The Freeborne “Peak Impressions”


The Freeborne were a youthful Boston-based psych outfit whose five members, despite their tender years, all had considerable experience of playing a wide range of styles in earlier combos. Adapting their name from the movie Born Free and discovering the freewheeling creative delights of LSD, they signed to Monitor in early ’67 and concocted a set of highly psychedelic originals which were laid down at A&R Studios in NYC. Peak Impressions sold only modestly, probably because of a dilatory campaign of live appearances to support it. After the lukewarm reception afforded it the original Freeborne folded, though later incarnations with fewer or no original members did tramp the second-division concert circuit for a few years afterwards. Inexplicably, given their obvious talent, only guitarist Bob Margolin seems to have had an appreciable later career, playing in Muddy Waters’s backing band through most of the 70s and subsequently with blues-based outfits under his own name. There’s precious little documentation on the band anywhere, but the excellent It’s Psychedelic Baby website features an informative career interview with Margolin which includes insights into the Freeborne.

I was expecting this one to be good, having read complimentary accounts of it in both Fuzz Acid And Flowers and The Acid Archives. I was even more impressed when it arrived and the CD remaster proved to have been archived by Smithsonian Folkways whose estimable moniker now adorns the Digipak. And this is indeed an impressive collection. It’s notable for the virtuosity of the musicians whose ages ranged from just 17 to 19 and yet three of whom were precociously-talented multi-instrumentalists: and we’re talking orchestral hardware here – pianos, harpsichords, cellos, trumpets, flutes and recorders – not just standard rock frontline. It’s also remarkable for the variety and creativity of the material; one reviewer commented that there seemed to be too many ideas to fit into a single album, and I can see his point. Youthful enthusiasm ensured that nothing was left out and nothing left understated, and most tracks move through bewildering sequences of keys, metres, instrumentation and vocal stylings that give their definitively psych outlines a distinctly progressive edge. This is one to listen to right through several times to get the whole effect.

The lyrics are mostly generic trippy psych nonsense, but the music is invigoratingly original. Leading off with a soulful piano riff, the opening “Images” offers Byrdsy harmonies, pulsating bass and rippling guitar scales before switching into a baroque piano and trumpet waltz. “Land Of Diana” prefigures 70s prog, starting as a jazzy 5/4 and shifting into a bluesy shuffle after distinctly proggy organ and guitar episodes. “Visions Of My Own” sets a homely acoustic guitar and trilling flute against what sounds like a chorus of PDQ Bach’s infamous Dill Piccolos before mutating without warning into a military snare-drum march. “Peak Impressions And Thoughts” is all Piper-era Floyd with swirling Farfisa, spiky Syd-style guitar, fluid bass and crashing cymbals building to a furious final crescendo. “Yellow Sky” is definitive Britsike with wah-ed guitars, churchy keyboards and lots of tempo changes. The most conventional track, “Hurtin’ Kind Of Woman”, is a soft blues shuffle with jazzy guitar and energetic Hammond work comparable with the best of Brian Auger. Despite the multifarious musical landscapes visited here, only on the last two tracks does the band outstretch itself, with the ridiculously sombre harpsichord and cello, sub-Beach Boys harmonies and cod-poetic spoken voice outro of “A New Song For Orestes” and the unnecessarily lengthy and self-indulgent cod-classical piano/trumpet cadenzas and duet of the closing “But I Must Return To Frenzy”.

A fine nine-out-of-ten psych artefact that will reward repeated listening.

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“Visions of My Own”

:) Original | 1968 | Monitor | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2011 | Smithsonian Folkways | buy ]

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  • Nick Carstoiu, lead singer

    Bob Margolin named the wrong recording sdtudio in his interview. We recorded at two separate studios in NYC. We first recorded Images, Land oF Diana,and Peak Impressions at ESP Studios, a studio that recorded avant-garde jazz and eclectic musics of the time (eg Pharoah Sanders and others.) When we ot to our session the Fugs had just finished a session there.

    The rest of the album was recorded at CBS Studios, NY. I believe onf our producers, Don Puluse or Lou Waxman, had previously recorded Moby Grape – which I thought was a big deal at the time.

    There are a few anecdotes in Bob’s interview that he got wrond- especially the one about the lightening bolt – which was solely my doing.

  • Len Liechti

    Wow, another original band member replies to a Rising Storm contribution! Hope you approved of my review, Nick, and as ever it’s great to get an original member’s perspective. If guys like you hadn’t laid down grooves like this back then, guys like me wouldn’t be able to derive great enjoyment from writing about them nowadays. My thanks to all musicians who were doing it then – and who are doing it now.

  • Hi guys, I have DJ-ed with this album, since I found it in a charity shop in the early 70’s, and I still play it today, never tire of listening to it! in fact as we speak a track from its on my radio show this eve!! UK time 10-11pm…..great site guys keep up the good work! Griff

  • This was wonderful to get the new cd From Eric.
    I play it and play along with my setup. Cool. Great days. After leaving the band I traveled quite a bit playing and seeing the album selling in all stores. To bad. Lack of promotion, advertises, air play etc. Hoping that would happen and could of got us up and going! Still don’t know why no promo after the five of us clicked better and better. Will be a thrill to see and meet eachother one more time. Will be thinking of Lew Lipson. Pinnacle of morality named by our high school conductor. Keep in touch and see you I guess august or September as mentioned .

  • tdk

    There appear to be (at least) two versions of this album.

    I originally had a vinyl copy (not an original) which I subsequently replaced with the Aftermath CD. As far as I recall there was no difference between these two. I later bought the Distortions CD, motivated by three bonus cuts. However I noticed there were distinct timing differences between the main album tracks. The most noticeable “But I Must return to Frenzy” is 3:23 on the Aftermath and 8:47 on Distortions. Also noticeable is the change in intersong effects. eg. on Aftermath “Sadly Acknowledged” starts and ends with the sound of machine gun fire, which is missing from the Distortions CD. On teh other hand Land of Diana gains a 15 second effect that is missing from Aftermath. There are other differences which I won’t list, except to mention that Distortions swapped the back cover to the front. Very odd.

  • Mic Spiros and Bob Margolin kept on gigging while Bob went with Muddy Waters Mic had an unsigned album .
    Two of them with Incredible Two Man Band. Lack of very poor management and hungry agents the band ITMB traveled up and down the east coast and two trips to LA. They were together for a good 15 strong years and had record breaking audiences in the east coast. ….ITMB.ORG
    Mic always hoping that the Freebourne would reunite earlier than this. I’m looking forward to the BOSTON SOUND Concerts and be a pleasure to play a few with the band again…best Michael (Mic) Spiros

  • @TDK: Both versions on “Aftermath” and “Distortions” are unauthorized re-issues, and neither the band The Freeborne nor was the original record label Monitor Records were consulted. The fact of the matter is this: The song, “But I Must Return to Frenzy” was always 8:47. The song “Sadly Acknowledged” starts and finishes with combat machine gun fire, and is featured throughout the song. It should also be noted that the album starts with “Images of the Night” and ends with “And I Must Return to Frenzy” There were never any extra songs or any unreleased studio tracks. What was released on the album is all that was ever recorded. I speak on this with great authority as I am the nephew of one of the songwriters involved with the band who went under the psuedonym “J. Babbitt” who’s real name was Barry Richards who’s name appears on the back cover as the manager of Greatness Of Youth Productions. In case you’re interested, J. Babbitt was his first wife, and he used that name because he was working for the other publishing company at the time, and this would’ve presented a legal conflict of interest. My grandmother was the president of the original record label that put out the album, Monitor Records, and it is the ONLY rock album that ever came out on the monitor label. As i said, there was never any “Extra” tracks, and many unscrupulous people who counterfeit the album tack on something that sounds similar to what’s on the album, but is NOT The Freebourne in order to get people to buy their product. Also, if you’re interested, “Peak Impressions” was the WORST selling album for the Monitor record label, and my grandmother was taken by surprise when I showed her a counterfeit copy made in Greece in 1992. Her response was something to the extent of I hope they have better luck with it than we had. I grew up with Peak Impressions, and think its a great piece of psychedelia not only because of the personal family connection, but because i am a fan of psychedelic music, and you can tell that these young men were listening to their Miles Davis albums right along side the likes of Pink Floyd’s “The Piper at The Gates of Dawn”. When Rose Rubin, my grandmother, passed away some time back, she willed whatever she legally could of Monitor Records’ back catalogue to The Smithsonian Institute Folkways Collection, and they have re-issued Peak Impressions. It is remastered, but it sounds crisper, cleaner, and with more clarity. I would highly recommend contacting The Smithsonian Institute and purchasing a copy from them, as this is the AUTHORIZED version, complete, and uncut, and even better sounding than the vinyl. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard it.

  • TDK

    Hi Adam
    My purpose in writing the original comment was a desire to record the fact that there were two versions of the release in circulation and to list the differences that I had detected. I did not see any statement anywhere else of this fact. Even the bible of pyschedelia: Fuzz Acid and Flowers, fails to record the variation (at least in my edition). I had hoped to generate comments, like yours, to get to the bottom of the variance.

    I knew the Aftermath edition was counterfeit. It’s obviously recorded from an LP much like the Greek counterfeit vinyl versions. Some timing differences then become easily explained: the bootlegger guessed the track boundaries and got them wrong. That would not solve why an 8:47 long track loses half its length.

    I had assumed the Distortions was official given the “bonus” material. Of the bonus tracks, one is a mono single version of a track on the LP, the second a “stereo version” of Land of Diana and the third 23 seconds of incidental music that is forgettable. These provenance of two of these bonuses is understood, the different mixes on the Distortions CD are not. {I note that in my original comment I barely mention the bonus tracks and focus instead on the mixes}.

    It is extremely difficult to remix without master tapes and who would want to, given that no one is going to get rich with a bootleg Freeborne CD. To put it bluntly, no fan would want to change the mix and no greedy bootlegger would make the effort. That suggests that someone got hold of tapes for the Distortion CD that included different mixes. Perhaps they didn’t know they were different? No one, until me, pointed out the difference. It’s not like some bootlegger advertised ‘a great find from the vaults’ or ‘alternate mix’ to rip off fans. Where did these mixes originate? It’s a mystery.

    Some fans obsess about the minor differences between mono and stereo LPs. The difference between these is markedly more noticeable.

    Incidentally there is also an Arf Arf version in circulation now. That makes 4 CD versions. The Arf Arf CD has even more bonus material on it:
    Bonus Alternate Mono Mixes: Images, Land of Diana, Visions of My Own, Sadly Acknowledged, Yellow Sky, But I Must Return To Frenzy;
    Freeborne/Reborne: This Is It, Take a Lick, Lew’s Blues [The last three tracks appear to be a reunited Freeborne].

    The Arf Arf website claims the booklet contains interviews with all band members.

    If you read this Adam, I’d be interested in your response. Do you know the story behind the remixes?

  • Hans Verwerft


    I love the peak impressions album. Apart from psychedelic albus, I also have a passion for singles. Therefore, can you confirm that the Monitor 45 rpm “Land of Diana/Images” was also released in America in the same year that the album came out.


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