Not many rock bands can trace their formation and inspiration back to Etienne Decroux? But so it was for the Hello People back in the late 1960s. Decroux was an actor and teacher of corporeal mime. Part of his approach was to incorporate mime into the presentation of music. Record producer Lew Futterman took all this to heart and set about assembling a band that would use mime as a part of their stage act.
In concert the Hello People would sing but not talk and use their bodies to help present their music. They would also perform with faces painted white. They used stage names such as wry one, country, smoothie, thump thump, and good fellow. It all added up to one of the more unusual bands of the era.
They were only moderately commercially successful but managed to record seven studio albums during their existence. Second album Fusion (1968) has been resurrected by Real Gone Music, as of the end of February.
The group’s albums are a far different experience than their stage act, however, as Ronnie Blake (drums), Greg Geddes (bass, vocals), Michael Sagarese (flute, sax), Bobby Sedita (guitar, vocals), Sonny Tongue (guitar, vocals) and Larry Tasse (keyboards) are all adept musicians who were able to produce a solid brand of rock and roll for this release.
Their sound is a combination of pop, improvisational rock jams, and even a little jazz on occasion. The lyrics have an edge to them, as they explore social and political issues of the day.
“Anthem” is an anti-draft song written by Tongue based on his experiences in prison for refusing to serve. It was a controversial track encased in folk and pop rhythms. The band performed the song live on The Smother Brothers television show.
Their most adventurous piece is “White Winged Doves,” which makes use of a flute and harpsichord and then uses some rock guitar riffing as a counter point. “Jelly Jam” floats in a different direction as the flute and sax mix give it a jazzy tone.
“If I Should Sing Too Softly” and “How Does It Feel to Be Free” are both basic pop songs where the cutting edge socio-political lyrics take you by surprise. “A Dream of Tomorrow” is a gentle acoustic piece, while “Come and See Me” combines elements of doo-wop, jazz, and rock.
The Hello People may seem a little dated today and their stage acted treaded the line between innovative and weird but Fusion is a creative mixture of music that retains its ability to entertain 45 years later.