On hearing the opening notes of A Lovely Sight, a new album sequenced together from rare singles and previously unreleased recordings by the hopelessly obscure Illinois band Pisces, one might be inclined to think, ‘Here’s another generic psychedelic rock group that wanted to be the Jefferson Airplane.’ But just a few tracks in, it becomes abundantly clear that there was something truly special in the musical chemistry between Jim Krein, Paul DiVenti and vocalist Linda Bruner. It’s always a shock to learn that the makings of an album this lovely have been sitting in someone’s basement or attic, decade after decade.
In between gigs with various cover bands and professional jobs recording advertising jingles and mariachi bands, Krein and DiVenti spent countless hours tinkering around and experimenting in their studio, writing songs and putting them to tape in anticipation of a Pisces LP that never quite came to fruition. The group wore their influences on their sleeve, creating a surprisingly great pastiche of British and American soft psych sounds. Several moments are strongly reminiscent of late 1960s Beatles; part of the chorus of ‘In The Summer The Grape Grows,’ an ode to the intoxicating effects of wine, mirrors ‘Dear Prudence’ almost to a note. ‘The sun is up / the sky is blue’ becomes ‘it rules your mind / yellows your spine,’ and so on. The beautiful, soaring conclusion of ‘The Music Box’ has a bit of Tommy James and The Shondells’ ‘Crimson And Clover,’ and some of the spirit of The Zombies’ Odessey And Oracle album. And ‘A Flower For All Seasons’ sounds something like Lee Hazelwood covering Simon & Garfunkel.
Seventeen year-old-vocalist Linda Bruner is featured on just four of the album’s tracks. Her voice is low and dark most of the time, echoing Grace Slick or even Nico (‘Say Goodbye To John’ has a distinct Velvet Underground vibe). She sounds far older than 17, that’s for sure. ‘Sam’ is absolutely incredible, with Bruner’s breathy vocals whispered over an acoustic guitar and backwards drums. Then on ‘Are You Changing In Your Time,’ a gorgeous Dylan-esque ballad, she sounds like a British folk singer – not quite Sandy Denny but definitely in that same vein. The Bruner tracks are without a doubt the deepest and most memorable moments on this really wonderful reissue.