fred was rediscovered in 2000 by World In Sound. An indie record label, World In Sound found their 45 rpm single Salvation Lady/a love song (Arpeggio Records 1971) at a German flea market. Tracking down guitarist Joe DeCristopher via the internet, World In Sound signed the group and has since released 3 albums.
Who or what is fred?
In Swedish, fred means peace, a good idea for any decade. In music, fred was part of the turn on, tune in, drop out culture of the late 60s and started playing together in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania in the autumn of 1969, while the nucleus of the band was still attending Bucknell University.
By early 1970, the group was already madly writing innovative original songs, and amidst the belated arrival in small-town rural America of a blossoming counterculture of peace, love, and drugs, it was the beginning of a unique musical journey.
When school ended in the spring of 1970, most of the band moved west of town into two small farm houses, where they raised food, hell and plenty of consciousness. Music was just part of the overall experience. There was a shared commitment to the vision of creating a self-sufficient community of artists and musicians.
Existing as rebellious outsiders in a society filled with political unrest and generational turmoil, fred defiantly played what pleased them wherever they went. During 1970/71, the group was on the road playing covers by its favorite artists (Procol Harum, The Band, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, and Yes) as well as trying out their original fred material on unsuspecting audiences.
In late 1971/early 1972, the band recorded many of their original songs at ITI Studios in Maryland with engineer George Massenburg. These recordings make up the bulk of freds 1st album on World In Sound, the self-titled fred (WIS-1003), digitally remastered/released in 2001.
Mystical, trippy lyrics and heavenly vocal harmonies floating over mesmerizing fuzz-tone guitar merge with graceful bass lines, enticing tonal colors, and imaginative rock drumming to produce exquisite progressive rock songs. Haunting lyricism combines with acid rock intensity as these intricate pieces fluidly mix musical styles, venturing off in refreshingly unexpected and enchanting directions.
Its an alluring atmospheric blend of moody art rock, exotic non-western scales, stunning psychedelic instrumental sounds, and a gentle American folk-rock vibe rubbing up against the rich harmonic progressions of European classical music. Joe DeCristophers raunchy rock guitar contrasts marvelously against David Roses sweet rural violin in these ambitious and curiously captivating tracks.
fred brings a unique sensibility and style to these pieces, uncannily as fresh today as they were when they were first recorded.
By freds 2nd album, Notes on a Picnic (WIS-1016), the bands music evolved into inventive instrumental progressive rock featuring quirky melodies, intricate scored parts, tight ensemble playing, complex polyrhythms, sophisticated multi-tracking, and inspired rock improvisation.
Originally recorded 1973/74 at Blue Rock Studios in New York City but not released until 2003 by World In Sound, Notes on a Picnic is a full-tilt sonic feast, 24-bit digitally remastered from the original session tapes.
Sparkling with creative musicianship, the album overflows with wonderfully raucous rock guitar, mind-bending electric violin with fusion/classical overtones, propulsive rock drums and bass, swirling garage rock organ, and funky electric piano.
Bursting with an eclectic, eccentric diversity, Notes on a Picnic is adventurous, playful, and unpredictable, vibrating with a vivid intensity. Furious fun, delightfully deranged.
With freds final album in its World In Sound trilogy, live at the bitter end
(WIS-1020), the band makes a dramatic leap into high-energy instrumental fusion, floating strange unearthly chords over dark obsessive grooves, with blistering solos that whisper and scream.
Recorded over the summer of 1974 while fred was headlining at NYCs world famous nightspot The Bitter End, these are raw, in-your-face live performances, digitally remastered/released by World In Sound in 2004.
It is high-octane, aggressive electric instrumental music with Bo Foxs pulverizing rock drums, Joe DeCristophers wailing gutsy guitar, and David Roses wild violin pyrotechnics. The mood ranges from tender to tortured, demented to delirious, always edgy, enigmatic, and full of surprise.
With powerful melodic themes over innovative rhythms, complex harmonies and inspired ensemble interplay, fred lets loose over elegant structures for extended solo flights in the twilight zone of rock improvisation.
So who or what is fred?
Moody, atmospheric art rock?
Mysterious, jam band psychedelia?
Or some kind of twisted, progressive fusion?
Future music from the past for thrill-junkies everywhere.
A producers perspective by Joe Schick...
(from the liner notes for fred - Notes on a Picnic)
In 1972, I owned a 16-track studio called Blue Rock in New Yorks Soho district with a certain amount of downtown cachet. I was 26 and it was a heady time Dylan had recorded there and the excitement of making music that I loved was enough to make up for the fact that I had no idea how to run my business or pay the electric bill.
Blue Rock had walls made of denim and Turkish rugs on the floor. It was dark and comfortable. We wanted it to feel like an opium den, and it did. Rolling Stone called Blue Rock the apotheosis of the laid back.
Somehow, in early 1973, fred wandered in from Amishville and blew our minds. They played music that couldnt be defined: It was pure and original. It sounded like jazz and classical and rock at the same time. And it was dangerous and awesome because it was so honest that you couldnt listen to it without feeling it owned you.
fred became Blue Rocks house band, and we became their house. It was fun to have them around, like a family of crazed, hungry, brilliant teenagers.
There were the mad ones - David, who tried to be the organized leader, but whose artistic fury and the lunacy that fed it always won out; Peter, a dark cloud of sullen precision, cool intelligence, and entertaining sarcasm; and Fat Mike, the mischievous contrarian jester who never seemed to be the same person he was the last time you saw him. Then the slightly less mad ones Joey, a blue-collar guy with musical chops that let you know how weird he really was; Kenny, maybe a little stern and professorial but subtly unhinged; and Bo, surf god choir boy with a good heart.
In the fashion of the day, fred was a democracy, and every damn thing was subject to the will of the majority. With this cast of characters, that meant voting blocs with the stability of the Middle East.
There were sleeping bags everywhere, incessant card games, ganja, 18-hour sessions, laughter, passionate arguments, and egg creams at 4:15 am.
When fred played gigs, this whole unstable vibe went with them. Sometimes it meant exalted evenings, like those at a tiny dive where I remember a 20-minute version of Wars Slippin Into Darkness that was achingly disturbed. It also meant gigs in rural Pennsyltucky (fredspeak for nowhere) towns, after long cold rides in vans done up in bad shag carpet.
And it could be that the best fred music is buried in the walls of the milkhouse of the farm in Lewisburg, where they rehearsed, unselfconsciously shooting off luminous fragments of now-lost songs into the cool light of midnight.
The fragile web that held the whole thing together tore apart way too soon. But when it was working, when Blue Rock was resonating with their stunning originality, we had absolute faith that fred was the best band on the planet. Im still not sure they werent.
fred was active from 1969-1974.
David Rose: electric violin, vocals
Joe DeCristopher: electric & acoustic guitars
Ken Price: keyboards, vocals
Peter Eggers: keyboards, tenor sax
Mike Robison: electric bass, vocals
Bo Fox: drums, percussion, vocals
Gary Rosenberg: lyrics, catalyst
L.J. Kopf: visuals (photos, drawings, graphic design)
Roger Brown: equipment, sound technician
Pat Biggs: concert coordinator, road crew
Guitarist Joe DeCristopher remembers: We played with a lot of energy and emotion. We were definitely not establishment and our body of original work came into being as we played. Our music was happily haphazard and not very lucrative. David Rose (violin/vocals) was kind of the artistic director and Gary Rosenberg (lyrics) fed into those plans. We had this idea that we were going to be a self-sufficient community of artists. We werent so concerned about making money or having financial success. We also prided ourselves on not caring about how we were perceived. We always did our own thing.
Drummer Bo Fox remembers: We could always count on a loyal following. Everywhere we went, there would be people who had heard of us, or seen us somewhere. We werent going to fill up these gymnasiums or churches, because we werent playing Top 40. And it wasnt like we were actively trying to get our music to people. We played our own music because thats what we liked to do. We were never thinking that our music would be commercially viable. Every day was totally spontaneous. We were living on two farms, growing our own food, driving to gigs in the fred vans, playing really good and creative music.
Keyboard player Peter Eggers remembers: Band rehearsals were in a freezing, cinderblock milk house on the farm. It was soundproofed with hundreds of carpet remnants on the walls, floor, and ceiling that Bo Fox had found. Any heat came from the amplifiers. There were long, dark nights spent hurtling through the Pennsylvania countryside in two green cargo vans, trying to get some sleep in the back on top of piles of amps and speaker cabinets. And the actual gigs were a surprise to everyone. They were a surprise to the people who hired us, mostly unsuspecting high school and college students expecting a routine cover band to come play Smoke on the Water. And they were certainly a surprise to us on the many nights in some high school gym where the music would just magically take off and fly, while time just seemed to stand still.
It was an exciting and creative time, filled with startling musical growth and an incredible freedom.
fun fred facts
fred opened for:
The Guess Who
Asleep At The Wheel
fred played on the same bill with:
The Left Banke
Dan Hartman (Edgar Winter Group)
opening acts for fred:
Maggie & Terre Roche
fred played at:
Maxs Kansas City
The Bitter End
My Fathers Place
The Bottom Line
fred jammed with:
Doug Lubahn (Clear Light, early Doors albums)
Randy Brecker (Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham)
Jeff Kent (Dreams)
fred recorded with:
Yoko Ono at The Record Plant (we werent allowed to talk to her)
fred rehearsed with:
Stan Getz at his mansion (we beat him at ping pong!)
fred hung out with:
Robert Moog in his synthesizer lab
Muddy Waters (actually, it was just Gary hanging out at the next urinal)
fred songs have supernatural powers:
While playing Heres a Wet One on a flatbed truck at an outdoor concert in York, PA it actually started to rain!
Played live back when, but the music still lives today on CD, not past tense, but present, intense.
Procol Harum, The Band, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Yes, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever.
Jerry Goodman, Stephane Grappelli, Don Sugarcane Harris, Papa John Creach, Dave Swarbrick, and Jean-Luc Ponty.
Robin Trower, Robert Fripp, Michael Bloomfield, Richard Thompson, Jerry Garcia, and John McLaughlin.
Steve Winwood, Rick Wakeman, Garth Hudson, Ray Manzarek, Keith Emerson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Jan Hammer.
Chris Squire, Stanley Clarke, Paul McCartney, Rick Danko, Walter Becker, and Jack Bruce.
Bill Bruford, John Bonham, Aynsley Dunbar, Ginger Baker, Dino Danelli, and Ringo Starr.
David Rose: electric violin
Played a violin made by a craftsman named Waltersdorf from York, PA through a custom amplification system assembled by sound engineer Charlie Bozenhard.
Joe DeCristopher: electric guitar
Played a Gibson SG Standard Electric Guitar through a Fender Bassman or a Sunn Coliseum Amplifier.
Ken Price & Peter Eggers: keyboards
Played a Farfisa Professional 222 Organ through a Leslie Speaker.
Played a Fender Rhodes Electric Piano through a Fender Amplifier.
Mike Robison: electric bass
Initially played a Gibson Electric Bass through a Fender Amplifier, but later switched to a Fender Precision Fretless Bass.
Bo Fox: drums, percussion
Played Rogers Drums with Zildjian Cymbals, as well as various cowbells, woodblocks, and tambourines hooked up to his drum kit.
Bo and Peter both occasionally played a pair of Latin Percussion Conga Drums.
Peter sometimes played a Tenor Saxophone on loan from Charlie Bozenhard, while Mike played an Alto Saxophone he picked up second-hand.
Acoustic Guitar in the recording studio was played primarily by Joe, but both David and Mike each played Acoustic Guitar on a few fred tracks.
At ITI Studios in Maryland, Ken played Harpsichord as well as Grand Piano.
At Blue Rock Studios in NYC, Ken and Peter made use of a Hammond B-3 Organ, a Steinway Grand Piano, a Vibraphone, and even an Echoplex.
And of course, there were lots of effects pedals/boxes, like wah-wah pedals, fuzzboxes, flangers, phase shifters, and chorus effect processors.
David was particularly fond of the Musitronics Mu-tron with his electric violin.
Peter played a Minimoog synthesizer when fred scored a horror movie in studio.
When fred rehearsed with Stan Getz, we hooked him up to an Octave Divider.
There is a zone where you dont play the instrument...the instrument plays you. That doesnt happen a lot, but it does happen. There were times that I sailed. I dont know who was in the audience or how it was received, but I was flying.
- Joe DeCristopher (fred guitarist)