For the past several days I have been thinking of the song “Holy Are You” from the Release of an Oath album by the Electric Prunes. I had considered filing this with the “Colorado Songs,” but decided that would not be appropriate.
Why would I even think of this as a Colorado Song, you may ask. Well, if we accept that God is omnipresent, then God is here in Colorado (which may be a good song title for someone). For a better reason, though, let us look briefly at the Electric Prunes.
The group was essentially four or five high school kids who played psychedelic-surf-garage rock and were fortunate enough to sign a contract with Reprise Records under the name Jim and the Lords. A very successful recording engineer named David Hassinger was assigned to produce their album. This was at just about the same time Hassinger was producing the first Grateful Dead album. He thought the group needed a more catchy name, so they decided to be the Electric Prunes, and Hassinger became the owner of that name – sort of taking advantage of the kids.
In late 1966 and early 1967, the Electric Prunes had two minor hits with “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” and “Get Me to the World on Time.” Hassinger believed that they were very close to great commercial success, and decided (for some reason) that it could be achieved by expanding the group’s horizons and having them become a psychedelic-surf-Gregorian Chant -garage rock band. His suggestion was joined by their manager and the Electric Prunes agreed to do a concept album, which would be a mass – Mass in F Minor – composed by classically trained musician David Axelrod, and sung in Latin with fairly intricate instrumentation.
The group began the recording, but soon found the music too difficult for them. Hassinger – who owned the name, as you recall – augmented the Electric Prunes with other more polished musicians, and Mass in F Minor was released in January of 1968. Although it was only a minor (get it?) commercial success, it did become a cult favorite. The cult following was increased the next year when the “Kyrie” was used in the Easy Rider film.
The record’s reception was good enough for Hassinger, though, and he decided that the Electric Prunes (the name he owned) should try again. So, once again, David Axelrod composed a complex set of songs; once again, the “real” Electric Prunes found the music exceedingly difficult; and once again, David Hassinger brought in other musicians so “his” Electric Prunes could complete the work.
This is where we finally get back to Colorado. As the core of the added musicians, Hassinger recruited members of the Colorado band, Climax, some of whose members had previously played in Colorado’s own surf band, the Astronauts.
This album, released in November of 1968, was called Release of an Oath, referencing the first song on the album, “Kol Nidre.” Kol Nidre is a Jewish prayer of sorts, recited in Aramaic on the first night of Yom Kippur. It annuls any vows or oaths which might be made to God during the coming year in order to avoid the sin of breaking an oath. The other songs on the album are a mixture of Jewish and Christian influences that do form an interesting and cohesive whole. The best of those songs is “Holy Are You,” which could arise from any monotheistic tradition.