By Richie Unterberger

The Association's second album, late 1966's Renaissance (also reissued on CD by Collectors' Choice), had been a relatively disappointing seller in the wake of their debut Top Ten LP And Then...Along Comes the Association. Their third long-player, 1967's Insight Out, rode on the wings of the massive hits "Windy" and "Never My Love" (both included on the record) to give them their second Top Ten album. Such success was inevitable for an album containing two of the most-played AM smashes of the late '60s. As usual, though, beyond the two lead singles, the record was characteristically eclectic, running a gamut from pounding folk-rock and one of the best obscure P.F. Sloan covers to downright experimental anti-war protest.

<>    A couple of key changes were in order for the sessions. Lead guitarist Jules Alexander had left the band (though he would return in 1969), to be replaced by Larry Ramos. "I think Jules really inspired the avant-garde side of us," muses the Association's Jim Yester. "Larry was much more pop- and R&B-oriented, so I think that side probably came out a little more." Also pushing the band in a slightly more commercial direction was Bones Howe, the group's third producer in as many albums. Howe, established as one of Hollywood's top engineers on hits by the Mamas & the Papas, Johnny Rivers, and others, had recently started to produce as well, most notably with the Turtles.

    "That was more the record company and our manager than us," says Yester of the decision to enlist Howe. "Our manager really pushed us that way, because he was very blown away by the first Mamas & Papas album. He loved the sound of what the Mamas & Papas did, and that was mainly attributed to Bones's work on the engineering side." Though the Association had played everything on Renaissance, Howe helped assemble luminaries from the A-list of Los Angeles session cats to play on Insight Out, including drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Joe Osborn, keyboardist Larry Knechtel, guitarist Al Casey, and guitarist/sitarist Mike Deasy. The vocal arrangements were handled by Clark Burroughs of jazz-pop singers the Hi-Lo's; Burroughs had already worked with the band, helping them rehearse their arrangement of Bob Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings," the song that got them their deal with Valiant Records.

    Songs don't come any more commercial than "Windy" or "Never My Love," and "Windy," written by Ruthann Friedman, was the first of the pair to strike gold, topping the chart for no less than four weeks running in July 1967. "It had to have been considered for a single right off the bat because it was one of the first things recorded," says Yester. "Most of the stuff she wrote was really avant-garde and very outside. She said, 'I've written this very commercial thing that I think you guys might be interested in,' sat down and played it for us in the kitchen, and we all went, 'Oh God, that's really kind of neat. Let's take it and show it to Bones.' Which we did, and Bones really heard something for it. What's really funny is what most people don't know, is the song was actually written for a guy. He was kind of like a free spirit, had taken a little too much acid."

    "Never My Love" composers Don and Dick Addrisi had recorded as the Addrisi Brothers, and by the mid-1960s were working for Valiant as staff writers, penning the B-side of the group's previous smash "Cherish" ("Don't Blame It on Me"). "They would always submit stuff to us," recalls Yester. "Some of the stuff that we didn't pick of theirs, I kind of wish we had. There were some other tunes that were absolutely phenomenal." In fact they did cut another of the Addrisi Brothers' songs on Insight Out, the ultra-cheery "Happiness Is," which according to Yester was considered as a single. "But when we even got just the basic track done for 'Never My Love,' I mean, everybody freaked out," he adds. "Everybody, including the wives and girlfriends. They were the ones that were saying, 'Oh, this is it. It's so romantic!' I think my ex-wife used to say, 'Oh, it makes me want to swoon!'" he laughs. She wasn't alone, of course; "Never My Love" went to #2 and became one of the most oft-played standards of the twentieth century, both on radio and at weddings.

    "Never My Love" and "Windy" inevitably overshadowed the other nine songs on Insight Out, some of which rated among the group's finer work. "On a Quiet Night," sung with great delicacy by Yester, was one of the best little-known ballads by hit L.A. pop-folk-rock songwriter P.F. Sloan, and brought to the band by Howe, according to Jim. "Wantin' Ain't Gettin'" was pitched in by session man Mike Deasy, who also played sitar on the track. With Brian Cole on lead vocals, the band gave an uncharacteristically rough treatment to Tim Hardin's "Reputation." "I was one of the ones who pushed for that song," notes Yester, "because the Modern Folk Quartet [with Yester's brother Jerry, who produced the Association's second album] was doing it, and their version was so great. Ours was totally the different direction. When the powers that be agreed to do the song, I was really pumped. Then when I heard what they wanted to do with it, I was horrified. I hear the song more like Timmy did it, and more like the MFQ did it, as a really down blues instead of a frantic freakout. I think Brian pushed it in that direction."

    The album's most ambitious piece, "Requiem for the Masses," closed side two. More than any other song, it demonstrated there was more to the Association than good-time pop-rock, with its martial beats, Latin mass background vocals, and downbeat anti-war commentary. Explains Yester, "Terry [Kirkman] was wanting to put a thing together kind of like 'Who Killed Davey Moore?' [an obscure early Bob Dylan song about the death of a boxer that Dylan never released on record in the '60s]. We were very into Dylan. He wanted to do something kind of like that, with some mass parts, and then wound up coming up with that whole other idea. My brother arranged all the Latin parts, the vocal arrangement on all those.

    "It was very much an underground hit [in fact it even made #100 as the B-side of 'Never My Love']. I had guys years later that had been in 'Nam come up and shake my hand, and they couldn't even talk. It was just tears. Some guys would say, 'Hey man, thanks, you got us through.' Feedback like that is mind-blowing." -- Richie Unterberger

contents copyright Richie Unterberger , 2000-2010
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