Recent Radioactive reissues: Crash Coffin, Fifth Flight, The Floor, The Sidetrack

Reviews by P. Edwin Letcher

CRASH COFFIN Self titled CD (Radioactive)… Crash Coffin is a fellow from Ohio who put together a band and recorded ten of his songs on a local label back in 1970. Crash had a good grasp on singing, storytelling and songwriting as well as a working knowledge of various musical genres. This CD contains “Masochist Blues” and “the Looney Polka” as well as eight others that are not as readily pegged as belonging to a particular musical style. One song, “Freedom Cake,” could have given the Lovin’ Spoonful some serious competition in the jug band pop field. Crash had a strong and smooth voice with plenty of Elvis that crept in around the edges. This is actually a pretty good record that I’ve gone back to more than once. I especially like the closing track, a rambling folk pop ditty about Jesus stealing his “Blue Kazoo.” Mr. Coffin did individual artwork for the covers of the few copies of the LP that actually made it into the hands of the public because he couldn’t afford to have the covers printed. It’s a shame because this could have been a popular record with a little support from a label.

FIFTH FLIGHT “Into Smoke Tree Village” CD (Radioactive)… Radioactive Records digs deep to find lost records of the past and make them available to a fanatical bunch of ’60s and ’70s enthusiasts. Fifth Flight was probably a popular high school hop band. They were a bit luckier than a lot of other groups doing covers of radio hits in the late ’60s because they actually got to record a whole album. Their set opens with a middle of the road original called “Can’t You See?” The rest of the record is made up of pedestrian versions of songs like “Midnight Hour” and “I’d Like to Make it with You.” It’s too bad they didn’t have a prolific tunesmith onboard to give them something to work with because they were decent musicians. This will enlighten anyone wondering what a competent group of musicians working the top 40 circuit in 1969 was like.

THE FLOOR “1st Floor” CD (Radioactive)… The band was known as the Hitmakers until 1967 when the changing times brought about a radical reincarnation in the Danish beat group. They brought in a fifth member, changed their name and set about Sgt. Pepperizing everything. There is a great photo on the back cover of the band, in their psychedelic finery, along with their various managers, composers, studio musicians, conductors, technicians… and coffee-lady. This is some of the finest introspective pop with orchestral backing of its era. Things get a tad too LSD silly with songs like “Hey, Mr. Flowerman” and “A Rainbow Around Us,” but others have more of a Zombies sensibility. In a fair world, music historians would be mentioning this album in the same breath as Herman’s Hermits’ “Blaze,” but the Continent never got as much attention as England or America. Maybe this re-release will set things straight.

THE SIDETRACK “Baby” CD (Radioactive)… Radioactive Records can be counted on to dig up some very obscure music from the ’60s and ’70s, but this one is more enigmatic than the average overlooked also ran. The label couldn’t dig up a photo of the group and the band never came up with artwork for this eleven-track demo. The best guess of the person who reviewed these songs for the label is that the band is from the late ’60s/ early ’70s. That sounds about right. This could almost pass for the British band Fields. It’s chock full of piano, organ and harpsichord and incorporates elements of classical music in its post-psychedelic rock explorations. While trying to zero in on its own unique sound, the band dabbled in a sort of blues/ Gregorian chant fusion and extended funky jazzy noodling among other odd combinations of eras and genres. The production is good, but the songs could be a lot
more memorable.