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The Churls

The Churls - Send Me No Flowers

Send Me No Flowers
A & M - 1969

Michael Panontin
The chord-crunching blues-rock on the Churls self-titled debut was hardly a million-seller for A & M. Still, that didn't stop Herb Alpert from issuing a second set of songs for the lads later that very same year. A & M's usual roster of easy listening and M.O.R. bands was changing fast in 1969, with the likes of Fairport Convention, Joe Cocker, Free and Blodwyn Pig all seeing their names on labels alongside that familiar trumpet motif. And for an obscure Toronto quintet churning out a mix of Claptonesque power chords and proto-boogie in the coffee houses of Yorkville, the trip out to A & M's studios must have seemed like the chance of a lifetime.

But as their manager Bill Riley recalls in the blogosphere, it turned out to be a silly move in hindsight. "We all wrote, arranged and practised 24/7 on creating definite British converted American blues sounds, which unfortunately due to a lousy agreement with A & M were not able to be recorded. Old Herbie Alpert wanted a sort of rocky yet not too harsh sound from a Canadian band..., (but) in order to get the studio time and hope for some exposure, we took the deal."

The Churls may have fancied themselves contemporaries of Cream or the Rolling Stones, but Alpert probably had his sights set more on an AM dial about to fill up with the rock-lite of Norman Greenbaum, the Jaggerz and Sugarloaf. On the resulting follow-up Send Me No Flowers the late-sixties blues-rock dots are all connected. Those creamy Hammond organs and searing guitars are everywhere, propping up Robert O'Neil's heady vocal, especially on the buoyant title cut and the equally hard-hitting 'See My Way'. But with songwriting that was tepid at best, and with nothing here approaching the next 'Green-eyed Lady' or 'Spirit in the Sky', Alpert sent pink slips instead of roses, and it wasn't long before the Churls' brief moment on rock's stage had ended.

(Both The Churls and Send Me No Flowers were reissued by Pacemaker on one CD in 2012.)

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