The Search Party made one very obscure psychedelic album in the late ’60s, Montgomery Chapel, which likely was pressed in a very small quantity. That in itself ensured that it became a collector’s item among psychedelic completists, but it’s not noteworthy solely for its rarity. As such endeavors went, it was fairly respectable, if — like many little-known bands of the time, both with and without standard record deals — quite derivative of West Coast psychedelic rock in general, and of Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe & the Fish-styled San Francisco psychedelic bands in particular. Like those bands, they boasted a bent for minor-key melodies; like the Airplane, they split the singing chores among a high, strong woman singer and male vocals; and like Country Joe & the Fish, they utilized a darkly vibrant, slightly macabre organ sound. Their songs, singing, and playing weren’t nearly on the level of the Airplane or Fish, nor did they have any of the humor or wit that many such quality San Francisco bands made sure to express as needed balance for the more serious and experimental moods. Indeed, their material had an over-reverential quality that tapped into the hippie mindset at its most earnestly pretentious. All the same, the LP had a ghostly sincerity that had some merit, and makes for some pleasurable if erratic listening.

Not much information has circulated about the group, but it’s been written that they moved to Sacramento, CA, from Wisconsin, a notion supported by the listing of contact addresses in both locations on the LP’s back cover. From the brief liner notes on the back cover, it can also be deduced that Nicholas T. Freund — who wrote much (though not all) of the material, and produced the album — was the most musically influential member of the group, though it’s not entirely certain whether he actually was one of the bandmembers, as no instrumental or vocal duties are credited to them (as they are to four other individuals). The notes also intimate that the album was somewhat religiously motivated, though the lyrics only have occasional tenuous references that might bear this out. Still, a few other things in the notes point to some sort of religious connection: Nicholas T. Freund is referred to at one point as “Rev. Nicholas Freund,” and the San Francisco Theological Seminary is thanked for the use of Montgomery Chapel, which seems likely to have inspired the LP title. Whatever the real and perhaps forever-lost story is, the record — which, again according to the liner notes, took six weeks and $2,000 to record — is an above-average psychedelic small-pressing effort.

Tahsin Ünlü

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