(ran GB edition)
California '60s pop band the Sunrays may regroup to help promote a three-CD boxed set of their work released by Narbeth, Pa.-based Collectables Records.
The collection, titled Vintage Rays and priced at $24.98, has 58 tracks, including 24 previously unreleased songs and six alternate takes, plus unheard versions of the band's chart singles I Live for the Sun and Andrea. It plots the L.A. band's development from a hard-edged, primarily instrumental R&B-oriented act to a practitioner of artfully arranged, harmony-flecked, Beach Boys-style pop.
The set _ produced by the band's leader, drummer and vocalist, Rick Henn _ also offers a portrait of the Sunrays' mentor and producer, the late Murry Wilson, father of the Beach Boys' Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson and the band's original manager.
The lavish box, which includes a detailed 20-page booklet with notes by California music authority Stephen J. McParland, is the successor to another Sunrays project on Collectables: Last year, the label reissued a mono version of the group's sole album, Andrea, released in 1965 by Capitol's Tower Records subsidiary.
Henn, who says he was unhappy with the sound and presentation of the mono Andrea, contacted Collectables.
Henn recalls, "I said, "Hey, guys, I've got a full set of liner notes written by an expert, Stephen McParland. I've got photos, I've got acetates, dubs, rare things. Let me help you do the right package.' And Mike (Stefanik, Collectables' product coordinator) was so cool. He said, "Great, we'll redo it in stereo.'
The project evolved into far more than a stereo version of the album, after Stefanik learned from Henn that the musician had a mountain of previously unreleased material on hand.
The first disc in Vintage Rays collects early material by the band, which was formed in 1959 by Henn, then a 12-year-old student at Corpus Christi Parochial School in L.A.'s Pacific Palisades. The group, originally known as the Renegades, included fellow students Eddy Medora on sax and Marty DiGiovanni on piano; bassist Vince Hozier and guitarist Byron Case (who replaced original guitarist Steve O'Reilly) joined later.
"We were like the definitive garage band for west L.A. when there weren't a lot of garage bands," Henn says. "We weren't a surf band. Our roots came from James Brown & the Famous Flames, from John Lee Hooker, from Ray Charles, B.B. King and Ben E. King."
In 1964, Carl Wilson, a classmate of the Renegades at Hollywood Professional School, brought the group to the attention of his father, who had ended his managerial work for his sons' band after a confrontation with Brian.
Murry Wilson became manager and producer of the band, redubbed the Sunrays and brought it to fledgling Capitol imprint Tower. Under Wilson's tutelage, the group assumed the Beach Boys' harmony-drenched sound and cut its best-known songs, the anthemic I Live for the Sun (which peaked at No. 51 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart in 1965) and Andrea (which rose to No. 41 in 1966). These and other released and unreleased Wilson-produced tracks make up most of the set's second and third discs.
Henn believes that Wilson, who played an integral role in developing the early Beach Boys sound, did what came naturally with the Sunrays.
"I don't think he was saying, "Rick, sound like (Beach Boys drummer) Mike Love,'
" Henn says. "He never said that to me, or "Sound like Brian.' But I think that was there. I'm the first to admit that I Live for the Sun is derivative of the Beach Boys sound. But as you listen to the evolution on the box, you'll see us trying to go to something that was the Sunrays.
"If you listen to that stuff, there's a lot more soul influence in a lot of the cuts. We were across the board. There's a country thing, a pop thing, soul things. That was probably part of our demise."
The Sunrays broke up in 1967; Wilson's failing health, the band's limited commercial dividends and Henn's desire to return to school contributed to the group's end.
The re-formation of the Sunrays may be the key promotional tool for the box. Most of the members remain active in music: Henn directs the 30-piece orchestra for Laguna Beach, Calif.'s, Pageant of the Masters; Hozier plays lead guitar for the Portland, Ore.-based blues band Jimmy Lloyd Rea & the Switchmasters; and Case plays bass for the Vipers, a Eugene, Ore.-based unit that also features Henry Vestine of Canned Heat. Medora is national account manager for Walt Disney Records in Burbank, Calif.
Henn says with a laugh, "This can't really be a comeback, because we were never really there in the first place."