Artist - Trefethen (Tom Trefethen)
Album - Am I Stupid or Am I Great?/It's All Mom's Fault
Released 1980 (Pacific Arts Records)
Mp3 @ 320 kbps
So here is something a bit different, and potentially an idea for a recurring feature, highlighting some fairly obscure out of print albums (that were only available on vinyl) that are of interest and may be worth a listen. As I was thinking about obscure albums in my record collection, this gem of an oddity sprang to mind, as it is quite interesting, but I have never known anyone who has ever heard of it or knows anything about it. Ok, so featured today is an album (the only album) from the band Trefethen. Trefethen is basically Tom Trefethen, an audio engineer that is most well-known for engineering the albums of Ambrosia in the 1970's (nominated for multiple Grammys for best engineered albums). He also has worked with Andrae Crouch and other Christian artists, as well as Michael Nesmith and Alan Parsons (on Tales of Mystery and Imagination). But Tom also was a budding songwriter and musician. After finishing work on the third Ambrosia album (Life Beyond L.A.-1978), Tom concentrated on trying to get his own album released, which he had finished recording in 1977. The album was recorded with the help of his musician friends, including guest appearances by all members of Ambrosia, as well as Andrae Crouch and Alan Parsons. Tom then was able to hook up with Michael Nesmith and his developing Pacific Arts record label, engineering Nesmith's 1979 album Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma, and then getting his own album a 1980 release on Pacific Arts. It is actually a quite good album (maybe not great but quite good), and very interesting from start to finish.
I would describe the music as piano-based progressive pop-rock. It is equal parts quirky, fun, melodic, silly, and strange, as it has a definite pop-rock underpinning, but with various jazzy, humorous, and progressive elements. I hear shades of Steely Dan and Supertramp, and not surprisingly, Ambrosia, as well as 10cc and maybe even some Ben Folds, as far as the styles, sounds, and songs to compare it to. As an audio engineer, the sound and production are quite good, and it is also clear that Tom likes to play with different sounds and sound effects, as the album is full of those interspersed throughout the songs. As far as I can tell, Tom wrote, arranged, engineered, and produced all the songs, as well as sang lead vocals and played multiple instruments (piano, guitar, bass) on the album (and although the Ambrosia guys are credited as playing on the album, it is not clear what songs or how much they play on the tracks). The album is arranged as two separate themed suites of songs (each encompassing a side of the album). These are continuous tracks each consisting of multiple linked songs (often connected by various sound effects and experimentation). Thus the album consists of these two main Suites - Am I Stupid or Am I Great? and It's All Mom's Fault. It's not quite clear if this constitutes an actual concept album or whether they are just song collages, but they all do fit together somewhat to make a whole listening experience. The album starts strong with some of the best songs, the 'Opening' intro, 'Do the Tattoo', and 'Moving Blunders'. Although it loses a bit of luster as it progresses, there are plenty of fine moments throughout and several catchy, quirky songs.
Unfortunately, Trefethen's quirky pop-rock did not catch on (or was ever heard), and the album disappeared quickly, never to be heard from again (until now). But if you are at all a fan of any of the bands I mentioned above, it is certainly worth checking out, and you might find it to be a hidden gem. Although it is not something I go back to often, it is quite enjoyable. I picked this up back in the early eighties while rifling through the bargain bins at some record store (something which I did quite often). I had no idea who or what it was, but was intrigued by it, and it was cool enough that picked it up (and encouraged by a blurb from Alan Parsons on the cover sticker). As I mentioned, I never heard anything about it again in all my music travels, but I always thought it was a worthy addition and a unique aspect of those times. Only recently did I try to look it up on the Internet to find the info I have presented here. To complete the story, after the failure of the album, Tom left the music business for a long period, but returned in the 2000's to open his own recording studio and production company. His only known return to performing was in 2005, when he released an internet-only single titled 'Johnny's Gone Away', a song he wrote in 1980 after the death of John Lennon. He also performed the song at the 25th annual Lennon candlelight vigil in Hollywood that year.
The album is presented here as two long mp3 files, each consisting of the complete song suites that comprise the album. The individual songs are listed in the track listing, but the recording is of the entire suite (I thought it best to present this way, as this is how the album is tracked). This is a needle-drop recording (using Audacity) of the vinyl album I purchased some 30 years ago, so there are the usual vinyl clicks and pops (I did not try to reduce or remove any imperfections). I am presenting this solely for the purpose of making more people aware of it and providing this music to those that may appreciate it.
As I mentioned, if this type of thing is of interest, I may make it a recurring feature (I have lots of old obscure but good albums that might work here - Bargain Bin Bonanzas, etc.). So, if this sounds interesting and you are willing to take a chance on it, let me know what you think, and whether you would be intrested in more of these types of things. So, here's Trefethen with Am I Stupid or Am I Great/Its All Mom's Fault.
Am I Stupid or Am I Great?
1. Colas' Opening
2. Do the Tattoo
3. Champagne Breakfast
4. Moving Blunders (March of the Marble People)
5. Hole in My Pocket
6. Blunder Starter Kit
7. Am I Stupid or Am I Great?
8. Where Was You, Where Were I?
It's All Mom's Fault
1. It's All Mom's Fault
A. I Forgot to Remember
B. Dancing of the Inbetween
C. None of the Above
1. why do we fight?
3. It Just Followed Me Home
4. The I Don't Want To Go To Work Waltz
5. The last Bosenians
6. Dreaded Fold
Trefethen_Am I Stupid-1980_OOPVinyl.rar