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J.K. & Co.

J.K. & Co. - Suddenly One Summer

Suddenly One Summer
White Whale - 1969

Michael Panontin
Until its reissue onto CD (Beatrocket, 2001), J.K. & Co.'s Suddenly One Summer was one of those impossibly rare records that seemed to find its way onto every collector's want list, but which few had actually heard. The dreamy orchestral psych here is actually a product of precocity - in this case of 15-year-old wunderkind Jay Kaye, who, after accompanying his mother from Las Vegas to Vancouver, hooked up with producer Robin Spurgin (whose resume boasted the likes of the Painted Ship, the Collectors and the United Empire Loyalists) and arranger Robert Buckley. Members of BC psych-rockers Mother Tuckers Yellow Duck sat in as session musicians to help flesh out Kaye's grand musical vision.

Billboard magazine at the time reported that Kaye's intentions were to "depict musically a man's life from birth to death". No surprise, I suppose, this being 1969 with the birthing of the concept album fully underway. In fact, the murky atmospherics of Sgt. Pepper's loom large over much of Suddenly One Summer, even from the get-go with the opener 'Fly' serving up some backward guitar samples to buoy Kaye's delicate vocal.

Lyrically, Kaye straddles a world pregnant with youthful possibility and a more ominous adult one of world-weary dread. On the lovely 'Christine', for instance, he sings of love with a frightening wisdom, "Christine, I've just seen the story in your eyes / You're very much in love to my surprise / Is it me?" And shades of Arthur Lee's fractured genius surface on 'Nobody' with "The days pass so slowly / My nights are so lonely...My happiness is a needle / I will ask it for another day".

Other tracks, like the wispy 'Land of Sensation and Delights', reveal a lighter side to Kaye's songwriting. That fragile vocal and lulling harpsichord are textbook chamber rock and probably could have fit nicely on either of the Left Banke's two LPs. On the closing 'Dead', the record ends things on a more existential note with the frankly rather disturbing sounds of dirt being shovelled into a grave.

Some of these songs would find their way onto the budding California free-form radio stations. But apart from that, and despite the fact that it was released on the sizeable White Whale label, which was raking in millions from the Turtles and obviously had the cash to promote it, Suddenly One Summer vanished quickly from the radar, as did Kaye, who ultimately found himself singing and writing in Mallorca, Spain after a mostly uneventful career stateside.

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