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Sweet Smoke - Mary Jane is to Love

The Birdwatchers-Mary Mary (It's to You That I Belong) 1966

An album with a theme, “Marijuana Unknowns” features obscure bands from the sixties toting tunes referencing the heady herb. Subject aside, which is not nearly as shocking or rebellious as it was when these tracks were conceived, this is a really great collection of songs as it examines an array of musical moods and measures. Expected to be a series, no additional installments ever appeared, which leads me to believe there were simply no funds to keep the project going. Perhaps the record label’s money all went up in smoke – pun purposely intended!

Marked of mouth-watering bubblegum ingredients, it’s no surprise Ron Dante, whose merry pipes inhabit sugar-coated ear candy by the likes of the Archies and the Cufflinks, is the vibrant vocalist behind the Two Dollar Question’s hook-happy “Aunt Matilda‘s Double Yummy Blow Your Mind Out Brownies,” and then there’s The World’s hilarious “Pot Party,” which should actually be called “LSD Party,” as it consists of a gaggle of people laughing themselves silly while a bluesy surf rock band noodles away in the background.

Framed of clattering riffs and rhythms secured tight to a sneering garage edge worthy of the Seeds, “Walking In The Queen’s Garden” by Them cycles in as a surefire winner, movie star Mike Clifford weighs the pros and cons of the wacky weed in a perfectly polished croon on “Mary Jane,” and Listening’s “Stoned Is” floats and flows to a spacey sleepy-eyed pitch that cops the trippy instrumentation of “Strawberry Fields” towards the end of the cut. Other grand gems heard on “Marijuana Unknowns” are Owen B’s “Zig Zag Man,” which races around and around to a hard driving exposition of zig zagging melodies, and the Zombies meet the Monkees atmospheric pop rock of “Mary Mary” from the Birdwatchers. And let’s not exclude Sweet Smoke’s “Mary Jane Is To Love” that ripples and rolls with sweeping organ flourishes and windy choruses or Copperpenny’s “Can’t Stop The World,” a theatric and downright frightening mass of heavy duty drug-dappled paranoia.

Even if you don’t puff the stuff, you’re guaranteed to enjoy “Marijuana Unknowns Vol. 1,” as the songs are nothing short of catchy and creative.

Side One
SWEET SMOKE – Mary Jane Is To Love
THE BIRDWATCHERS – Mary Mary (It’s To You That I Belong)
THE TWO DOLLAR QUESTION – Aunt Matilda’s Double Yummy Blow Your Mind Brownies
THEM – Walking In The QueensGarden
THE RENAISSANCE – Mary Jane (Get Off The Devil’s Merry-Go-Round)
Side Two
THE CASTELS – Rocky Ridges
THE WORLD – Pot Party
PROPHECY – Take A Look At Mary
OWEN B – Zig Zag Man
COPPERPENNY – Stop The World