MacArthur - s/t. 1979 USA
CD reissue: 2016 Out-Sider (Spain)
LP reissue: 2016 Out-Sider (Spain)
Namesake band leader and guitarist Ben MacArthur states in his liner notes to the newly reissued CD on Out-Sider: "In 1977...the Rust Belt was in full decline and jobs were getting scarce. There wasn't much to do, so we picked up guitars and wrote songs and recorded albums, because we loved music. Because we believed we could be something more than even rock stars. We believed out music would survive the ages." OK, now go read my introduction to the USA Midwest / Ontario Progressive Rock (1970's/early 80s) list. I'm telling you folks, this was the phenomenon of the time and place. There were no video games to distract, and no gainful employment to be had. Perfect then, let's create a band!
Further, Ben adds "I went to watch Bill (Heffelfinger, keyboardist, guitarist and engineer of MacArthur) play with a band named Labyrinth at a local fair, and they played 2112 by Rush and I was truly amazed!" And there it is again, a local regional hero providing the guidance, in this case Toronto's Rush.
And really, that's all you need to know about the debut of MacArthur. Rush is definitely the blueprint, but traces of other UK and US prog and hard rock bands are apparent. It's definitely an original work, despite the influences. Overall it's a very primitive, but earnest effort, by quality musicians and composers, looking to make their mark on history. Generally, this was the type of album that would be captured by the "cassette tape culture", that was just about to get rolling in the early 80s. So yes, it does require a mind shift and a predilection for such artifacts. And I clearly do, so my rating and review is biased accordingly.
By pure happenstance, the band was successful in getting 200 LP's pressed by the custom label RPC in New Jersey (hence the band was often wrongly referred to being from there, rather than Saginaw, Michigan). There is a dreadful bootleg that's been out there for years called The Black Forest, that was filled with misinformation. Not only did it insist on the album being recorded in Camden, New Jersey, but they appended the date of 1973 to it. To this day, all the online discographies maintain this bad data, because of a crappy pirate issue. The band was formed in 1977, so unless they have mastered time travel, we'll go with Ben MacArthur's date of 1979...
Originals of course are among the rarest of American progressive rock LP's (PPR's cohort Jeff actually owns one!) RPC was a custom record plant normally used to press albums for churches and schools... and the odd demo. It wasn't a traditional label. Even though 200 are pressed, it's likely less than half are still in existence. And with that premise, fortunately we have our first set of reissues from the Guerssen group of Spain, so we all can have a copy now! The reissues are of the usual high quality, with excellent liner notes and presentation.
Hopefully MacArthur II won't be far behind on the reissue front.