approval of Taos founder Kit Bedford. I grew up and went to high school with Kit in Pacifica, CA, and have played in bands with him over the last decade. We just spoke about the CD and he has the inspiration to remove some audio gimmicks and re-sequence the track order to what they wanted to produce to begin with! More later. (Hi, Jeannine!)

  • Jeannine Menger

    Barrett? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot !!!!! Like Syd?

  • The CD sounds much better than the LP, as the producer and engineer at the original sessions did not really have the chops to make the album as good as it could have been, and there was little studio time assigned to the tracking. However, I love to hear some of the old guitars on the tracks. This was in the days of 16-track 2″ tape. I wonder how Kismet will be paying royalties to us for the writing, performance, etc?

  • The album was from 1968/1969. We were sent to Taos by a producer at Mercury to pick up on the lifestyle that was happening then – Easy Rider, Hippies, Communes, the WEST, etc.). We left San Francisco right after an earthquake scared the crap out of us (zipped on LSD, Albie and I placed our hands on the wall of our building and commanded, “Stop!” IT DID NOT STOP! So, it was off to Taos. While we were there (in a 10 bedroom ski lodge with a steam bath and pool table rec-room, and the only hot water and stuff for the Hippies who were scrounging there), we encountered a group called, I believe, The Family. They ran the Free Store and Free Clinic (where you could get a free shot of Penicillin to cure the social diseases of that era), and they also came to our place frequently with beautiful young women and they filmed, recorded, and (early tech) videotaped us rehearsing and just living in that scene. These guys were strange. At some point we made a film with Dennis Hopper’s brother, to try to raise funds for Evans-Wentz’s publication of the Hopi book of rituals (he had done the Tibetan Book Of The Dead which was very popular with the LSD set). So, I ran into Dennis Hopper and spent some time with him in the 1980s. He said, “Do you know who the Family was?” His brother had told him. “They were the FBI checking up on the youth scene and rounding up run-aways!” And, somewhere in the bowels of the FBI files, there are a lot more Taos recordings.

  • Marlene McCall

    Hey Kit (if you’re monitoring this site) or Jeannine (if he’s not), I’ll be at the Chit Chat tomorrow for Sing the Beatles anyway and will be happy to buy a CD — even though I haven’t heard it! — if you or Kathryn can bring one. I have no way to play vinyl anymore. In fact, I’ve actually given up buying CDs in favor of digital files but I’ll make an exception in this case. If that’s not possible, I’ll check out the site Doug mentions above. (Nice to hear from you, Doug! Maybe see you tomorrow?)

  • Jeannine Menger

    Hi Burt – You guys song ‘Spacebird’ is a big hit when and where we play it. A group called “Hophead” (Kim Richards) plans to cover it in their act. I hope we bring you guys some much overdue recognition for this and other fine work. I gotta tell you that whole F to A thing sounds so cool then throwing the old Beatles sound of C#m to G#m into the bridge …. very cool sound. Anyway … Kit is exited about this whole thing too. He carts the Taos CD and album around so folks can enjoy the stories.

  • Burt

    Thanks, Jeannine. I always liked that tune, too. It can let you float away.

  • Scott Schuler

    Could someone identify for me the bandmembers as they appear on the cover left to right? Thanks.

  • Albie, Burt, Jeff, Steve, Kit

  • Scott Schuler

    Thanks Burt…other than having Jeff and you reversed I had it right.

  • jehed diamond

    Hi all

    glad to hear about / from some of the old TAOS crew whom I knew back when the first of them was getting together in a member’s parents house in a to stay unnamed westchester suburb.also stored instruments in my house for albie for a while. i didn’t want to break out the news that the record company sent the band to taos , but burt did, so i guess the idea that they were there or from there is not a legend he needs to preserve. i was in touch with one of the original.former band members – patrick – for a while but lost track of him somewhere in maine ” a long, long time ago”.
    i remember those days, your music and all of you fondly. i still have the vinyl.strawberry rush anyone? jehed

  • kit


    Glad you found this site. Thanks to Jeannine that I even know about it.
    I never minded the truth being told, that Mercury set us up in Taos.
    If you would like to say hi I guess I’ll ‘come out’, so to speak,
    and leave my e-mail. In doing so I have a question for Scott as well.
    Having had the album 40 years, were you there in New Mexico-or?
    -And Jehed, I remember us on the streets of Manhattan one winter night
    with your sister. Regards to her too. Write for the continuing story.


  • Douglas Jones

    My middle name is that of the doctor who save my life and that of my mother at birth. William Barrett of Price, Utah.

  • Douglas Jones

    Kit and I have remastered the album digitally, to place the songs in proper sequence, to more powerful effect. Also, we edited out the between song chatter by the producer’s girlfriend and some “psychedelic” noises he threw in. Finally! It will be released sson with royalties going to all the band members; something not happening with the Kismet label re-issue.

  • I really liked the chatter by Harry (she was Michelle’s friend and was talking to her in the solo booth during our taping). I always thought that those bits were the best part of the record. I hated the psychedelic part, though.

  • Emily Ciappa

    It was great to read all of these comments. My father (Albie) always spoke fondly of this time in his life. Just wanted you all to know my father passed in January of 2010.

  • Hi Jehed. Do you actually have the vinyl Strawberry Rush disc? If so, let me know.

  • Hi Emily. I miss your dad, too.

  • Emily Ciappa

    Hi Burt…when my dad knew he was sick he tried to look you and Michelle up, he really wanted to say goodbye. Hope you are doing well.



  • Scott Schuler

    Are there any band photos besides the ones on the album cover and on the insert?

  • Fredrick Lopez

    Great read… ! this came to me on FB… because I posted pics & comment, on acquiring this record the other day, in Santa Fe, NM … Where (what studio) was this Recorded… ? Gracias & Far Out, Man !!!! … oh! do you guys know who the Taos (Native) man ya’ll are posing with.. is ???

  • Kit

    Did you actually find an lp album or CD recently? We left Taos just before Christmas ’69, recorded the album around new years at Mercury Recording Studio in New York City, and returned early 1970.
    Scott, There are a few more photos and articles lying around.
    re-the Taos native, if memory serves, the name which comes to mind is Benjamin
    Thank you for keeping in touch, Kit

  • Fredrick Lopez

    Kit… Thanks ! … I found LP record, complete w/ poster … @ a Local Flea Market in Santa Fe, NM ….

  • Kit

    Thanks for getting back. I was going to leave it at that. Then today I see a post from acquaintance Jimmy C. about his friend Fred Lopez and his jewelry work in Ssnta Fe. Interesting timing. Just thinking about Northern New Mexico warms my soul. I live near the beach south of San Francisco but get back every few years.

  • Just found this thread and wanted to add that I found the record this summer in Minneapolis on a trip- for $8 or something like that. Has the poster. Has quickly become one of my favorite scores this year. So many great songs- All My Life, Everybody’s Moving, Space Bird- that’s just side one! I love the sound of the recording and would love to hear more from this band. Really cool to see some of the members chiming in. Also, I do have the equipment to do a high quality digital transfer of the record- my copy is clean and I used a VPI to clean it further- but would only do it with the band’s blessing. It really is a shame this record isn’t more well known. I think it will become much more desirable as it is heard by more and more people.

  • oops, looks like I didn’t spell out my full name! Couldn’t edit so I’m adding this comment with the correction.

  • Hi Emily. I just came across a few old tapes with your dad singing with me in Allentown. We did a couple of live gigs and wrote a few songs. If any of that would be of interest to you, please let me know and I’ll make you a copy. You will hear him speaking and singing. I could send you a CD or put a couple of mp3 files up on the ‘Net. Let me know. You can drop me a line at 21stcenturystudio@earthlink.net

  • Hi Jeb – Kit Nelson has shared the Sophomore Taos material with me and it is also very good. I think in some ways the band was finding its sound even more then. I enjoy the debut album a lot. Kit and I do Spacebird and 20,000 miles at shows. Fun to sing and play. Anyway I know there is new Taos material out there from that time because I have heard it. I am not sure Kit or anyone from the bands intent with it yet though. It is there call to make of course. I always think of ‘On The Water Front’ …. “I could have been a contender …..’ They could have maybe been the Eagles before the frkin Eagles. Graham Parson’s started the country-Rock sound – this grew on it.

  • Mike Yager

    I just ran across this. I knew Albie back when I was in college – 1980/81. I worked in an appliance store part time while going to college in Philadelphia, PA. Albie was the Asst. Store Manager. A really neat guy. I talked to him a lot about music. I remember he brought in the record album and showed it to me.

    He hated working at that store. Sorry to hear of his passing.

  • Mike, I still have the turntable I got from Albie at that store. It still works just fine.

  • Anonymous


    I would love a CD copy of those tapes. I tried to email you and for some reason it wouldn’t send. My email is emciappa@aol.com. Please contact me when you can…

    Thank you…Emily

  • Kit


    Blessings for whatever you do with the Taos material. You have mine -Kit

  • Jeb Banner

    I would love to hear the follow up material as well. Any chance it will be posted in the near future? Even a private download link would be appreciated. My email is jeb@smallboxweb.com thanks!

  • Ciaran

    Aha…finally! I’ve been looking for info on this band ever since finding a nice-clean-original album at a yard sale in…you guessed it–Taos! I have been hanging onto it for years now, never even getting a chance to listen to it; looking forward to the day I would find an old portable record player and set the stylis into place…crack, hiss, pop. Actually, the record is so clean I don’t know if these fond-old- familiar sounds would even be there–venerable regardless.

    My wife and i are thinking of moving back to Taos. Maybe some day, there could be an ‘Enchanted’ re-gathering of the band (sorry to hear about the member Albie Ciappa’s passing) and all who could make the pilgrimage to hear the band play live at the Plaza or the town park. Could be magical.

    ~ 2019 ~ Fifty year Anniversary Taos Fest.

    See you @ the Adobe Bar…?
    Ciaran & Mary

  • Challise

    Hi, I was with the Taos Family from the Mesa Family late ’68 to Spring ’69 and am wanting to know what happened to the group. Last I heard they were in Detroit “never to be heard from again”. As for being FBI, my mother called the FBI because I was there, seriously doubt it because I remained there until I wanted to go. Just read another article about Dennis Hopper being a Narc spying on them. You hear all sorts of things. When were you there?

  • Challise

    Interesting! I was @ the Family for a few months in late ’68, early ’69. Were you guys staying there? The record company set you up there secretly? Several writers like Elias Katz stayed there to do stories and got caught up. The story about the FBI is also interesting as well. Dennis Hopper is said to have been a narc, planted by the government there. Not sure about any of that, but sure will never forget those times.

  • Hey Challise, Greetings from Ohio. You are one of only two “Taos Family” (aka the Lord Family) survivors to have any sort of web presence. When they left Taos (in, what, late 1970 or 1971, I can’t offhand recall), they sure did disappear. The only other Taos Family survivor I know of is author Margaret Hollenbach, who wrote the 2004 book “Lost and Found: My Life in a Group Marriage Commune.” It’s a pretty good book, but she doesn’t know whatever became of them either. Nor does it seem to be known if a copy of their movie “Peace & Love Taos 1970” has survived. I’d love to hear more from you. My email address is MrChrisTill@yahoo.com.

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