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The Youngbloods - Elephant Mountain, Finally Reissued on a Fabulous 180 gram LP from Impex Records

02-01-2024 | By Tom Gibbs | Issue 131

Impex Records has just released a newly remastered LP reissue of Elephant Mountain, the 1969 RCA label neglected classic from folk-rock group The Youngbloods. Elephant Mountain came on the heels of the band's incredible success with the song that helped shape an entire generation, "Get Together." Apparently, getting this reissue together required the production team to jump through a few hoops: Sony Music, who controls RCA's extensive catalog of albums, were apparently reluctant to release the original master tapes. That seems to be a disturbing modus operandi with the music giant—you'd think they'd welcome reissues like this one of nearly-forgotten catalog titles. Ultimately, Sony did allow for creation of a 1:1 duplicate of the master tape, which Impex used for this new AAA, all-analog reissue. Kevin Gray remastered Elephant Mountain and cut new lacquers at Cohearent Audio, and the 180 gram LPs were pressed at RTI using high definition vinyl. From a technical standpoint, this Impex reissue has all the bases covered.

The heavy album jacket was printed at Stoughton, using their classic tip-on process, which accurately and faithfully reproduces a near-perfect facsimile of the original. The album came encased in Impex's resealable, crystal clear vinyl outer sleeve, and the LP was inserted into a poly inner sleeve to protect it from dust accumulation and scratches. Impex's Abey Fonn was the executive producer of this reissue; Bob Donnelly and Charles L. "Chuck" Granata served as co-producers. Chuck Granata also penned an interesting and informative essay that documents the original album sessions and the reissue process; original Youngbloods member Lowell "Banana" Levinger provided tons of input during the process. The essay is reproduced on a cool, multi-panel, heavily-varnished insert that also features rare photos of the band, along with all the pertinent tech specs for the reissue. Impex Art Director Robert Sliger again sets the gold standard with his wonderful graphic design work that adds immeasurably to the enjoyability of this album package! This excellent new release is another impressive example of Impex's continuing approach to reissuing perfectionist LPs; you can order a copy of Elephant Mountain directly from Impex Records and their partner Elusive Disc HERE.

The Youngbloods, Elephant Mountain. 180 gram Impex Records LP, $39.99 MSRP

If the Youngbloods had never recorded another song following the release of their self-titled debut album in 1967, their legend was already indelibly etched in the annals of rock music history.  The album's sole hit, "Get Together," became part of the soundtrack of the hippie and counterculture movements of the Sixties, and introduced the world to the silky-sweet tenor voice of lead singer Jesse Colin Young. Interestingly enough, "Get Together" only gathered minor attention from the record-buying public upon its original release. And didn't take off until two years later, after the song was featured in public service announcements that aired in national spots on radio and television. Renewed interest in the song pushed it to No. 5 on the Billboard charts, and "Get Together" was suddenly everywhere, all at once. 

The origins of the Youngbloods goes back to the mid-Sixties, when guitarists Jerry Corbitt and Jesse Colin Young started gigging together in New York City. They eventually added guitarist and keyboardist Lowell "Banana" Levinger and drummer Joe Bauer to their lineup; with the band now featuring three guitarists, Jesse Colin Young switched to bass guitar. The Youngbloods quickly became the de facto house band for the Greenwich Village nightclub, Cafe Au Go Go. Heading into 1969, the group was at a crossroads; their follow-up to The Youngbloods, 1968's Earth Music, failed to chart, and they were in danger of being dropped by their label. Compounding that, Jerry Corbitt decided to leave the band to pursue a solo career just as they had begun recording their third studio album, Elephant Mountain. The Youngbloods, now a trio, relocated to Los Angeles, for a change of scenery and to continue with the recording sessions for the new album.  Where their spirits were surprisingly buoyed by the sudden renewed popularity and increased sales of "Get Together" as they entered RCA Studios in Hollywood.

For Elephant Mountain, RCA brought in musician, songwriter, and producer Charles Daniels, who soon became very well known on the country music scene as Charlie Daniels with his biggest hit, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Elephant Mountain was heavily imbued with the folk/rock/country sound that was quickly becoming one of the hallmarks of Southern California through bands like the Byrds and Eagles. But it also had a very jazzy vibe on several tracks that's particularly noticeable in the electric piano work of "Banana" Levinger, along with the use of jazz-oriented session musicians. Like Victor Feldman on vibraphone, Plas Johnson on tenor sax, and Joe Clayton on trumpet; multi-instrumentalist David Lindley also guested on several tracks. Unlike their previous releases, Elephant Mountain was the first album from The Youngbloods that featured all original songs, and was an interesting mix that included several instrumentals. The album didn't enjoy the kind of chart success the band would have hoped for, but still enjoyed respectable sales based on the relative strength of two charting singles, "Darkness, Darkness" and "Sunshine." 

Listening Results

You can see the equipment I used to evaluate Elephant Mountain by clicking on my name in the header. My all-analog setup now incorporates an excellent PS Audio Stellar phono preamp; the moving coil cartridge custom settings are now finely tuned, and I'm enjoying a significantly improved level of sound quality during playback of LPs. Elephant Mountain was played on my ProJect Classic EVO turntable that's fitted with an Ortofon Quintet Bronze MC cartridge, using the PrimaLuna EVO 300 tube integrated amplifier to power my KLH Model Five loudspeakers. Impex's new reissue LP was imbued with a very vintage but also modern sound aesthetic during all my listening sessions; the sound quality of this new LP release is beyond superb. 

RTI's 180 gram LP was perfectly flat and centered, had beautifully glossy surfaces, and no noise of any kind was evident during playback. For a rock recording dating back to 1969, there's only a negligible level of hiss on the masters—that's surprising, considering the 1:1 master tape transfer prior to the record's remastering. Listening to this reissue was an absolute joy; I have to admit that I'd previously never heard this album in its entirety, and wasn't certain I knew any of the music at all. But as soon as Jesse Colin Young started singing the refrains of "Darkness, Darkness" and the lines "That's the way she feels about you" from the song "Sunlight," it really took me back to hearing them for the first time on AOR broadcasts back in the day. Chuck Granata mentions in his essay that "Banana" Levinger had gotten particularly interested in bluegrass after being turned on by a close friend, and that helped shape the diverse musical choices and song-to-song musical direction changes on Elephant Mountain

Impex Records Again Ticks all the Boxes with this Superb Reissue!

Unless you're a huge fan of The Youngbloods or Elephant Mountain in particular, there's a very good chance you may never have heard this album in its entirety. It's been out of print as a domestic LP since it was last repressed by RCA in 1977, and it's only been available domestically as a CD in limited edition reissues from Mobile Fidelity (1989) and Sundazed (2008). Zero mint condition copies of the LP currently appear on Discogs, and mint-minus copies with covers rated only good-to-poor are going for about the same cost or even more than Impex's excellent reissue. And those original pressings are all from RCA's legendarily horrible Dynagroove period, which boasted some of the worst-sounding LPs that ever existed. That alone should make purchasing this excellent reissue a no-brainer.

I wasn't exactly certain what Impex meant in the advance information for Elephant Mountain that stated that it was taken from a 1:1 analog tape copy of the original. It's still an entirely AAA, all-analog tape transfer, and nothing I heard on this excellent LP impacted my enjoyment of this reissue one whit: Impex's LP has warmth and dynamics in spades, and Jesse Colin Young's expressive voice has the kind of clarity audiophiles die for. The mix of musical styles is also intriguing; most of the songs segue into each other, often with jazzy instrumental interludes scattered between; as the album proceeds, you almost don't know whether you're listening to a folk, rock, or jazz album! And the studio chatter that's interspersed between a few songs helps deepen your insight into the recording process. This is the kind of album that had I developed any real awareness of it at the point of its original release, I'd definitely have obsessed over it!

Elephant Mountain is undeniably The Youngbloods high water mark as a group; it's been in heavy rotation in my analog room for weeks now. It was the kind of album that made being a child of the Sixties and into the Seventies so much fun; the band wasn't at all afraid to take risks in the studio and created an album with a mix of songs and instrumentals that's as entertaining as it is musically diverse. It's pretty obvious that the chart success they enjoyed from the resurgence of interest in "Get Together" helped give them the kind of creative cache they needed to fashion their masterpiece. For whatever reason, the album didn't resonate with the band's fans on such a level that it would attain cult status, and subsequently virtually disappeared from airplay as well as the collective memory.

I'm overwhelmingly drawn to two types of LP reissue projects: ultimate editions, like the Impex 1STEP 45 rpm boxes that present near-perfect represses of classic albums that will never be bettered. Their recent reissue of Jennifer Warnes' Famous Blue Raincoat on 1STEP LPs is a great example (you can read my review HERE.) And I'm also drawn to outstanding reissues like this one that feature influential, but lesser-known albums that have been unfairly neglected over the years. Impex Records has done the world a service by bringing us this great album in a penultimate LP edition—thanks to Positive Feedback contributor (and longtime former Cisco Music employee) Robert Pincus for prodding Impex Records to release this album, and thanks to Chuck Granata for seeing it through! Impex's new reissue of Elephant Mountain comes very highly recommended!

Impex Records


Elusive Disc


All photos courtesy of Impex Records, Elusive Disc, and the author.