I was the program director of my college radio station in 1970 when Gypsy’s self-titled debut album crossed my desk. Two songs into the album, I was hooked. I quickly put it into rotation on the station’s playlist. While it had some mild commercial success, it quickly disappeared into bargain bins. It took me a couple of months to convince a local record store owner to order a copy for me.
The band originated in Minnesota in 1962 but by the end of the decade, they were the house band at the famous Whiskey a Go-Go club in California. Their eight months at the club enabled them to develop and hone their sound. It was against this backdrop that they entered the studio to record their first album.
Gypsy at the time consisted of vocalist/primary songwriter/guitarist Enrico Rosenbaum (1944-1979), keyboardist/vocalist James Walsh, guitarist/vocalist James Johnson, drummer James Epstein, and bassist Donnie Larson.
Their foundation was west coast psychedelic music, but they expanded outward from that base. The triumvirate of Rosenbaum, Walsh, and Johnson were able to produce impeccable harmonies. Plus, they hired Jimmie Haskell to add some strings here and there. It all added up to a unique sound at the time.
The album began with “Gypsy Queen Part 1” and “…Part 2.” It sounds as if the harmonies were run through an echo chamber. The music just builds as the sounds wash over you.
There are a number of longer tracks that allowed the band to stretch and improvise. “Decisions,” “The Vision,” and “Dead and Gone” have a basic melody which the band expands, twists, and returns to. The interaction between the keyboards and guitars provide a nice underpinning for the vocals. Songs such as “Man of Reason,” “Dream If You Can,” “I Was So Young,” and “Late December” sound somewhat like a hard-edged Moody Blues on steroids.
It is very difficult to produce a double album with superior material but there are no weak tracks. Gypsy would issue three more studio albums and endure several personnel changes. James Walsh has kept the band going but Rosenbaum’s death in 1979 ended any thoughts of an original group reunion.
Gypsy has left behind one superb album, which has held up well. It remains an excellent and creative example of early 1970s rock.