Wednesday 11 February 2015

The Exceptions Part One; Simply Us from 1971 (updated, download with permission from the artist)

This is one hell of an underrated album of totally unknown pop songs.

I really couldn't believe it when I heard it.  Let's start with the first track which after the opening, delivers an absolute smash, an uppercut to the solar plexus, "Don't ever let go:"


I mean that is just pure pop gold.  Golden baby, golden.  And danceable, to boot.  
As Christopher Walken said, I 'put on my pants one leg at a time just like you, but when they're on, I make hit records!'  That 'hey there' hook should have made it-- could have made it-- a top 10 hit on AM radio.

Listen to another stunning track, which recalls Bacharach at his best seventies schmaltzy timeless beauty:


How I pray these tracks could be popular one day...

Of course, whether or not you enjoy this record depends entirely on whether you have a taste for this kind of seventies pop music.  At the least one has to admit they were hugely talented musicians. And it turns out they made another record, and it's called 'The Other Side...'  Moreover, bandmember Randy Wills now owns and runs a recording studio in Topeka called 'Exceptions Studio' -- here is their website.  The search is back on for more...

And let's close out with the ending number, the Banjo Man, a name I was dreading to hear, but listen to what they do with this one:

What do you think of that F minor 9 Harpsichord chord that interjects itself in there after the chorus?  It really takes it away from the "Old Man River" musical number / Jimmy Webb vibe that starts it out, adding a kind of sparkly color.  Gorgeous stuff.

Gotta love the louche prohibition-era cover photo too.  Incidentally, the names of the artists are Craig Senne, Randy Wills, and Steve Greene.  As you may have guessed from the title they play all the instruments and created all the wonderful arrangements.

This one should really pass the test of time-- it's a keeper.

And what about those sepia-toned pictures, do they take you right back to childhood the way they do to me:

I love it-- do kids still play on railroad tracks today?  I think not...

could it be the long-lost Debbie Miller, from Karlos Steinblast's I Need A Woman?


Listening to this album repeatedly, I am struck by how well-crafted all these songs were, as I said above, standing comparison with Bacharach's hits quite favourably.  Notice the early year of the release (Randy informed me of this), which makes sense since this was the time when there was a taste for strings-filled pop mixed with funky moves.  Speaking of strings-filled, when I first heard this I assumed they had an orchestral backing-- looking inside the gatefold with its magical photos you will see the performers added all those layers of instrumentation themselves with keyboards, etc., and you gotta hand it to them, it was done highly tastefully and in such a subtle manner that you can hardly believe these are 'fake' instruments.  Pay attention to the keyboards on the opener for the second side (especially the fuzzy funky arpeggios added to the second stanza) and the highly progressive play at the end:

Btw notice that songwriting is handled by the duo of Randy Wills and Craig Senne, who are both equally accomplished.  (The latter wrote the above Banjo Man song.)  We know Randy runs a recording studio in Topeka, what happened to Craig I wonder?  Do they still perform or communicate?

It almost seems like it would make the perfect musical if you take the record as a story from beginning to end: 

Let's start with a young hip record collector entering a used record store in Kansas, spinning this, touching and examining the gatefold, the pictures, hearing all the songs, shocked at their quality, he then tracks down the artists locally, hears their whole life story-- perhaps get a trio of highly talented youths, high school friends (Many Times) then throw in a love story (When She Smiles), a band trying to make it big with huge loads of skill and passion (Don't ever let go), working at day jobs, playing and rehearsing, going through tragedy or adversity (Drinkin his time), eventually perhaps all getting married years later and having a young daughter (I just don't know how to love you) who needs extra care (that old movie about the jazz trumpeter whose kid gets polio and has to give up performing to care for her comes to mind-- what was it called? five red pennies or something?) for example, she is diagnosed with childhood leukemia (hope no one remembers Erich Segal!) and almost dies, he has to give up the dream of stardom, slowly over the years (Banjo Man)... until-- flash forward again to the young listener, who finds out thankfully the daughter is alive and well, a beautiful young adult (potential romance hinted at), it's just the dream that has died.  Last scene: the daughter playing the piano, perhaps performing with her father, hinting that she will carry on his dream.  It's a kind of "Mamma Mia" (the musical) meets the Commitments story I suppose.  (It's been done before, I realize.)  Add in some atmosphere about the spirit of the early seventies: the longing for a new world, for utopia, the spirit of peace, the desire to make things better (It's not as bad as it seems), the backdrop of the war in Vietnam (as in the movie made from the musical Hair) the hope and naivete that permeates every word they sing here...  That incredible, beautiful, sixties-seventies spirit, now lost in cynicism, which I've mentioned so many times before. Of course you can close out the show with the made-for-musical Banjo Man track as their goodbye and their hope for a better world, and have the TV reporting on some depressing story, such as Iraq/Syria in the background, they start up with the chorus, cue to the TV playing the harpsichord instrumental bit, as everyone watches, go back to the singers returning to the chorus, keep cutting to the TV doing the instr. bits, as if responding...  Hey-- if someone actually comes up with the script, please give me credit for the idea!  You saw it first here on   :-)

So, similar to my past discoveries in my blogging days: the amazingly talented songwriter J. F. Murphy, the one-record-wonder Ilian, crazy guy turned preacher Karlos Steinblast, the gorgeous Finnish Joni Mitchell Carita Holmstrom, and of course the wonderful multi-instrumentalist Kurt Memo, let's spread the word and give these guys the respect they really deserve, today.  Anyone who wishes, who enjoys it, should propagate this album on other blogs, other media (I'm thinking youtube or facebook here, which I don't frequent).

And finally I'm going to take the liberty of closing out by quoting Randy with whom I corresponded for permission:

"The song 'I just don't know' was definitely a tribute to the style of Burt Bacharach and his Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid soundtrack ... we appreciated too many different styles of music so we just put them all out there...  We were put down for that…  And we were loved for it...  I'm glad you appreciated it.  At least we knew how to write melodies , unlike 99% of what you hear today!"


  1. (ukr) Дуже дякую за ці пісні! Вони мені легли на серце. Це саме те, що я повинен сьогодні сказати своїй дружині, щоб вона не пішла від мене.
    (rus) Большое спасибо за эти песни! Они легли на моё сердце целебным бальзамом.
    (eng) Thank you for these wonderful songs. I felt that I wrote them truly in love with a man.
    (esp) Muchas gracias por este maravilloso bálsamo! Estas canciones se posaron en mi corazón, y lo sanó. Me di cuenta de que sólo tiene que amar y todo.

    Дякую, друже!

  2. hi, thanks for this kind comment. The english translation changed its meaning perhaps, I think he is saying something like 'this lies close to my heart like a healing balm' anyone can translate it better?

  3. the exceptions 1

    1. for all you 'lossless lovers' out there, as isabel used to say:

  4. Thanks to you and The Exceptions for this exceptional recording, enjoying it immensely!

  5. I post this comment on behalf of my friend who originally sent me a copy of this music:
    So much hidden hit-potential is rare. Everyone's amazed the first time they hear the LP. My favorite song is Don't Ever Let Go. The aesthetic qualities of the band, The Exceptions, are extraordinary. They're a phoenix rising from the ashes of a grey area of rock history. A true gem of the time, discovered late. To simply call their LP, Simply Us, unique is probably more than just an understatement. It's a hidden jewel from the 70s that changes how one sees that decade. CT

  6. Now, traveling thru the smokerings of time, we find these obscured gems and hidden treasures once again (ya hoo!)...
    ...and The Exceptions Part One, Simply Us, is one of these!
    Great and catchy songs with many layers of complexity that reward with repeated listens...'Don't Ever Let Go' is the killer intro, wonderful changes -dope explosion! Nice slow numbers too, perfect for a number by the I hear a Tron in there??? sweetness... 'All She Knows' - wicked electro-funk-psych, and before I knew it I was snappin' fingers and dancin' round the room!
    great lyrics in 'It's Not As Bas As It Seems' lights shining on the clouds at night...dig it baby,
    you make it good wherever you're at...
    Then dat damn 'Cowgirl'! if this could only be played on the radio, it'd blow up! love it
    And rounding up this smokin set, 'Banjo Man' is another sweet one...
    "people work together,
    make it shine,
    make a life worth living full man"
    Right On Right On
    Huge Thanks to The Exceptions for sharing this LP - So Good! Luv it!
    And huge thanks to my bro Julian for turning us on
    to the good shit!!
    Much Luv to All
    Stay warm Stay strong
    The Cosmic Spring's A-Comin!

  7. And I gotta say top shelf review Julian!
    Spot on for the music and that Christopher Walken quote -
    hahaha yes! Love the Karlos Steinblast/Debbie reference!!
    hahaha fuck yes I hope you found/find her Karlos my man!
    ...I too love the cover(the boys look like they're ready to show you some tricks of the trade!) and pics...the whole LP art-concept and layout is awesome, real good good goodness
    Thanks again Bros!

  8. requested reups from october country, part one:
    (all from prognotfrog)
    Unobstructed Universe 1976.rar
    syn cast the first stone.rar
    Twilight Nuages (1977).rar

  9. part two of requests:
    alain markusfeld - le desert noir [1977].rar
    Alain Markusfeld le son.rar
    Aussi Loin Que.rar
    nyl - nyl (fr, 1976).rar

    limited time only

  10. Hi Julian, could i ask you for the lossless please, thanks