"Things don't happen in front of you, they always happen behind your back."
Every now and then, while perusing the racks at Record Collector, I’ll happen across an album that will demand to be purchased based on its artwork alone. Wild Butter’s eponymous debut of 1970, resplendent in its artwork featuring a giant stick of butter flying through the sky, is one of those albums.
Upon initial listen, Wild Butter were a band that sounded very much of their time. A blend of hard rocking guitar, harmony vocals, ballads and speckles of slightly jammy psychedelia, they were a band unafraid of channeling their influences, with Cream, Buffalo Springfield, The Hollies, Spirit and Crosby, Stills and Nash evidently never being far from Wild Butter’s radiogram. And that’s before you take into account the Moody Blues, Neil Young and Bee Gees covers resplendent on the second half of the album.
So who were Wild Butter? To be honest, the blurb on the back of the album doesn’t give us much to go on. Rick Garen was their primary vocalist and drummer, guitar player Jon Senne being their primary songwriter, with Steve Price their bass player and Jerry Buckner their keyboard player joining Senne on providing some tight and well recorded harmonies behind Garen’s main vocal. Some CD reissues also refer to Mark Price (presumably Steve’s brother) playing a wah wah guitar solo on “Terribly Blind”, but on the original issue he’s only passingly mentioned to in the individuals the band wish to thank. Beyond this information, production and engineering credits and a few photos of the band, the only information you can glean is that album is enigmatically dedicated to Rosemary.
In regards to the material held within the grooves of the album, it is a pleasing exercise in late 60s / early 70s played by hairy and enthusiastic young men fired up by the prospect of setting off on the road to inevitable stardom.
Listening to the album, it is pretty good, although not particularly original. Garen was album capable, if not exactly unique, vocalist, with the other three guys in the band creating a solid harmony behind him. The self-penned material is also solid, if not exactly spectacular and the covers are performed with enthusiastic aplomb, with their cover of “New York Mining Disaster 1941” being the highlight of the album and the perfect way to sign off Wild Butter with a flourish. All in all it was a debut that showed an immense amount of promise and left plenty of space for the quartet to expand their sound and forge their own path.
So what happened? Why aren’t cool kids name-dropping Wild Butter as a key influence? Why are they not even considered a cult act who deserved to be considerably more successful than they became? Who knows? Maybe the fact that they sounded like a lot of other successful acts meant that they struggled to make an impression on a music scene already flooded with young and enthusiastic hairy rockers. Based on their sole album, they seemingly had it in them to evolve and discover their own unique sound instead of aping the sounds of others.
If you’re in the mood for some obscure psychedelic rock, then you’ll find much to enjoy on Wild Butter’s only album. Like many acts that come within touching distance of commercial success, Wild Butter had it in them to be contenders, and it was only the fact that they didn’t reach a receptive audience that stopped them.