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Sugarloaf

+ {Sugarloaf / Jerry Corbetta} + {Jerry Corbetta}

Spearheaded by singer/songwriter/keyboardist Jerry Corbetta, the underrated SUGARLOAF were the sweetness and light to an already dead-in-the-water psychedelic scene. By the time that their only major hit, the candy-coated and funky `Green-Eyed Lady’, climbed into the Top 3 in the autumn of 1970, the likes of LED ZEPPELIN, DEEP PURPLE and BLACK SABBATH were providing hard-rock sustenance to the masses.
Formed a year earlier in Denver, Colorado, Corbetta roped in locals from the defunct, one-album MOONRAKERS outfit, Bob Webber (lead guitar) and Bob MacVittie (drums), whilst bassist Bob Raymond and rhythm guitarist Veeder Van Dorn joined for rehearsals and early gigs. As the latter affiliate flew the nest to join Mescalero Space Kit, and the quartet dispensed with the un-PC tag of Chocolate Hair (though Jerry donned an Afro-like mop-top!), SUGARLOAF came about in respect to the skiing slopes of Colorado… mmm.
Impressed by Corbetta and Webber’s AM Pop-friendly tracks that fused pseudo blues, jazz and classical elements (however contrived and syrupy the mishmash), Liberty Records were the only body not surprised when the aforementioned `Green-Eyed Lady’ smash left envious doubters dumbstruck. An eponymous album, SUGARLOAF (1970) {*7}, was soon achieving Top 30 sales-figures to match its edited single counterpart, and with a full version of the Corbetta/JC Phillips/Dave Riordan track as the opening salvo, the quartet had achieved much in such a short space of time. Accusations of self-indulgence (similar in some respects to VANILLA FUDGE and DEEP PURPLE), one only had to listen to their 9-minute medley of the classically-strewn psych medley of `Bach Doors Man’ (ged it!) and The BAND’s `Chest Fever’, to see whom they admired. Ditto a cover of blues staple, `The Train Kept-A-Rollin’: CANNED HEAT-meets-BOOKER T, anyone? Crashing organs that befitted a LORD or an EMERSON, the instrumental prowess of their musicianship was never in question, whilst their misty-mountain-hopping of `West Of Tomorrow’ was like The FEVER TREE sharing studio time with SPIRIT or QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE. Corbetta’s singing was shaky and in need of a polish at times, but on the “Take Five”-like anchor piece, `Things Gonna Change Some’, that was an endearing trait.
The addition of “Bob No.4” Robert Yeazel (on guitar, vocals, harmonica and songwriting in-part) for that “difficult” second album, SPACESHIP EARTH (1971) {*6}, went virtually unnoticed in some circles, as the set brought SUGARLOAF down to Earth with a bang. The edited cut of tail-end track, `Tongue In Cheek’ (a modest Top 60 entry), was the star turn here, but all-too-often the contemporary nature of Laurel Canyon, loafer-like soft-rock tracks (from the title track and minor hit `Mother Nature’s Wine’ to `Rollin’ Hills’ and `Rusty Cloud’), left critics with enough ammunition to bury them underneath the vaults of rock history. Well, not quite, as Bobby Pickett (not the “Monster Mash” hit-maker) was drafted in for a year between May ’71 and 1972.
Determined he’d still enough gas in the tank to oversee Liberty Records’ desertion, and with drummer Larry Ferris filling the berths of both MacVittie and Yeazel, the newly-credited SUGARLOAF / JERRY CORBETTA amalgam was underway in 1973 with `Round And Round’, a single on Neil Bogart’s Brut Records spawned from the accompanying I GOT A SONG {*5} “third” album. For the best part(s), re-recorded a year later with drummer Myron Pollock, and pushed out by Claridge Records as DON’T CALL US – WE’LL CALL YOU (1975) {*6}, on the back of its sarcastic Top 10 title-track from the previous November, their resurgence was short and sweet. Trying too hard to emulate the likes of soft-rockers ELTON JOHN, BILLY JOEL and THREE DOG NIGHT – example `Colorado Jones’ – was probably Jerry’s commercial downfall, though there was a naïve innocence in trippy tracks such as `Lay Me Down’ and `Easy Evil’.
The album achieved little in recognition as it peaked at #152, whilst an exclusive swansong minor hit, `Stars In My Eyes’, sealed the fate of a once-promising and chilled-out rock band.
Under his own steam (surrounded by usual-suspect session men), JERRY CORBETTA {*4} offered up a solitary solo LP for Warner Brothers in September/October 1978, but the trip back to his sunny halcyon days of old was a tough one for the `Sensitive Soul’ (the title of the opening cut and promo single). As the 70s moved aside for a new decade, Jerry became part of FRANKIE VALLI & THE FOUR SEASONS, whilst also briefly resurrecting his SUGARLOAF enterprise in the mid-80s (with Pollock and Yeazel) and subsequently forming The Classic Rock All-Stars, alongside Mike Pinera, Dennis Noda, Peter Rivera and others.
In his twilight years, Corbetta was forced to retire, struck down by the degenerative Pick’s disease (a progressive neurological affliction similar to Alzheimer’s); he died on September 16, 2016, aged 68.
© MC Strong/MCS Sep2016

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