MARK ERIC – A Midsummer’s Day Dream (Now Sounds/Cherry Red) LP

by admin  25th Apr 2024 Comments [0]

It’s good to see Cherry Red branching out with some vinyl releases, and this California summer favorite is a particularly welcome arrival. Barely anybody noticed when Mark Eric’s album A Midsummer’s Day Dream was released in 1969, probably because its bright-eyed pop innocence, wistful melodies and strong ’65-’66 Beach Boys vibes were so out of step with the times. Three years out of date was the equivalent of about ten years in the sixties because music was changing so fast. But this throwback album is a real gem: great, evocative songs, fabulous arrangements by Vic Briggs of the Animals, a crack team of session players (including James Burton and Don Peake on guitars and Jim Gordon on drums), and a widescreen production by Norm Ratner.

Mark Eric Malmborg was 19 years old at the time, and his lyrics were reflections of his free-spirited Southern California surfer lifestyle: surfing by day and partying at night; cruising the Strip with his buddies, and picking up girls. On the album’s opening track, he sings longingly of his “California Home” as he wings towards it on an incoming flight; as he soars into the song’s sublime middle-eight he transports you into that world.

On “Move With the Dawn” he bids farewell to the girl he bedded down with the night before and, like every morning, heads to the beach to catch some waves. While the song is a celebration of his personal freedom, it also questions the callousness of this self-centered lifestyle, and that imbues it was an affecting poignancy: “In search of myself / I’ll use someone else / Whose bed will I sleep in tonight?” Quoted in the liner notes, Eric admitted that the song was all about him: “I didn’t see much of a life for myself. I always thought I’d be drifting. All I had envisioned for myself was being a surfer. I didn’t think anything would happen.” On an album brimming with wonderful songs, “Move With the Dawn” remains my absolute favorite.

Not far behind though is the magnificent “Night of the Lions,” about a night out in the urban jungle with his friends, cruising for girls and getting into fights. “Acne faces of an age / Are lost through a haze / in a street network maze / Laughter turns into tears / We realize our fears / But nobody hears / Night of the lions / Showing our teeth tonight.” This over a chunky, Motown-like dance groove with vehement acoustic guitar strumming and French horn flourishes.

That upbeat Motown meets “Fun, Fun, Fun”/ “Dance Dance Dance” approach also propels standouts like “I’d Like to Talk to You” and “We Live So Fast.” These are balanced out by some yearning Beach Boys-like ballads such as “Take Me With You,” “Sad is the Way That I Feel,” and the heart-stopping “Where Did the Girls of the Summer Go,” each with some lovely orchestral touches.

In some ways, the album feels like a California cousin of another sought-after album from this era, Billy Nicholls’ Would You Believe. But, as much as I love the Nicholls record, for my money Eric’s album is the stronger of the two by a wide margin with more memorable songwriting and superior arrangements and production. It’s a complete, full-realized work from top to bottom.

Unfortunately, Mark Eric’s career as a recording artist was brief; A Midsummer’s Day Dream was the first and last album he ever made. He went on to work as an actor and a model in the ‘70s and ‘80s, including parts on Hawaii 5-0, Room 22 and The Partridge Family, and a couple of movie roles. He died in August 2009 in Huntington Beach, California at the age of 59.

This vinyl reissue looks and sounds fantastic; the original cover art enhanced by a gatefold cover with rare photos and updated liner notes by Steve Stanley. Your life will be immeasurably better with this album in it. (Mike Stax)