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Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Bleu Forest - A Thousand Trees Deep (1968 us, tremendous garage psychedelia, 2016 reissue)



In late 1965, drummer Jack Caviness was recruited by guitarists and vocalists Michael Cullen and Gary Heuer. All were from the same small town, Moorpark, CA. The three of us worked on original songs written by Michael for 6 months. At that point we added Ed Steele on bass guitar and spent time bringing him into the fold.

When ready we began playing small gigs around Moor parkand surrounding areas and received a good reception on the original music. Then we were booked into 'an open mic night at the Troubadour in Hollywood. That is where we were discovered by future music icon Jimmy Haskell. Mr. Haskell immediately scheduled us to record a demo at his home studio which we did. We could never have believed what happened next.

Both Gary and Michael were drafted were drafted into the armed service as Vietnam war was going strong. Both evacuated themselves to Canada, they were there several months prior to Gary's return. We then reformed the original members less Michael, added Larry Wiseman on keyboards and Rohn Barkley on le guitar and vocals. With Michael's blessing we used the original music written by him and added more original songs to our set. We were now off and running as the Bleu Forest heard on this album. That's when Jimmy Haskell called.

He had scheduled us to go into Valley Recording Studios in North Hollywood, CA. to record what you are hearing on this album, A Thousand. Trees Deep. Upon arriving there we met our engineer, Freddie Piro, another future icon of the LA recording industry. Freddie had produced The Grassroots previously and would go on to work with Ambrosia and many others. We spent over six months recording the album and another month was spent mastering.

This album was recorded on a very  but new for the time period Ampex 8 track 2" recorder. At that time, it was state of the art. I don't recall the brand of mixer used, but it did take up quite a great deal of space at the engineer’s console.  When we first came in to begin recording, we attempted to play at the volume we used live and the engineer freaked out and demanded we lower the volume. This was very confusing to us because it altered our sound dramatically. That is where the fuzz tone came into play. Our live sound was based more on very loud overloaded amplifiers for distortion rather than on devices. In a live environment, the fuzz was only used as an overdrive, not as a fuzz tone. The actual studio was only one room, 20' x 30', with one isolation booth at the rear. The booth was only used for overdubs (I wanted to isolate the drums but to no avail).

They used one mic per amplifier with no baffles between and three mics on my drums. I played a state of the art set of Ludwig "Super Hollywood" drums with a Rogers dyna-sound snare and all Zildgen cymbals. They were awesome sounding live but are not as pronounced on the recordings insofar none of the cymbals were individually miked.

To expand a bit on the abrupt beginning on the opening track: During the time period in which this was done, engineers and producers were trying many things that make no sense today. For instance, tracks played in reverse and recorded were very popular such as the one heard on Bitter Sweet, which, by the way, was entirely rearranged from the live version. They did not like all of the stops and starts from the live version which added greatly, in my opinion, to the dynamics of the song. 

When I really think back on the recording process one thing comes to mind: The entire six month process was completely paid for by both Freddie Piro and Jimmy Haskell because of their belief that the band could become something far more than a "garage band". They believed enough in us to really go on and hit the big time. They personal accepted all of the costs themselves. This is why we simply went along with what we were told would work or not work in the studio. The abrupt ' ginning to track one was simply something that had not been done before and they believed it would be accepted as different and unique.

There was much interest from various major companies  in Hollywood. We had a tentative deal with Tower Records pending some remastering. Several months passed during this period and Rohn left the group for personal reasons. Without our vocalist, we had no record deal. Although there were some creative ideas brought forth to a few of the songs during mastering, I believe that these tracts give a general idea of our sound, although our live sound was much heavier as it was performed much louder. I hope everyone enjoys this as much as I enjoyed performing it.
by Jack Caviness


Tracks
1. A Thousand Trees Deep (Lorrainene Lopez) - 2:01
2. Look At Me Girl (Michael Cullen) - 3:32
3. Bitter Street (Michael Cullen) - 2:41
4. Story Of A Sort (Michael Cullen) - 3:43
5. That’s When Happiness Began (Rohn Barkley) - 2:24
6. Words In My Mind (Jack Caviness) - 2:59
7. Through With You (Rohn Barkley) - 2:43
8. She Said She’s Leaving (Michael Cullen) - 4:00
9. Knock Knock (Rohn Barkley) - 2:46
10.Trouble (Rohn Barkley) - 2:40

The Bleu Forest
*Mike Cullen - Guitar, Lead Vocals
*Jack Caviness - Drums
*Rohn Barkley - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Gary Heuer - Guitar, Vocals
*Ed Steele - Bass
*Larry Wiseman - Keyboards

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