A Lovely Sight
Numero Group

While the Numero Group is best known for introducing the world to off-the-radar funk and soul labels that existed on the fringe of ’60s and ’70s, they’ve never been one to pass on the chance of digging up a fair share of equally intriguing slabs of folk and pop lost to the sands of time. Their latest find is the product of both crate-scouring coincidence and the curatorial manpower needed to turn such buried treasures into pristinely packaged gems. Pisces is almost as imagined as a psychedelic band from Rockford, Illinois as a band can be. While compiling singles for another round of their Eccentric Soul series, Numero stumbled upon a single by the studio’s lone rock outfit then known as A Lovely Sight. Further investigation led them to Jim Krein and Paul DiVenti, the songwriters and producers of the single, and within that rabbit hole they found a pocket of psychedelia’s history that had never been discovered until now.

As the story goes, A Lovely Sight never made it past the first press of an astonishly small batch of singles, but Krein and DiVenti, two working-class Midwestern everymen soldiered on, buying a small studio in Rockford and eventually changing their name to Pisces and recording what would make up this reissue during the time in between their usual business of producing radio ads and local vanity projects. The tragedy is none of these nuggets ever escaped, none of this was even pressed onto an LP, which led to the daunting task of Numero to assemble their work as an imagined album.

Anyone familiar with the Hollies-Zombies-Turtles triumvirate will take solace in tracks like “Motley Mary Ann” and “Elephant Eyes,” as they were indicative of the British Invasion pop turned slightly halcyon by the bohemian revolution and acid-happy Beatles, but even stranger as the duo was known to spend hours cultivating their simple tunes into wild studio experiments. There are clues here that Krein and DiVenti weren’t content with three-minute singles (though they’re here aplenty) and looking the look or walking the walk of the average mod-top or deadhead (though it’s sounds like their musical tastes traveled from NYC to San Francisco). These sessions were equally dark and dense, while a song like “Mary” begins as the sweetest bubblegum this side of the Ohio Express before it quickly dives into the effects of the day, twisted even more towards its end with found samples, tape manipulations, drumbeats and solos in reverse. Any question of their singularity is answered with the album’s most mysterious take “Children Kiss Your Mother Goodnight,” where nursery rhymes meet dirge organ and death is eventually a theme.

During the years the duo spent holed in their studio, they also recorded sessions with their resident siren, Linda Bruner. Originally Krein intended for Bruner’s work to be separate from that of Pisces, even though the band played on every one of her songs. But in the resurrection of the studio reels Numero chose to include her as a part of the complete package. Incidentally her contributions here sound necessary, as if she were the Grace Slick angst or Nico calm to the rambling whims of the group’s main songwriters. Her country inflections on “Sam” and candlelit melancholy on “Are You Changing in Your Time” would have been indispensible had Pisces seen the light of day in their appropriate time.

But that begs the question, when was the appropriate time for Pisces? While A Lovely Sight will never take the place of a Revolver or an Odyssey and Oracle, its grooves seem quite significant as a snapshot of what was going on in the middle of the country. Even though the album is wildly varied from track to track, these were not simply cover versions, or rehash. Nor were they lofty aspirations to escape small-town America and tour the world. There’s a rustic quality, a boundless imagination at the heart of the album that sounds distinctly Midwestern. There’s a spirit ingrained in these recordings that was not influenced by trends, fashions and the liberal utopias that were quickly crumbling on the coasts. Maybe just two men’s journey to the center of their minds? Quite a concept.
Kevin J. Elliott