Search - Chrysalis :: Definition

Genres: Folk, Pop, R&B, Rock, Classic Rock
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #1

Chrysalis' lone 1968 long player is a hugely respected and much sought-after jazz/folk/ rock crossover from the psychedelic era which has recently earned classic status among collectors and afficianados. It's a most myster...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Chrysalis
Title: Definition
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Label: Rev-Ola [Cherry Red]
Release Date: 4/4/2005
Album Type: Import
Genres: Folk, Pop, R&B, Rock, Classic Rock
Styles: Oldies, Folk Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 5013929439429


Product Description
Chrysalis' lone 1968 long player is a hugely respected and much sought-after jazz/folk/ rock crossover from the psychedelic era which has recently earned classic status among collectors and afficianados. It's a most mysterious album boasting exotic song titles, an alluring silver gatefold sleeve and some very zen liner notes... and the twelve pieces of music contained within its grooves are unlike any others recorded before or since. Flitting butterfly-like between the gossamer-light acoustics of 'Cynthia Gerome', the fuzz-drenched satire of 'Father's Getting Old' and the ragtime psychedelia of '30 Poplar', the album takes lush woodwind and string arrangements, full-on acid-rock weird-outs and unbearably delicate jazz vibes and mixes them up into one giant bittersweet birthday cake! Covered in insects!!

CD Reviews

A must-have CD
Tracy Shew | Renton, WA USA | 02/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The reissue of this CD has been long overdue. This dates to a time when MGM was putting some effort into signing every psychedelic, love-in freak-fest they could lay a one-album contract on. While a lot of these groups ended up languishing in well-deserved obscurity, some (eventually) became recognized as possessing unique talent. (Leading collectors to pump up the prices of their original vinyl releases of course.)

I can't add much to what other reviewers have said about Spider Barbour's peculiar form of genius. Let's just say that the mixture of pretty and sometimes complex love ditties here leave us with a feeling of something insane lying just beneath the surface, as if all the insect references really metaphorically signify - what??? It's kind of imponderable. And when, by the end, the insanity finally does surface, it leads us immediately to listen closer to the "safe" and "pretty" love songs to seek hidden meanings.

The inclusion of acetate demos here as bonus tracks gives an even better insight into how the work got partially "productized" by MGM - especially "Dr. Root's Garden," which started out sounding a bit like a halloween cassette tape made by me and my kid brother (complete with wacky voices and echo effects, and someone loudly plucking one guitar string from time to time for no particular reason) to a more "polished product" which could be safely released to the masses. (Shades of Zappa's famous comment - and I paraphrase from memory - "With work you guys could be as popular as the Turtles.")

People expecting another Zappa or Captain Beefheart-like project here will be disappointed by this release - it is not nearly that nuts. Nor is this the Chocolate Watchband or another "pure garage" project - it is more polished than that (except perhaps in the acetates). Those drawn in by the coroporate packaging to expect something like a cross between Pentangle and Rare Bird will also be surprised. This is a more unique product, which bears repeated listenings for those who can acquire the taste for it.

Not without its flaws, but a must-have addition for anyone who can appreciate some of the unique MGM 1968-69 products, or of folk-oriented psychedelia in general."
One of my favorite albums of all time!
David Burd | East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania | 04/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I couldn't resist the invitation to be "the first person to review this album" since this is one of my all-time favorite records. Of course, I'm referring to the LP since the CD reissue hasn't arrived yet. I can't wait to get the CD so I can hear the bonus tracks!

"Definition" is a unique blend of folk, psychedlic and Dixieland influences. I'm not kidding. Typically those hybrid records sound like neither fish nor fowl, but this one works. Every track is a gem! It makes you wonder why no one else made a record quite like this.

Many of the songs are about insects, but in a good way! (Not surprisingly, the main songwriter is now a prominent naturalist who specializes in moths and butterflies.)

I first picked up the LP in a discount bin not long after it was released. I don't think I've ever bought a better record for $1.99, but I've haunted the cut-out racks ever since hoping to repeat the experience.

I took a chance on Chrysalis because I spotted the name "Spider Barbour" in the credits. Being a big Frank Zappa fan I recognized the name from the liner notes to "We're Only In It For The Money" on which Spider is described as "from a group that hasn't destroyed your minds yet..." Chrysalis is THAT group though I think your mind will be improved not destroyed by listening to this album.

I later learned that Spider is also the main character in Zappa's "Lumpy Gravy," the one who rambles on about pigs and ponies. But don't get the idea that these songs are Zappa-esque. Yes, one track has a definite Mothers of Invention flavor, but the rest are beautiful, haunting, melodic and poetic.

For a time, I couldn't get out of bed in the morning until I played the opening track, "What Will Become of the Morning." It's the kind of tune that really gets in your head, and the speeded up piano is a good example of the unique arrangements all through the album.

I could easily go track by track and give each glowing praise but there are two that stand out especially to me. "Lake Hope" has one of my favorite lyrics in popular music: "Love is but to play with a girl like a toy, yes but nobody confesses." (My other favorite is "Cuz he's a mean motah scootah and a bad go-gettah.") Another stand-out is "Piece of Sun" which is a soft, gentle vocal with a lilting melody and middle eight that is just killer! I don't want to spoil it for you, you'll have to hear it for yourself.

If you're at all curious about the state-of-the-art in folk-psychedelia I encourage you to order this album. I'll be amazed if you're not dazzled by it.

Personification Personified !!!!
(4 out of 5 stars)


Like the previous reviewer (whose comments I enjoyed immensely), I too plucked this from a two-dollar discount bin in the summer of '68. It was approximately my 30th LP. However, it wasn't unknown to me, being played and (advertised regularly) on WNEW-FM in New York, by expatriate Boston DJ Dick Summer, who I swear was on MGM's payroll at the time. If the platter had an MGM ying-yang label, Dick was spinning it, every day.

But lets clear something up immediately. This is an excellent album, but not one of the greatest ones. It's not Odessey and Oracle, Forever Changes, Are You Experienced, The Doors' first, or Sergeant Pepper, but it's almost as good, maybe one of the best albums you never heard.

One listen and you'll realize that these are not musicians of average intelligence. There's a genius in there somewhere. I submit to you that the number one genius is Spider Barbour, composing wonderfully complex melodies and harmonies that are enjoyable and fulfilling. The tasteful flute work of session man Jeremiah Burnham is tremendous; the delicate arrangement work of Jim Friedman is deserving of equal accolades.

Just as the work on the aforementioned albums exuded excellent thought-provoking writing, so also does this work. It seamlessly combines components of the hippie ethos (the free love of "Lake Hope", the lack of materiality in "Window Shopping") with references to the entomological world.

In high school English, we learned (or slept through) the literary technique known as Personification, giving human qualities to inhuman objects. I'll suggest to you that at least a couple of these numbers are sung by insects in human terms. For example, "Baby Let Me Show You Where I Live" could easily be sung by a butterfly, speaking of his dreams of flying as a caterpillar and now shopping for a mate. In "Dr. Root's Garden", the protagonists (Miles, Chester, Sue, Edna) may well be garden pests, insect or rodent, and Dr, Root may well be just a farmer about to make and spray pesticide, although the song alludes to him getting ready to destroy the world.

But enough of all of that. Let's get to what's really important, the music. Funny how one man's passion is another man's poison. My favorite tunes are the aforementioned "Baby Let Me Show You Where I Live", and the delightful ragtime frolic of "30 Poplar", neither mentioned by the prior reviewer. The fact that everyone who listens to this body of work sees something different is a testament to the excellence of the piece.

The album as a whole has that "made-in-a-loft-by-hippies-for-hippies" vibe about it, a perfect mixture of pschychedia and folk-rock, not the darker psych emanating from San Francisco at the time. This was much more ethereal and "East Coast", as mentioned in the CD liner notes.

A word about the extra tracks. One can hear and feel that they were slightly more garage-ier and less polished than those on the original album, but they are all excellent nonetheless. In this reviewer's humble opinion, "Window Shopping" is the best of this bunch, and could have easily fit on the original album from the perspectives of album space, song content, and musical style. For those that are inclined to enjoy such things, the demo of "Dr. Root's Garden" mentions Sue and Edna smoking "hash" behind the tool bench, whereas the final version mentions them smoking "fags". Oh, those MGM sensors.

Regarding the liner notes, reading Spider Barbour's recollections, one begins to understand the mind from whence the brilliance came forth. But even more fascinating, some thirty-seven years later, were Nancy's thoughts, and continued total admiration for Spider's skills as a musician. Usually, as time fades, A musician gets so wrapped up in him / her self, that he / she actually believes that it was him / her that was "the great one". (Witness Ric Lee's posturing in the notes of the early Ten Years After re-issues). Bucking this popular trend, Nancy still holds on to the precept that Spider was indeed the very talented leader and visionary of the group. Extremely impressive. The liner notes were so enlightening that I felt like an archaeologist reading the Rosetta Stone for the first time.

Summarizing, this is a wonderful album that will challenge and delight you musically, and if you have any semblance of love for all living things (insects included), your enjoyment will be heightened.

Oh yeah, about the sound quality. Rev-Ola did an exceptional job on the main body of work. There are some imperfections, however, in the extra tracks, whose source medium was probably not of the highest quality. Even the best restoration technology has its limitations.

So don't miss out on an excellent slice of psychedelic greatness. Buy this CD.

P.S. I got through this entire review without mentioning the Mothers of Invention. You'll see what I mean in the reviews that follow.