Tales Of Justine
Pedals From A Sunflower: Complete Recordings 1967-1969
Taken at face value, the band Tales of Justine is most obscure. The British trio released but one single in its brief existence, on a label that switched to a classical music format almost immediately after its release. The a-side, “Albert,” is a rather fey psych-pop number about a flower, while “Monday Monday” is a bit more of a substantial psych-rock number enhanced by a lovely string arrangement. It’s a nice song, but not particularly noteworthy. After its release the bad simply faded into obscurity. While the frontman David Daltrey had a vague familial link to Who frontman Roger Daltrey, it’s the production team that ensures the entry of this otherwise forgettable single will be remembered. Produced by A&R man Tim Rice and arranged by budding composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, this rather insignificant single represents something more—the beginning of a long, fruitful creative partnership.
But there was more to Tales of Justine than the two songs. Even though they released but one single, it wasn’t for lack of material, as Pearls From The Sky demonstrates; the band recorded well over a dozen songs in its brief life. The songs are all of a piece: gentle, folk-minded rock with a slight baroque pop element to them and just a drop of psychedelia. The arrangements are tactful, tasteful, and quite intricate; a celeste and sitar here, a children’s choir and string quartet there. These songs are nothing if not enjoyable, ear candy that just feels so very…Sixties! From the gentle “Something Special,” the lackadaisical “Music To Watch Us By” or the rock of “Easy To Be Hard,” these songs shine with the rays of sunshine pop. But…
Unfortunately, no amount of superb production can disguise the simple fact that these song aren’t very memorable. Like so many bands and artists, they succeed in sounding contemporary; if one needed a generic late-60s sounding number for a film set in 1968, almost any one of these songs would do. It doesn’t help that more than a few of these songs seem to suffer from a distinctive disinterest on the part of Daltrey; at times, Tales of Justine sound utterly bored. t’s not necessarily the band’s fault, either; the Rice/Weber production team was more interested in working on their first major theatrical project, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which would feature Daltrey in the lead role as Joseph.
It isn’t surprising, then, that Tales of Justine came and went with no fanfare, leaving behind one mere, obscure single in its wake. Still, for those interested in the Rice/Webber production team, Pearls From A Sunflower is an enjoyable—if not particularly memorable—chapter in that team’s long and distinguished history.