On August. 2, 2019,Omnivore Recordings will return to print Garage Orchestra (1994) and Straight Outta Marysville (1996), the stylistic breakthroughs by the San Diego singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, originally released by hometown label Cargo Records. Both releases will be augmented by a full complement of previously unreleased tracks.
The reissues succeed Omnivore’s 2017 release of Berryhill’s The Adventurist, the musician’s first album in a decade. The Los Angeles Times called its release “cause for celebration … Lovingly crafted, the songs on The Adventurist use music as a stirring expression of both grieving and catharsis.”
Berryhill says her widely admired recent work has its roots in her long out-of-print ’90s releases, whose expansive sound and compositional honesty prefigured the moving, deeply personal music on The Adventurist.
“Garage Orchestra is really the start of the new Cindy Lee Berryhill,” she says. “From there on out, the artist is a different artist. That encompasses Straight Outta Marysville and everything that came after that.”
In a review of Berryhill’s career, Trouser Press concurred: “Berryhill didn’t reach her creative stride until her rebirth as a more ambitious pop auteur on 1994’s delightfully baroque Garage Orchestra.”
By the early ’90s, Berryhill had attracted attention as a founding member of the punk-influenced “anti-folk” movement. Signed to Rhino Records, she recorded a pair of albums, Who’s Gonna Save the World? and Naked Movie Star, as one of the first contemporary artists signed to the Los Angeles-based reissue label. The latter release was produced by Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group.
Returning to California after a sojourn in New York and a six-month stay in New Mexico, Berryhill fell in with a group of writers, musicians, and enthusiasts — including her husband-to-be, founding rock critic and Crawdaddy! editor Paul Williams — who helped stoke her interest in the complex, densely orchestrated music of the Beach Boys‘ classic late-’60s period.
She soon found herself workshopping her new songs,merging ’60s pop with such punk influences as Smith, X, The Last, and Peter Case, with a gifted group of players, many of them from the classical music world, in a San Diego garage.
“The funny thing is, none of them listened much to pop music,” Berryhill recalls. “They were all from other types of music. Almost all the orchestral musicians came from playing orchestra music, small ensembles of strings, stuff like that. Basically I hummed out parts to everybody, and that’s how the arrangements happened. I didn’t chart them, I hummed them, and they charted them.”
She adds, “I was lucky that, first, they were willing to go along for this ride with what I was hearing in my head, and secondly, they were willing to make this record for no pay.” (The album was recorded in five days on the miniscule budget of $5,000.)
From the first dizzying swirl of sound on its opening track “Father of the Seventh Son,” Garage Orchestra reflects the heavy influence of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys’ songwriter-producer-arranger — who is himself feted on the album’s blissful musical valentine “Song for Brian.” The broadened scope of Berryhill’s work is perhaps best heard in the seven-and-a-half minute “UFO Suite.” The new Omnivore edition of Garage Orchestra includes 11 bonus tracks, several of which are tracking sessions for the album’s lush arrangements.
Owing to what Berryhill calls “an atmosphere of urgency and measured acceptance” in her new liner notes for Straight Outta Marysville, the follow-up album eschewed the larger ensembles of Garage Orchestra and employed a pared-down studio unit of bassist-guitarist Chris Davies, drummer-percussionist Randy Hoffman, and cellist Renata Bratt, all of whom had served as the core band for the previous release.
“It was, ‘Get it done, now,'” Berryhill says of the 1995 sessions for Marysville, which succeeded her partner Williams’ serious injury in a bicycle accident and Bratt’s announcement that she was moving to Boston, where her husband had taken a job. So recording took place on a shortened timetable, employing a large grab bag of songs the musician had penned over the course of several years.
“I remember talking to Paul about it,” Berryhill recalls. “I said, ‘You know, Garage Orchestra was so focused. I really understood the plotline, how the songs were going. It all fit like a puzzle.’ But Marysville was a lot of songs I had from different, disparate times. Paul said, ‘I’ve had books like this, and I look at it like a fire sale, so maybe you need to make a record that’s like a fire sale. Cut as many songs as you can, and see which ones turn out.'”
Highlighted by the formidable creation myth “Elvis of Marysville” and a rambunctious cover ofDonovan‘s “Season of the Witch,” the new edition of Straight Outta Marysville includes six bonus tracks, four of which are previously unheard compositions.
Filled with melody and bursting with feeling and humor, Omnivore’s editions of Garage Orchestra and Straight Outta Marysville are welcome restorations and amplifications of two once-lost and unjustly neglected chapters in Cindy Lee Berryhill’s unique and distinguished career.
Garage Orchestra Track Listing
1. Father Of The Seventh Son 2. I Wonder Why
3. Radio Astronomy
4. Gary Handeman
5. Song For Brian
6. UFO Suite
7. I Want Stuff
8. Every Someone Tonight
9. Scariest Thing In The World
10. Etude For Ph. Machine
Previously Unissued Bonus Tracks:
11. Garage Orchestra Commercial (I)
12. My Little Broken Heart (San Diego Music Awards 1992)
13. Father Of The Seventh Son (Instrumental)
14. The Creator
15. Garage Orchestra Commercial (II)
16. Song For Brian (Alternate Version)
17. Garage Orchestra Commercial (III)
18. Radio Astronomy (Instrumental)
19. UFO Suite (Pre-Assembly Tracking Session)
Straight Outta Marysville Track Listing
1. High Jump
2. Unknown Master Painter
4. Season Of The Witch
5. Riddle Riddle
6. Jane And John
7. The Virtues Of
8. Unwritten Love Song
9. Just Like Me (Run Through)
20. Unwritten Love
10. Talkin’ With A Mineral
11. I’m A Tumbleweed
13. Elvis Of Marysville
14. California Song (Instrumental)
Previoulsy Unissued Bonus Tracks:
15. Antifolk Squatter’s Riot
16. I Don’t Believe You
18. T. Rex
19. Just Like Me