published: 25 /
High Moon Records
Fantastic psychedelic-influenced second album from 1960’s-era all-female band Ace of Cups
Named after a Tarot Card, Ace of Cups was formed in San Francisco in 1967 during the highly-publicized Summer of Love. They ultimately procured a stellar reputation and boasted performances with the likes of The Band and the Grateful Dead. In addition, after being blown away by their lead guitarist, Jimi Hendrix asked Ace of Cups to be a support band, just a week after the infamous Monterey Festival.
In 2016, four members of the original line-up worked on their debut album, which included guest appearances by old friends Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna). But more recently and in celebration of the anniversary of women’s right to vote, the latest iteration of Ace of Cups created the dreamy twelve-track CD, ‘Sing Your Dreams,’ which recalls the innocence of the American hippie experience.
‘Dressed in Black’ features Mary Simpson’s swaggering vocals and harmonica against an unapologetic beat. There’re aeons of energy here and Simpson’s guitar solo sets the stage for a number of other dynamic act-outs. The lyrics are expressive and straight-to-the point. “They said that you were changing but I didn’t see it coming around,” the story goes, but ultimately this disillusioned lover finds her way out: “I’ll be alright in a while.”
‘Jai Ma’ features a splendid mix of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and an infectious bass solo by guest artist Bakithi Kumalo, who participated greatly in Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’, A vibrant array of percussive instruments also embellish this track, which including Timbales, plus congas and “shouts” courtesy of Sheila E. The Escovedo clan also contribute greatly to this decidedly entertaining track.
Beth Nielsen Chapman cover ‘Put a Woman in Charge’ is not merely a predictable feminist anthem, but it’s a stand-alone packed with personality. Dallis Craft does the lead vocals persuasively and Mary Simpson commits another blistering attack on her electric guitar.
‘Sister Ruth’ finds Denise Kaufman doubling as the soft-spoken lead vocalist and blues-harp player. Jason Crosby’s gospel-tinged fills on acoustic piano add a delightful touch. “America’s still waters have been stirred/Can the songs of love and freedom still be heard?” While the band may not have found the solution, they’ve certainly given us lots to ponder.
‘Basic Human Needs’ comes alive with legendary Wavy Gravy’s growling vocals. “And wouldn’t it be neat if the people that you meet had shoes upon their feet?” Everything from the handclaps to the rousing backing vocals make this song uplifting.
Mary Gannon’s friendly and warm tones rise above the stylized and sharp clarinet of Sheldon Brown on ‘I’m on Your Side.’ Don Shea’s top-notch keyboard skills bring much vitality to the pop ballad ‘Gemini,’ where the outro. is a fun return to bright 1960’s psychedelia. Lyrics the likes of: “There is a town called hand-me-down” definitely contribute to the cool vibe.
On ‘Boy, What’ll You Do Then,’ Denise Kaufman returns with a fierce condemnation of her lack-lustre partner but on ‘Little White Lies’ emotions reach an ever-higher plane and are underscored by snappy phrasing.
“I’m paranoid and very stoned/Maybe I’m disaster prone…” As the band ruminates on the past; San Francisco’s infamous hippie intersection of Haight-Ashbury, Mary Gannon and Diane Vitalich trade lead vocals on ‘Waller Street Blues.’ The lyrics namecheck rolling papers, water pipes and other related nostalgia for a head-trip through time.
Mary Simpson’s tear-stained vocals bolster the lyrical depth of ‘Lucky Stars,’ where “it’s been a long, long road…” Her striking electric guitar solos which occur mid-song and in the outro. are super-packed with raw emotion.
On ‘Slower River,’ guest Jackson Browne masterfully takes on the first several verses, followed by Denise Kaufman. “Cause everyone is broken and everyone is whole” is one of the strongest sentiments here. Kaufman and Browne’s voices meld beautifully on the chorus.
Finally, on ‘Made to Love,’ Kaufman tackles spoken word. The simple chorus is catchy and the backing vocals are alluring. Guesting here is Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, whose distinguished voice is an unarguable plus.
The flashy CD cover includes a beautifully put-together lyric booklet with a stunning cover of the players.
Dressed in Black
Put a Woman in Charge
Basic Human Needs
I'm on Your Side
Boy, What'll You Do Then
Little White Lies
Waller Street Blues
Slowest River / Made for Love
Digital Booklet: Sing Your Dreams