The Chocoloate Watch Band vs. the Studio

The Chocoloate Watch Band vs. the Studio

The recorded life of any ensemble is and should admittedly be accepted as something separate than what the group actually was. Confining a group of players to a studio with it’s gadgetry and the often stifling affect of having no audience provides for an odd setting to capture music that’s meant for dancing and freak outs. The Chocolate Watch Band aren’t the only group to have suffered from this dichotomy, but its story is still a mighty strange one. Helmed by producer Ed Cobb, the San Jose based psych act formed in ’65 and made a decent name for themselves on the local club circuit.

Cobb, who admittedly refused to witness the group’s live performances due to his lack of interest, seems to have stifled the band in the studio while also having replaced some of its instrumentation or even singing by session players. So, in any listen to the group’s material, hearing something that you enjoy might actually be the result of some anonymous player that doesn’t even recieve credit on the disc. But despite all of this, the band released No Way Out in ’67. It can’t be said to be the cornerstone of the psych daze that began to envelop in the Bay Area around this time, but there are clear moments of brilliance in the band’s Brit Invasion beat workouts.

There are more than a few instances of the band – or the session hacks that inhabit the disc – being ahead of their Bay brethren. And yes, that includes the Dead. Perhaps not musically, or compositionally, but in the inclusion of a sitar on the band’s “Gone and Passes By” listeners might be surprised to hear a latter day psych staple in a record of this vintage. Even at its scant two and some odd minutes, the song is able to distill portions of what the Watch Band achieved in a live context.

Considering that nothing on the disc moves too far past the four minute mark, though, it should be plain to figure that the Chocolate Watch Band was disallowed from doing as it pleased in this studio excursion. Some of the songs here – the title track especially – while cribbed from the Stones, were generally heard in live settings at beyond the five minute mark. And at this period of the record industries development, with the focus still mainly on singles, the distinct dampening of creativity here is one of only monetary basis.

Cobb, the session’s producer, may not have cared to much about the live statement that these workouts would receive, but it can’t be said that what get set down to tape was tripe. Even given the ridiculous disregard for the actual performers here, the supplemental noises, groans and airy additions that the producer included on this work are, for the most part, able to distract listeners from the obvious differences line up issues. Even if the band would go on to shift members and record a few other discs before calling it a day, the draw backs of No Way Out are tempered by its sporadic successes.