Genre: Symphonic / Progressive Hard Rock
Label: ABC Records
In the early 1970’s and at St. A Louis, Missouri, a band of musicians gave breath to a musical form that would not only leave its mark on the history of music and the genre it served, but would be warmly embraced by fans of the genre (and others) in Greece, during the glorious years of quality radio, when it monopolized the “air”, creating an informal tradition that its branches reach to this day. I’m talking about Pavlov’s Dog, whose name refers to the well-known physiologist and doctor Ivan Pavlov, known primarily for his work in classical conditioning.
Pavlov’s Dogs are one of those bands that have either sworn fans or sworn enemies. There is no middle road. Either you love them or you hate them. And this dipole was mainly created by and is still divisive due to the very special vocals of David Surkamp. Many have described Surkamp’s voice as a junction between Geddy Lee and Edith Piaff because of the high but full-bodied turnarounds and trembling of his vocal performances. Others claim these kind of vocals to be the most appropriate type for that genre , while others completely reject them.
Regardless of the opinion we each hold on Pavlov’s Dog, no one can do anything else but agree that the debut of Americans is one of the greatest chapters in Progressive music history. Progressive, of course, not only considering its musical elements but also considering the general ideology, taking into account the literal translation of the word “progressive”.
The band’s debut was titled “Pampered Menial” and was released in mid-1975. Pavlov’s Dogs at the time consisted of: David Surkamp on vocals, Steve Scorfina (known for his REO Speedwagon years), Mike Safron on drums and percussion, Rick Stockton on bass, David Hamilton and Doug Rayburn on keyboards, and Siegfried Carver on violin (who left the band almost immediately after the album was released). The record consists of nine tracks, of total duration (approximately) 34 minutes.
What’s worth mentioning is that Before they released their first album, the band recorded some tracks at a studio in Pekin Illinois which in opinion of the members of the band were really good, only a few tracks from the Pekin Tapes reached their first album but caught the attention of the executives of ABC Dunhill Records who gave them an incredible advance of US$ 650,000.00 in 1974. This advance from ABC was a record advance for any new group signed at that time.
In essence, we could say that the album balances between Progressive Hard Rock and Fusion Jazz of the past, without necessarily showing its influences, which is unique for the era and the genesis of truly unique musicians. In addition to the conventional musical instruments such as rhythm guitars, bass and drums, “Pampered Menial” hosted the sweet sounds of the organ, piano, synthesizer, mellotron, violin, viola, and Vitar (a violin-guitar instrument – vi-olin & gui-tar). Of course, what almost instantly catches our interest are Surkamp’s vocals. Surkamp will always be the center of the vortex produced by Pavlov’s Dogs. We’re talking about a vocal performance that is very “exotic” and out of the ordinary, with amazingly special theatricality and the unmatched ability and skill to convey a multitude of emotions and moods with every verse. It is incredibly adorable and of course enviable to be able to speak so directly to the hearts of a listeners; especially when we are talking about hundreds of thousands of listeners. At the same time, one of the most interesting ‘points’ of “Pampered Menial” is its cover, which hosts engravings by Sir Edwin Landseer, who left this world about 100 years before the creation of Pavlov’s Dog.
The album was originally released by ABC Records in early April 1975. The LP was soon reissued by Columbia Records, whose release (with a slightly different cover) was released in mid-June, shortly after ABC’s release. Consequently, both editions were sold in the record stores at the same time, thus confusing the purchasing public.
The album was produced by Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman, who had already experienced producing success with Blue Öyster Cult.
Pavlov’s Dog are expected in Athens and Thessaloniki on November 22nd and 23rd, respectively, in a Demons Gate Productions production.