Among the noteworthy 1968 releases from MCA’s UNI Records imprint were “Incense and Peppermints” by The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Foundations’ “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You,” Neil Diamond’s “Shilo,” and albums from Hugh Masekela and Larry Carlton. That year, the adventurous label also issued records by Orange Colored Sky (the band who claims to be the inspiration for The Wonders in That Thing You Do!), as well as Fever Tree (of “San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)” fame). It also released one by The Fun and Games, who gave us the bubblegum classic, “Grooviest Girl in the World.”
Amid all the memorable albums UNI put out that year was one with an eye-catching cover and the intriguing sci-fi title, A Giant Crab Comes Forth. Giant Crab evolved out of a popular Santa Barbara, California area band, Ernie & The Emperors, which was formed around three brothers, Ernie, Ray, and Ruben Orosco. The band became a regional sensation, opening for national acts and eventually signing with Warner/Reprise Records. Their first single, 1965’s marvelously Merseybeat-esque “Meet Me At The Corner” (b/w “Got A Lot I Want To Say”), was their sole Warners title, released while the three were still in high school. Along with another set of brothers, Dennis and Kenny Friscia, the Oroscos formed Giant Crab, crafting a very different sound than their previous band, whose live show alternated between surf music and British beat group-styled songs.
The first of what would ultimately be a pair of UNI albums, A Giant Crab Comes Forth defies easy categorization, which helps explain how it still sounds fresh decades after its release and how the original LP became a sought-after cult item, still changing hands for impressive prices. There’s Rascals-like, blue-eyed soul, rich vocal harmonies, prominent use of inventive horn charts, guitar riffs, and pyrotechnics. Also present are psychedelic effects, a wide variety of keyboard flavors, including jazzy vibes, funky clavinet, and even the prog-rock sound of the Mellotron, some of the earliest U.S. use of the tape-replay keyboard.