Since April 20th has become a silly, unofficial holiday for us Americans (420 is supposedly the police call number for marijuana) it seems like a fine day to take a look at The Tea Company's sole freak out of an album. Yes, they want you to come and have the kind of tea that you smoke with them. Fortunately, these guys managed to crank out a fine psychedelic album that sounds good even without those particular controlled substances.
The Tea Company started out in New York City as the Naturals in 1963. I'd imagine that they went through several stylistic changes as this LP is pretty far out there. There's a base of Beatles-influenced pop in terms of the songwriting, but the real signature of this band lies in their wild delay and some extended instrumental space voyages which actually sound damn good.
The first thing you'll notice looking at the track listing is that the band has done an eight-minute cover of "You Keep Me Hangin' On." They do a better job than Vanilla Fudge with the extended, ironic cover, but it turns out to be the least essential thing on the album. Then you rock scholars may notice "Don't Make Waves," but this is not a cover of the Byrds' outtake, but rather a minute and a half of gurgling sounds. So let's focus on the rest of the disc, which is very good.
"Flowers" provides us with another long track at nine minutes, but they really hit the nail on the head with this one. The affair begins with a nice bit of hard-edge acid rock before blasting into a improvised hall of echoing sound that gives Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" a run for it's money.
There are four more conventionally structured tracks filling out the album, and they're all pretty swell. The open title track is especially awesome with the production building up into a wall-of-sound crescendo. The whole obscurity aside, I feel that the Tea Company should be in the running to be labeled as an American counterpoint to Barrett-era Floyd. "Love Could Make the World Go Round" and "Make Love Not War" are pretty up front with their flower power sentiments, but the smears of psychedelic sound keep it all from sounding too cliched. "As I Have Seen You Upon the Wall" even find a place for a waltz and a bit of the same vocal delay that Gandalf used (they were both from around NYC; could be the same piece of equipment). The only points against this band other than their ill-informed Motown cover is the fact that their vocalist isn't quite as good as I would hope. He still sounds fine most of the time and any shortcomings often vaporize in the walls of delay.
Psych fans are often on the prowl for artists that reach the heights of British psychedelia, and they're usually looking at other Brits. These Americans are often lost in the crowd, but really do make some sounds that the Pretty Things or Syd Barrett would have been envious of.
The Tea Company - Come And Have Some Tea With (1968 US Psychedelia)