Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5
Although Sagittarius' first album Present Tense has gained somewhat of a reputation over the years, The Blue Marble remains largely unknown. The album debuted on the fledgeling Together Records, which unfortunately folded shortly after the release of this record and forced the music into a nose dive into obscurity. This is quite a shame as The Blue Marble features some great sunshine pop and is a worthy follow up to Present Tense.
Present Tense is more of a peaks and valleys record. While some songs there make me cringe, the high points are among the best that 60's music has to offer. The Blue Marble is a lot more consistant. There's nothing here with the punch of "My World Fell Down," but we are spared another "Musty Dusty."
The Blue Marble seems to have Gary Usher firmly in the driver's seat. Whereas Present Tense ended up having Curt Boettcher working practically as a collaborator, he appears here with only one songwriting credit, three production credits, and a smattering of vocals. Usher wrote a good 80% percent of The Blue Marble, five of them alone.
Usher really was one of the best producers in the late 60's, and that is apparent here with awesome multi-track layering and some tasteful use of the Moog synthesizer. The pitfall on The Blue Marble is that the songwriting tends not to stand out very much. Still, nothing here is embarrassing, and the lyrics aren't too bad.
The lead off track here is a "cover" of the Beach Boys' "In My Room." Since Usher co-wrote the song with Brian Wilson, I'd say he has full rights to play with it, and does so here recasting it in an almost Smile-like baroque-pop arrangement. On "From You To Us," we hear a ripping Moog bass-line, and I'd say if The Blue Marble has one major improvement over Present Tense, it would be in Usher's use of this synth. In fact, I don't recall the Moog being used in a better manner on any other 60's pop album. On the title track the Moog provides an really cool atmospheric atmosphere, while it makes for a nice retro-futuristic lead on "Lend Me A Smile."
It's really hard to choose highlights here as there's an extremely consistant, although far from dull sound. The closing track, "Cloud Track," could speak for the entire album as it's a pretty dreamy affair. The bonus section on my disc provides a few singles and alternate versions, but it does serve up a should-have-been-standout track with "Navajo Girl." There's a nice wall of sound present and the track almost rocks (as much as sunshine pop is going to). It recalls something like the Beach Boys' "Darlin'." The lyrics do seem a touch un-PC in the modern world however.
My 2001 CD reissue mostly does justice to Usher's production and crystaline arrangements. The album does seem to have a touch of vinyl noise here and there, so I'm pretty sure the master tapes were not available for remastering. The bonus tracks are in a too-compressed mono, but they're still quite listenable. It is a shame this album remains unknown as it is a sparkling example of sunshine pop.
The Blue Marble