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It’s A Beautiful Day

+ {David LaFlamme} + {David LaFlamme Band}

Capturing the essence of the devitalized flower-power scene, the exquisitely named IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY had at least one thing in their corner: David LaFlamme, a soaring lead singer and songwriter who could correlate his vox with virtuoso fret-fingering on his custom-built five-string electric violin. One of their initial batch of flyers, `White Bird’ (subsequent signature tune and regular fixture on American FM radio), is certainly a song to hear a few times before one picks up one’s ticket to the pearly gates.
Formed in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California, in the summer of ’67, classically-trained Salt Lake City-raised violinist LaFlamme (born May 4, 1941, New Britain, Connecticut) escaped from the exacting trials of the Utah Symphony Orchestra (and indeed, Orkustra), to fit in with the reverie of San Fran psych bands GRATEFUL DEAD, SANTANA, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE and MOBY GRAPE; in fact, they hired their first manager, Matthew Katz, who’d worked with the latter two acts. Katz controlled most of IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY’s day-to-day activities while the live-in group rehearsed in an attic room above a house he owned, only let out to perform at the Encore Ballroom in Seattle, Washington. David and (part co-composer/keyboardist wife) Linda’s group initially comprised backing singer/percussionist Pattie Santos, bassist Mitchell Holman and drummer Val Fuentes; they added guitarist Hal Wagenet as the sextet eased Katz’s grip of their dubbed “San Francisco Sound” by the fall of ’68.
Certainly not the last of the San Fran batch to release a full-set (that would go to SANTANA), a self-financed single, `Bulgaria’, didn’t quite fit the bill, coming as did a month after a support slot to CREAM at the Oakland Coliseum, California, on October 4, 1968. Nevertheless, Columbia Records came up with the cash to entice the group into their lair.
Opening with the aforementioned classic cut, `White Bird’ (based on the caged but creative circumstances of David and Linda while living in the said attic), the eponymous IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY (1969) {*8} resonated with an audience not yet ready to relinquish flower-power. Flirting with the Top 50, and poised to sell further copies on the back of `White Bird’s eleventh hour 7-inch release (surely one-that-go-away), the LP showcased some other global warmers, `Hot Summer Day’, `Wasted Union Blues’ and a track, `Bombay Calling’, that, in part, tendered the riffs for DEEP PURPLE’s `Child In Time’. Although drawing uneasy comparisons to early JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, IABD nevertheless possessed a bewitching, atmospheric appeal which ran through the worldly `Bulgaria’ (now at 6 minutes), and the concluding 9 minutes of `Time Is’. Ironically, it was SANTANA that was chosen above the sextet (at the toss of a coin by the promoters) to appear at that year’s Woodstock Festival.
As Britain belatedly woke up to LaFlamme and Co’s call to arms (placing the debut within the Top 60 the following May), it was time for the band – minus the estranged Linda – to add a second set to their discography. Securing the long-term services of Fred Webb, MARRYING MAIDEN (1970) {*6}, nudged the Top 30 (Top 50 in the UK), although falling short in its need for self-indulgence and corny country-rock cuts such as acid-fiddle instrumental, `Hoedown’. An eclectic group collection of quasi-psychedelic stylings (David’s contributions were now halved!), the LP’s limited features were in a cover of FRED NEIL’s `The Dolphins’, the appearance of JERRY GARCIA (on pedal steel and banjo) for `It Comes Right Down To You’ and single fodder, `Soapstone Mountain’ and `Do You Remember The Sun’.
The revolving-door aspect of the pop festival-affiliated band had now Bill Gregory in place of Wagenet, and Tom Fowler (born Salt Lake City) the sub for Holman. Although the latter still made a appearance on IABD’s third set, CHOICE QUALITY STUFF / ANYTIME (1971) {*6} (alongside members of SANTANA), the cracks were again starting to show on this uniquely split work-out. With a handful of cues scribed by outsider Rod Taylor (namely `No Word For Glad’, `Misery Loves Company’ and the cumulative single `Anytime’), the 11-track album was served up in a distinctive blues-rock stew.
Mirroring its predecessor in its failure to enter the Top 100, IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY tried hard, but in vain, to counteract their dramatic slip from fame with familiar tracks on the LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL (1972) {*7}. Always readily considered as a better live-in-concert prospect, intermittent extensions of `A Hot Summer Day’, `Bombay Calling’ and, of course, finale `White Bird’ (the triumvirate totalling 27 minutes), brought the house down, and even opening gambit, `Give Your Woman What She Wants’ (a TAJ MAHAL cover), was greeted with rapture.
1973’s …TODAY {*5} marked the introduction of Bud Cockrell, who filled a void left by FRANK ZAPPA-bound Tom Fowler, but much more significant was the absence of main man David LaFlamme(!), whose role had been mysteriously filled by Gregory Bloch (ex-STRING CHEESE, pre-PFM). For whatever reasons, the Pattie Santos-led IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY didn’t quite have the cutting edge, and tracks such as `Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby’ and back-to-back covers of Jim Seals’ `Ridin’ Thumb’, Tom Thompson’s `Time’ and Robert Lewis’s `Lie To Me’, were bog-standard and placid. This was more or less the beginning of the end, and as a result of a drawn out managerial dispute, the 6-piece could go no further; Cockrell would help form PABLO CRUISE and, with wife, Pattie Santos, released an album of `New Beginnings’ (1978).
In the meantime, the enigmatic DAVID LaFLAMME plotted his own comeback by way of a spirited solo LP entitled WHITE BIRD (1976) {*6}. Re-awakening a much-edited title piece (that surprisingly made it into the Hot 100), the singing violinist had roped in producer Mitchell Froom (keyboards), James Ralston (guitar), Doug Kilmer (bass), Peter Milo (drums) and, last but not least, his wife-to-be on vocals, Dominique Dellacroix (aka Linda Baker LaFlamme).
A sophomore solo set for Amherst Records, INSIDE OUT (1978) {*6}, couldn’t quite compete with the barrage of new wave acts on the scene, and an indefinite rest for David was on the cards. The tragic news of Pattie Santos, killed in a car crash on December 14, 1989, was hard to take for everyone who knew her; Greg Bloch had also died in 1987, and Cockrell subsequently passed to the other side on March 6, 2010, after complications with diabetes.
Inevitably, and drawn in like the proverbial moth to la flame, David’s succumbed to forming the DAVID LaFLAMME BAND, which, in 1997, consisted of his steadfast wife Linda Baker LaFlamme and former IABD drummer Val Fuentos. Adding, in 2000, guitarist Rob Espinosa, keyboardist Gary Thomas, bassist Toby Gray, plus percussionist Michael Prichard, they handed over tapes to Repertoire Records, who imparted with a hotchpotch of old IABD classics and fresher tracks such as `Who’s Gonna Love Me’ on BEYOND DREAMS (2003) {*6}; note that this set was re-released a decade later under an IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY billing.
Yes, they’d once again acquired the original moniker, and were free to re-arrange old favourites to their heart’s content, mainly courtesy of internet/mp3 sets, LIVE IN SEATTLE (2004) {*6} and re-recordings MISERY LOVES COMPANY (2005) {*6}.
© MC Strong 1994-1997 GRD series // rev-up MCS Jul2016

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