Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Fallen Angels - It's A Long Way Down

The Fallen Angels
It's A Long Way Down


Released 1968 on Roulette
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 05/05/2007ce


1. Poor Old Man (3:41)
2. A Horn Playing On My Thin Wall (4:25)
3. Something New You Can Hide In (3:59)
4. Tell You A Story (:22)
5. Silent Garden (1:54)
6. Look To The Sun (3:46)
7. One Of The Few Ones Left (2:50)
8. I Really Love My Mother (1:07)
9. Look At The Wind (4:04)
10. Didn't I? (2:55)
11. It's A Long Way Down (2:45)
12. I'll Drive You From My Mind (4:19)

Over the years there have been a few different groups who have recorded under the name The Fallen Angels, ex-Byrd/Burrito Gram Parsons dubbed his solo backing group The Fallen Angels, then there was a unit fronted by ex-Pretty Things lead singer Phil May, finally there was an 80's group which had ex-members of Hanoi Rocks & The Vibrators. The group I will be talking about here were probably the first to use the name Fallen Angels and they were arguably the best.

These Fallen Angels were a great psychedelic group who were based in the Baltimore, Maryland-Washington D.C. area and recorded two full length albums for Roulette Records. I'm not certain if this group is in any way related to the superb garage punk outfit responsible for the legendary "Bad Woman" 45 for the Eceip label in 1966 (I don't think the groups were related because both the vocalists and the group's musical styles vary dramatically.) Does anyone know for certain?

Anyway, I first heard this group via a second hand copy of their debut album that I found in the early 80's for next to nothing. This album "The Fallen Angels" (Roulette 1968) had some interesting moments, especially the cool leadoff track (also 45) "Room At The Top", but I wouldn't call the album a classic. To my ears anyway, it seemed the group were playing into the hands of their record company a bit. Yet at the same time Roulette Records had a pretty good roster of underground groups such as Third Bardo, First Crow To The Moon, Stillroven, Arzachel and also great pop groups like The Choir and mega-stars Tommy James & The Shondells.

For whatever reason The Fallen Angels debut album failed to cause much attention at the record shops and was quickly deleted. Usually this would have meant certain death to a group like The Fallen Angels. However the good folks at Roulette decided to give the group a second shot and they were even afforded the luxury of complete artistic control. This all resulted in the group's stunning second album "It's A Long Way Down" (which sadly suffered the same fate as the group's debut sales-wise despite it's obvious quality and inventiveness.)

The opener "Poor Old Man" is an inspired leadoff track that features a strong west coast influence, both Love & The Doors immediately come to mind, it sports a killer bass riff along with loose, John Densmore style percussion and a myriad of psychedelic effects, about midway in, the whole piece breaks down and singer Jack Bryant does this totally off the wall jazz type scat vocal that completely derails the song, luckily it doesn't last long as the group leap back into the opening riff and it's back to the races. "A Horn Playing On My Thin Wall" is next and it is a dead ringer for "Da Capo" era Love (both "Orange Skies" & "Que Vida"), this track becomes better as it rolls along, it ends with a rush of great harmony vocals. "Something You Can Hide In" is full tilt psychedelia that features every psychedelic trick in the book with fabulous results, this number reminds me a great deal of Love's underrated "Four Sail" album.

"Tell You A Story" is a brief interlude that features an out of tune acoustic guitar with a nursery rhyme type vocal, and it works like a charm. Coming next is "Silent Garden" which displays a British influence along the lines of late period Zombies and the UK Kaleidoscope. "Look To The Sun" is largely a solo acoustic outing by singer Jack Bryant, this one reminds me a great deal of the archive releases by Love guitarist Bryan MacLean "Ifyoubelievein" & "Candy's Waltz." The next number "One Of The Few Ones Left" is a beautiful melodic ballad with strings that brings to mind the Left Banke's second album "Left Banke Too."

"I Really Love My Mother" is a short, jokey novelty type number that blends the style of The Kinks with USA groups The Sopwith Camel & Lovin' Spoonful. "Look At The Wind" is once again in the Love "Four Sail" bag, this is one of the record's real highlights, everything comes together in beautiful fashion, the guitar work and drumming are fantastic, the keyboards are also exceptional. "Didn't I" is a sad, acoustic ballad that recalls a superb west coast group The Common People, it even reminds me of contemporary singer/songwriter Grant Lee Phillips.

By it's very title one would expect the title track "It's A Long Way Down" to be a doomy death-trip number in the mold on The Doors, actually it's just the opposite, this song is a light and breezy winner that once again recalls The Left Banke with a touch of The Nazz and "Basic Blues Magoos" era Blues Magoos. The Fallen Angels actually save the creepiest number on the album for last "I'll Drive You From My Mind" ends the album in dark shadows, whispered vocals, and splashes of sitar, it reminds me a great deal of The Rain Parade's "No Easy Way Down."

"It's A Long Way Down" is an exceptional album that really doesn't have a bummer track to be found. It has recently been re-pressed on vinyl and was out as a CD in the late 90's. You can still find a copy pretty easily. This is one rare psychedelic album that actually lives up to the hype.

Also recommended in a similar style:

1. The Left Banke-Too (Smash 1968)
2. Merrell Fankhauser & HMS Bounty-Things (Shamley 1968)
3. The Baroques-The Barogues (Chess 1967)
4. KAK-Kak (Epic 1969)
5. The Common People-Of The People, By The People, For The People, From The Common People (Capitol 1969)
6. Gandalf-Gandalf (Capitol 1968)
7. Fapordokly-Fapordokly (ULP 1966)
8. Blues Magoos-Basic Blues Magoos (Mercury 1968)
9. Creme Soda-Tricky Zingers (Trinity 1975)
10. Bob Smith-The Visit (Kent 1969)

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