Today originals of Cooley-Munson's In Debt change hands for about $700 each. Aaron Milenski in The Acid Archives says of that early effort has "a sound similar to the early Chuck & Mary Perrin albums, if they didn't have female vocals. Japanese collectors crave it for those songs, though psych collectors will be more interested in 'Sightly Sue,' which has bizarre use of guitar vibrato, and 'I Need a Change' and 'Where Is The Change,' which have a bit of mild fuzz guitar (the latter has maybe the shortest and most unlikely wah wah break ever.) A few other songs have some jazzy lead guitar and complex chord progressions. Overall, somewhere between stark hippie folk and folky singer/songwriter. Loner folk fans may enjoy it, as a couple of songs are pretty dark in tone."
Munson's next project, the cassette-only Good Morning World may be his strongest effort. This mellow spin on the west coast sound resembles a Curt Boettcher production (The Millennium, Sagittarius) that doesn't try as hard. It's that good.
First Light, a vinyl collectable trading in the low three figure range these days, continues the project started with Good Morning World to great effect. Following LP and CD reissues by Guerssen, Munson returned in 2009 with The Road Goes On and proved that he has not missed the a step in the intervening years. You can learn more and write to Alan at alanmunson.com. Special thanks to Antoni at Guerssen for putting these reissues together and allowing Yoga to release this work in the download format!
by Alan Munson
IN DEBT Cooley-Munson
We had been playing in a rock band together for a couple years in Santa Barbara, California. While the band experience and performances were great times, we both had a serious interest in collaborating on original material and pursuing a record deal. In 1972, we recorded and produced In Debt; our first record album.
There are nine original songs on the In Debt album. The music style is predominantly Psych rock, but also includes songs which have both a folk rock and a bluesy acoustic feel. Instruments on the album include electric and acoustic guitars, electric and acoustic bass (guitarone), drums and other percussion instruments. Effects used in the Psych rock songs include guitar solos with distortion/wah-wah, and some soaring echoed vocals. Our production objective was to record an album with Pop-rock arrangement sensibilities applied to Psych music and experimental sounds. The recording process and the album production work were huge learning experiences. The release, and all that surrounded it, was an absolute thrill. Below, are a few of our thoughts / reflections on the In Debt experience:
Munson: "Our song arrangement / recording sessions would often stretch into all hours of the night. We were exploring new ideas and challenges in song composition, and the technical aspects of the recording process required a lot of time and planning. We only had four discreet recording tracks to work with, and had to find creative ways to stretch that into eight or more tracks for all of the instruments and vocals we wanted to include."
Cooley: "We were certain that a major label was going to pick it up; it was just a matter of time. That confidence and youthful arrogance ... we thought we were unstoppable! I remember thinking ... Lennon & McCartney move over!! We were getting radio airplay, there were special displays of our albums in the record stores, newspaper reviews and a meeting with a concert promoter. All of that just fueled the fire."
Munson: "I appeared on a half hour radio show in Northern Calif - the DJ interviewed me about the album, our plans and played a few songs from the album. I was thinking as I was leaving, this was just a small stepping stone; and, of course, next we'll be doing this on national television".
Cooley: "Before the "In Debt" recording, I didn't consider Music to be much more than a hobby. But, by the time we finished that album, I had changed career objectives and there was no turning back".
GOOD MORNING WORLD
In the early '70's, a record producer in Los Angeles listened to demo tape of songs I had written and recorded. He was generous with his time and seemed to carefully listen to the tape... a tape that I was certain contained the next big hit that he would want to rush into production. When the tape finished, he paused and said .... "I like the music, but you don't have anything to say. ... you're young ... go out and experience the world, write songs based on that real life experience, and then come back and see me". I was crushed at that moment, but as time went along, I realized I had been given the best songwriting lesson I could ever hope to receive.
I wrote and recorded most of the songs for the Good Morning World album in 1974. And, those songs fell under the provisions of a new law that I had created for myself ... the "if you don't live it, then don't write songs about it" law. That time period was a rich source of life experience for me, and provided a lot of songwriting inspiration. With no shortage of topical material, I found it was easy to live within "the law", while writing the songs for the GMW album.
The music styling of the album is predominately acoustic; with emphasis on up-front vocals, background harmony vocals and understandable lyrics. The instruments used on the recording included 12 string and 6 string acoustic guitars (often dual layered), electric bass guitar (which occasionally doubled as the lead guitar), 6 string electric guitar and some percussion. This album was a solo recording project, with me singing all of the vocals and playing all instruments.
I enjoyed experimentation on this album; utilizing some fairly unusual song arrangements, chord structures, tempo changes within songs, and multiple guitar harmonies. I think all of that contributes to the Good Morning World album being my own personal favorite of the three early record albums.
The GMW album was a limited run (a couple hundred) cassette release only. I had always intended to get it released as a vinyl LP, but my interests began to shift toward writing new material, and ultimately a new album project / release (First Light).
First Light was recorded in California between November 1978 and March 1979. It was the second of my "solo" albums; with all original songs, and me performing all of the vocals / playing all of the instruments. This album followed the Good Morning World album (1975).
The First Light album doesn't easily fit into a music category box. The songs range from Psych rock, to some fairly "laid back" folk-rock, and even a song with a country rock flavor. There is a fairly even balance of acoustic and electric song styles across the album. Instruments played on the record include electric and acoustic guitars, electric bass guitar and drums. Lead solos are all played on electric guitar; a "clean" sound on the acoustic based songs. Guitar effects were used on the Psych rock songs, including wah, light distortion, and a Leslie Rotating Tremolo Speaker was utilized for the guitar solos in one of the album cuts.
The album sold well for an independent release, particularly on the West Coast and in Colorado. A number of them also found their way to Europe through a distribution connection I had at that time. The album was released on my private label, "Parallax Records", with a pressing of 500 vinyl LP's. A couple of the songs received some radio airplay, but I was especially surprised to find out that one of them had been added to the "play list" of a country music radio station in San Jose, California.
It was during the recording of this album that I realized my primary musical interest was working in the recording studio. I've greatly enjoyed performing on stage with bands over the years , but I truly love the creative possibilities and challenges that working in the recording studio offers.