The Smoke (self-titled)
This was a Michael Lloyd studio band that released just one album which mysteriously appeared in 1968. The Smoke’s self-titled album is a much better soft popsike record than Lloyd’s earlier release, the October Country LP (which is also worth seeking out).
The above record was created while Lloyd was in between stints with the crazed, ill-fated West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. The Smoke dedicated this obscure release to Stuart Sutcliffe and the band cannot help but pay homage to their obsessions, the Beatles and the Beach Boys. There are no duff tracks on this soft pop masterpiece which was housed in a beautiful white jacket that recalled the Beatle’s Yellow Submarine album artwork. Cowboys and Indians led off the program with buzzing organ and a nice brief guitar solo. It’s been suggested that this was Lloyd paying tribute to his idols The Beach Boys and their legendary Heroes and Villians single.
Self-Analysis is really weird in a British psych pop sort of way with lite orchestration, perplexing lyrics, probing John Lennon-like vocals, and some beautifully sharp melodies. One song, Fogbound, even had commercial potential, with a to-the-fore horn arrangement and “Lucy in the Sky of Diamonds” quotes during the fade out. Two other masterpieces on this album are October Country and Odyssey. October Country is driven by harpsichord flourishes and a peculiar intensity while Odyssey is suite-like and full of beautiful, complex passages.