Cover illustration from the Penguin edition of This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1965
49th Parallel is the sole eponymous album by Calgary-based garage-rockers the 49th Parallel, released on the strength of their Canadian-pop-chart hit "Twilight Woman", a piece of light psych-pop that was strong enough to make this band a blip on the "Canadian one-hit wonders of the '60s" list. The band's music is described in the Lion Productions reissue liner notes as "prairie punk", but I think that this is very misleading. Sure, they were from the prairies of western Canada, but their music is not really the forward-looking garage-punk of bands like the Sonics - it's a more predictable cross between blues-rock and psychedelic pop, but that doesn't mean it's bad.
49th Parallel is actually a really solid rock album, and the reissue benefits from including the band's early singles that led up to its release (a total of 11 bonus tracks!) The 49th Parallel started out doing rhythm-heavy garage rock - their debut single "Laborer" is a good example of this, although their second single "She Says" is an excellent but embarrassingly obvious Byrds ripoff. By the time they were assembling their LP, based on the success of the "Twilight Woman" single, they had a solid collection of garage-pop numbers built around Dean Abbott's malleable hard/soft vocal style, and buzzing guitar-and-organ-based arrangements. Because they had an affiliation with RCA through their label, they also had the ability to add horn and string embellishments to some songs (although the album manages to have an oddly lo-fi, budget/garage sound in spite of the big sound).
Highlights on this reissue include the above-mentioned "She Says" (although I always love Byrds ripoffs), the Sgt. Pepper's whimsy of "Lazerander Filchy", the horns-heavy freakbeat number "Eye To Eye", and the wah-wah guitar madness of "Close the Barn Door". Of course, "Twilight Woman" towers over everything else here, sounding like a very solid early Badfinger single, and I should probably make that the "taster" track. However, I can't resist posting my favorite 40th Parallel song, the totally weird "(The) Magician" - with an ominous strings-and-organ intro, it's a great example of psych-pop melodrama, kind of like the Association in one of their more theatrical moments. It's probably the most ambitious thing the band did, and it only works because Abbott nails the vocal and arranger Don Hockett (who also wrote the track) brings in that french horn at just the right time.
"(The) Magician" by the 49th Parallel