Seatrain and the return of George Martin


It’s a cool, overcast, humid day in Plano. I decided to work on my LP collection. I chose a recording from my neighbors collection: Seatrain: “The Marblehead Messenger”. The main reason I chose this LP can be seen in the photo to the left. This LP was produced by none other than George Martin. As most of us know, George Martin produced almost all of the Beatles recordings. My first thought was that this wasn’t the same person. But after some careful research, I confirmed that in fact it is “The” George Martin.

So here’s the story of Seatrain. They were formed in 1969 by the former members of three different bands in Marin County California. The original members were mostly from a band call Blues Project. They were still under contract for one more album so they released their first record under the Blues Project name. Their first LP as Seatrain was called “Sea Train”. (1969). The next album was called “Seatrain”. I guess they really liked their band name. Seatrain came out in 1970 and this was the first album George Martin produced after the Beatles broke up. So how did Seatrain meet George Martin? Well, the story is just not very interesting. George was assigned by Capital records to produce them. Seatrain is basically an American “Roots Rock” band. This is about as far from the Beatles as one could imagine. I tried hard to find a copy of this LP but had no luck.

“Marblehead Messenger” was the second record that George Martin produced after the Beatles. The record was recorded in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The band line up was as follows: Larry Atamanuik/Drums & Percussion; Lloyd Baskin/ vocals & keyboard; Richard Greene/violin, mandolin & vocals; Andy Kulberg/bass, flute & vocals; Peter Rowan/vocals, & guitar; and Jim Roberts/lyrics & vocals. This LP led to George Martin meeting Paul Winter and doing some producing for The Paul Winter Consort. Frankly, the recording proves that a great producer cannot overcome mediocre material. The LP is beautifully produced and sounds great, but the songs are just not that interesting. Just my opinion, I could be wrong. So here’s your chance to take a listen and voice your opinion.
Side 1:

Gramercy:

The highlight of this song is the great violin solo by Richard Greene. Richard seems to be the only virtuoso in the group. He came from an obscure roots band called “The Jim Kweskin Jug Band.”
The State Of Georgia’s Mind:

A great example of the excellent production of George Martin, and dull material from Seatrain. Great voicing, arrangement, nice touch how the lead guitar and violin reinforce the vocal line; but the song just lies there.
Protestant Preacher

I thought this was one of the better cuts on the album. Once again very good violin work from Richard Greene. Nice harmony’s. Great piano work. The closest thing on the album to a song with a hook. I like the roots rock sound, quasi “The Band”. “…the secret is, but only time can tell.” You even get an Indian war whoop at the end.
Lonely’s Not The Only Way To Go:

Good Piano solo and violin solo. Kind of lame otherwise. I like the play on words “Pain is not for givin'”
How Sweet Thy Song:

One thing that is interesting about Seatrain is that many of their songs are “non-linear”. By that I mean, they don’t always follow the pattern of traditional popular music. David Crosby made this type of song writing his trademark. This song is a good of “non-linear” song writing.

Side 2:



Marblehead Messenger:

The title cut of the album. A little too much of a sea shanty for me. Even so, great flute playing and once again standout playing of the fiddle by Mr. Greene. Kind of cool psychedelic ending as they chant their anti-war slogans.
London Song:

Another well produced, kind of dull song. The band plays great but they can’t seem to rise above the mediocre material they are playing. Nice piano and violin again. Pretty good guitar solo too.
Mississippi Moon:

A nice song. It could have inspired Three Dog Night “Old Black Water, Mississippi moon won’t you keep on shining on me…”
Losing All The Years:

This song sounds like a forerunner of Kansas. That sound of the violin and the organ and Piano. Kind of symphonic in it’s effect. A roots rock band toying with Art rock? I like this song a lot. It is interesting in it structure and virtuosic solos. Once again it is a non-linear song.

Despair Tire:

The album attempts to come to a conclusion with an upbeat jig. These guys must have liked plays on words. This is kind of silly with it’s recitative and music refrains. Great fiddling as usual. Frankly “Devil went down to Georgia” is much better.

So there you have it. Marblehead Messenger was not the successful follow to Seatrain that the band had hoped for and needed. They made one more album in 1973 and then disbanded. George Martin get’s back in the saddle after the breakup of the Beatles and produces a roots rock band from San Francisco. That eventually led him to meet and work with Paul Winter. One never knows where life will take you, and one never knows what tales the turntable will tell.

Any comments?

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

About John

I taught myself how to play the piano and read music when I was 9 years old. I've been been consumed by music ever since. I majored in Piano performance in College and I still play, although not as well as when I had time to practice 4 -6 hours per day. This blog is about music. Music is the sound track of our lives. All it take is one song, one composition; and we are transported across time and space. I think it was Beethoven that said: "Music is the landscape of the soul."
This entry was posted in Vinyl and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Seatrain and the return of George Martin

  1. Ken West says:

    What a coincidence-they played Seatrain’s best known song, 13 Questions the other day on my favorite satellite radio station, Deep Tracks the other day and I remembered hearing it on the radio back in the 70’s. Here’s a clip of them performing it live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6X9Ns_wZQQ
    You can almost smell the weed watching that clip 🙂 That song was on their second album, also produced by George Martin. The comparison to Kansas is very apt. In the main, I agree with you, though-a couple of gems, but much of the material is mediocre and not particularly of George Martin’s production skills, which are unsurpassed in the history of pop music, IMO.
    Keep em’ coming!

    • John says:

      Ken:
      This is a great contribution. I really enjoyed the video. You’re right about the smell of weed in the air. Also, it appears that there could have been some blotter paper consumed! I really wanted to find their second album “Seatrain”. 13 Questions reached #49 on the Billboard Charts. I think “Seatrain” was a stronger LP than ‘Marblehead Messenger”. “Seatrain” has a cover of the great Lowell George (Little Feat) song “Willin'” as well as a rocked out version of “Orange Blossom Special”. I will keep looking for it on vinyl. I’ve seen it on the internet in CD format.
      Good to hear from you and I hope all is well in beautiful San Deigo CA!

  2. Ken West says:

    More coincidences-I had to run up to Orange county yesterday, so I took Colin with me and we decided to take a side trip to legendary Amoeba Records on Sunset Blvd in L.A.-holy sh#$! The most vinyl I’ve seen in one place in ages, of every type of music imaginable. I walked out with a dozen LP’s, one of which was Seatrain II, and if I’d had more time I’m sure I could have have filled a couple of boxes. It’s a MUST if you’re ever in L.A.
    Looking forward to listening to the album tonight-I do love Willin, Linda Ronstadt did a great cover on Heart Like a Wheel.

    • John says:

      This is awesome! I can’t wait to hear what you think about it. I remember Linda Ronstadt’s version of Willin’ too. I bet there are 50-60 covers of that song. Might be a good topic for a blog? I look forward to your review of Seatrain. What a great find. By the way, out of curiosity, what did you pay for it? What condition was the record in?

      • Ken West says:

        It was all of $3.99, and the vinyl looks excellent. It’s gratifying to see all these kids gravitating to vinyl-at least 3/4 of the people in the store going through the bins at Amoeba were under 30. You know, your blog might just be the inspiration I need to start writing myself-my brother has been telling me several years I need a creative outlet and I received so much positive feedback after I delivered a couple of eulogies in 2009 (one for a close friend and coworker who sadly died of lung cancer at the age of 47, and the other for Dad) that he’s been pestering me ever since.

        BTW, Stephen Hough is playing both Liszt concertos with the San Diego Symphony next season-after reading your review, I’ll definitely be going!

        Hope you’re having a great weekend.

        • John says:

          What a great buy! You’re right about young people. I see a majority of young people every time I go in a vinyl store. You should start a blog. It has been really great for me as a creative outlet. It is extremely easy to do and not expensive. Because of my multi-media needs, I spent a little more money on my site. I have solved my up-link problem with a new plug-in so now I have unlimited file size up-link ability. I can now do some classical stuff that I want to do because I can up-link an entire symphony if I want to. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments on my blog. You’re writing is very good. Do not miss Stephen Hough. He will blow you away with those Liszt concerto’s. If you want any help starting a blog I would be glad to be a resource for you. I’m going to watch the Masters and write my next blog so I am going to enjoy my Saturday afternoon. This next LP is very interesting and I really liked listening to it. I think it’s a lost gem of the 70s. The band is called Nektar and the album is “Down to Earth.” Have a great week-end too.

  3. Euphemistic Handle says:

    I don’t think you are being quite fair to these guys. To be sure, “Marblehead Messenger” is not a classic; but it is a good, solid album with—for its time-a quite original approach. Really, to me it always sounded rather like The Band, with more of a “sea shanty” influence than standard traditional influences. Well worth a listen. I wish these guys had a wider audience; they deserved it.

    (One minor niggle: “Despair Tire” is reel, not a jig.)

    • John says:

      I would love to hear more of their other LP’s. I understand that the first one they did with George Martin is very, very, good. “Marblehead” is a well performed, well thought out, well produced LP. Maybe my tone sounded more harsh than I intended. Also, thanks for the correction of “Reel” vs “Jig”. Thanks for visiting the blog.

  4. richard shumway says:

    Their album entitled Seatrain {the one that starts with I’m Willin’} is for me a desert island disc. WVBR in Ithaca played every track in their rotation – to the extent they had one. None of their other albums came close.

    • John says:

      I have been trying to find a copy of that LP. I’ve heard many great things about it. That album was also produced by George Martin, I believe. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Magnificent site. Plenty of useful info here. I?m sending it to a few friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you in your sweat!

    • John says:

      I took a look at your site and like your promotion of turntables and vinyl. Have you seen or heard the new Denon DP-A100? What is your opinion?

  6. Dan says:

    I have been a huge fan of Seatrain since I first heard 13 Questions on Midwest AM radio many years ago. I wore out my vinyl of Seatrain and Marblehead Messenger, but dubbed off CDs that still find strong rotation in the car, though Seatrain is far superior, and rewards frequent replays. Once found a vinyl copy of Sea Train, with a different singer doing an alternate versions of Outwear the Hills. Singer Peter Rowan still tours doing bluegrass. To my mind, Seatrain’s unconventional arrangements, bluegrass-inspired instrumentation and soulful singing make them a lost favorite from the 70s.

  7. Dan says:

    I have been a huge fan of Seatrain since I first heard 13 Questions on Midwest AM radio many years ago. I wore out my vinyl of Seatrain and Marblehead Messenger, but dubbed off CDs that still find strong rotation in the car, though Seatrain is far superior, and rewards frequent replays. Once found a vinyl copy of Sea Train, with a different singer doing an alternate versions of Outwear the Hills. Singer Peter Rowan still tours doing bluegrass. To my mind, Seatrain’s unconventional arrangements, bluegrass-inspired instrumentation and soulful singing make them a lost favorite from the 70s.

    • John says:

      Dan:

      Thanks for the great comment. Since I wrote that blog back in June of last year, Mablehead Messenger has grown on me. I like it more and more each time I hear it. I knew there had to be a lot of musical significance in this band, otherwise George Martin would have never been involved with them. I am continuing my search for the first album. I’ve heard so many great things about it. I also find it interesting that my blog on Seatrain generated so many comments from people like you who are die hard fans of this group. They seem to still have a large following. Maybe they should do a reunion tour? I’d love to see them live. It seems like a lot of other people would too. If I do find that other album I will diffinately post it on this blog.

  8. Quadropenta says:

    Great to read about Seatrain. I hope you’ve found the CD with “Seatrain” and “Marblehead” $11 at Amazon.com. Marblehead Messenger had a few good songs…[One small correction “Three Dog Night -Old Black Water, Mississippi moon” is actually the Doobie Brothers’ song.] Lloyd Baskin is still working as a singer/pianist in California, singing jazz.Larry Atamanuik has worked with many groups in Nashville including Emmylou Harris. Andy Kulberg died a few years ago. Richard Greene and Peter Rowan continue to play great music and are very prolific.
    Seatrain has a few videos on the web. The best of them are here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWkN4KzwYyw

Leave a Reply