FIVE DRUMMERS, FIVE GUITARISTS AND FOUR ALBUMS-THE STORY OF SEATRAIN.
Five Drummers, Five Guitarists and Four Albums-The Story Of Seatrain.
Although Seatrain were only together for four years and released four albums, there were five separate lineups of the band. Drummers and guitarists proved to be Seatrain’s Achille’s Heel. Seatrain featured five different drummers and guitarists between the release of their 1969 debut album Sea Train, and their 1973 swan-song. By then, Seatrain was a very different band to the one that started out in 1969.
Andy Kulberg was the only original member of Seatrain in the band. He had cofounded the band in 1968, and played on every album that Seatrain released. This included their 1973 swan-song Watch. However, by the time Watch was released by Capitol in 1973, the band’s lineup changed beyond recognition. It was the fifth and final change in Seatrain’s lineup since they were founded in August 1968.
Two of the founding members of Seatrain were drummer Roy Blumenfeld and bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg, who previously, had been members of the Blues Project. They had spilt-in after they played a starring role at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. The Blues Project went out on a high.
By then, the Blues Project was no longer the band it once had been. Some of the members of the band had left the band before the Monterey International Pop Festival, and it was only a matter of time before the remaining members of the band went their separate ways. After the Monterey International Pop Festival decided the time had come to call time on Blues Project.
With Blues Project consigned to musical history, the members of the band embarked upon new projects. However, it wasn’t until the summer of 1968 that Roy Blumenfeld and Andy Kulberg form a new band, Sea Train.
Having formed Sea Train, Roy Blumenfeld and Andy Kulberg moved to Marin County, California in August 1968. That was where they met the other members of the band. This included former Mystery Trend guitarist John Gregory, ex-Jim Kweskin Jug Band violinist Richard Greene, saxophonist Don Kretmar and lyricist and backing vocalist Jim Roberts. He was the final piece in the jigsaw of what was the newest American roots fusion band, Sea Train.
With the new band’s lineup in place, Sea Train were keen to record their debut album. There was a problem though. Blues Project still owed their former label an album. Planned Obsolescence which was meant to be Sea Train’s debut album, was released on Verve Forecast as a Blues Project album. Once Planned Obsolescence was released in 1968, Blues Project had discharged their contractual obligations to Verve Forecast. Now Seatrain could begin work on their debut album Sea Train.
By the time Sea Train began work on their eponymous debut album, the band had signed a recording contract. Not long after this, Sea Train got to work on their 1969 eponymous debut album.
For Sea Train’s eponymous debut album, Andy Kulberg and Jim Roberts formed a successful songwriting partnership, penning Sea Train, As I Lay Losing and Out Where The Hills. Meanwhile, Jim Roberts and John Gregory wrote Let the Duchess No, Portrait Of The Lady As A Young Artist and Rondo.Andy Kulberg contributed Pudding Street and Sweet’s Creek’s Suite. These songs would become Sea Train which would showcase the band’s unique brand of American roots fusion.
To create this sound, Sea Train would combine blues, bluegrass, folk and rock in the studio. They were joined by engineer and producer Henry Lewy, whose career was about to blossom. However, Sea Train decided to arrange and produce their eponymous debut album, while Henry Lewy and Robert Di Sousa took charge of engineering duties. That was no surprise, as Sea Train featured some experienced musicians.
Two members of Sea Train’s rhythm section, drummer and percussionist Roy Blumenfeld and bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg were members of Blues Project, while guitarist and vocalist John Gregory had been a member of Mystery Trend.
Violinist Richard Greene was a member of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. The other two members of Sea Train included, saxophonist Don Kretmar and backing vocalist Jim Roberts. They recorded the eight tracks that would become Sea Train.
Once Sea Train was completed, Columbia began working towards the release of the album later in 1969. Little did they know that all wasn’t well within Sea Train. This would soon become clear.
Before that, Sea Train was released later in 1969. By then, critics had their say on Sea Train, which showcased their own unique take on American roots fusion. This was essentially a combination of blues, bluegrass, country, folk, jazz and rock. Sea Train was well received by critics, who almost inevitably, drew comparisons with The Band and the Grateful Dead. However, when Sea Train was released, the album failed to find an audience. For Sea Train that was the last straw.
Not long after the release of Sea Train, the band split-up. They had been together less than a year, and had only released the one album. It looked like the end of the road for Sea Train.
Sea Train Mk II.
Not long after the Sea Train split-up in 1969, Andy Kulberg and Richard Greene decided to reform the group. They began the search for the second lineup of Sea Train. Soon, drummer Bobby Moses, guitarist Teddy Irwin and vocalist Red Shepherd were added to the lineup. Soon, so was saxophonist and bassist Don Kretmar. This became Sea Train Mk II…for the time being.
This lineup of Sea Train wasn’t together long. Before long, Sea Train were looking for a drummer and guitarist.
Sea Train Mk III.
Later in 1969, the search began for a Sea Train’s new drummer and guitarist. Various musicians were auditioned, and soon, the remaining members of Sea Train settled on new additions.
Replacing drummer Bobby Moses was Billy Williams, while Elliot Randall became Sea Train’s new guitarist. Sea Train Mk III was complete.
Before long, Billy Williams and Elliot Randall left Sea Train. So did saxophonist and bassist Don Kretmar. Now Sea Train began the search all over again for new members.
Sea Train Mk IV.
One of the earliest recruits was guitarist Peter Rowan, who had cofounded Earth Opera in 1967. The next recruits were drummer Larry Atamanuik, and keyboardist and vocalist Lloyd Baskin. A decision was made that Jim Roberts would return to the fold, and continue to contribute lyrics. While this completed the lineup, there was still one more change to be made.
No longer was the group known as Sea Train. Instead, they were known as Seatrain, which was also the title of the group’s next album for Capitol.
With a new lineup and new name, Seatrain began work on what was their eponymous sophomore album. Just like on Sea Train, the Andy Kulberg and Jim Roberts played an important part in the songwriting process. They penned four of the eight songs, including Song Of Job, Broken Morning, Out Where the Hills and 13 Question. New guitarist and vocalist Peter Rowan chipped in with two songs, Home To You and Waiting for Elijah. Bookending the album was Lowell George’s I’m Willin’ and Ervin Rouse’s Orange Blossom Special which featured Oh My Love, Sally Goodin and Creepin’ Midnight. These songs would eventually become Seatrain.
Before that, the band had to cross the Atlantic, and work with the one of the most successful producers in the history of popular music,..George Music. Home for the man who produced The Beatles, was the prestigious Air Studios. This was where Seatrain was recorded by the second lineup of the band. It featured a rhythm section of drummer Larry Atamanuik; bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg and guitarist and lead vocalist Peter Rowan. He shared the lead vocals duties with Lloyd Baskin, while Richard Greene played violin, viola and keyboards. Meanwhile, George Martin took charge of production, in played his part in what was a quite different album from their debut. Seatrain saw the group’s sound begin to evolve.
Once Seatrain was complete, critics were sent copies of the George Martin produced album. They were won over by a carefully crafted album of East Coast rock and country soul. This was a much more commercial sounding album.
And so it proved to be. When 13 Questions was released as a single in 1970, it reached forty-nine in the US Billboard 100. Despite the success of the single, Seatrain failed to trouble the charts upon its release later in 1970. This was a disappointment, given Seatrain was the best, and most accomplished album of the group’s career.
The Marblehead Messenger.
Despite the commercial failure of Seatrain, Capitol never lost faith in the band. Capitol even hired George Martin to produce Seatrain’s third album, The Marblehead Messenger. It featured ten songs penned by members of Seatrain.
Just like on the two previous albums, the Andy Kulberg and Jim Roberts songwriting partnership wrote many of the songs on the album. This time around, they contributed six songs, Gramercy, The State of Georgia’s Mind, Marblehead Messenger, London Song, Losing All The Years and Despair Tire. Peter Rowan contributed a trio of songs, Protestant Preacher, How Sweet Thy Song and Mississippi Moon. Keyboardist Lloyd Baskin made his songwriting debut with Lonely’s Not the Only Way to Go. These songs were recorded with producer George Martin.
This time around, George Martin joined Seatrain at Seaweed Studios, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. By then, Seatrain were enjoying a settled lineup. They hoped changes in the lineup were a thing of the past, and that from now on in, the same band would feature on albums. This included a rhythm section of drummer Larry Atamanuik; bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg and guitarist and lead vocalist Peter Rowan. He shared the lead vocals duties with Lloyd Baskin, and Richard Greene switched between violin, viola and keyboards. Meanwhile, George Martin took charge of production on what proved to be a career-defining album.
Once The Marblehead Messenger was complete, critics had their say on Seatrain’s third album. It was another carefully crafted and cohesive album where Seatrain came of age musically. They were maturing as musicians, singers and songwriters. Meanwhile, the music on The Marblehead Messenger was melodic and featured poetic lyrics. Critics were in agreement that The Marblehead Messenger was Seatrain’s finest hour.
Buoyed by reviews, executives at Capitol thought that The Marblehead Messenger was the album that would introduce Seatrain to the wider record buying public. They were still one of music’s best kept secrets. Sadly, Seatrain remained one of music’s best kept secrets, and nowadays, The Marblehead Messenger is regarded as a hidden gem of an album.
Despite the commercial failure of The Marblehead Messenger, Seatrain embarked upon their first British Tour. Some of the dates on their British tour found Seatrain supporting Traffic. While Seatrain were well received by British audiences, it would be the first and last time Seatrain toured Britain. The following year, 1972, there would be two departures from Seatrain
Seatrain Mk V.
In 1972, Seatrain founding member Richard Greene and Peter Rowan left join Muleskinner. For Seatrain, this was a huge loss. Richard Greene was a talented multi-instrumentalist and Andy Kulberg’s songwriting partner. Peter Rowan was Seatrain’s guitarist and lead vocalist, and had produced some of his best performances on The Marblehead Messenger. This was another huge loss. So was the loss of drummer Larry Atamanuik, who decided to leave Seatrain after two albums. Suddenly, Seatrain were looking for three new members.
The search began, and various musicians were auditioned. Eventually, Seatrain settled on drummer Julio Coronado, keyboardist Bill Elliott and guitarist and vocalist Peter Walsh. This completed what was the fifth lineup of Seatrain. They would make their recording debut on Watch, which was Seatrain’s fourth album, but their debut for Warner Bros.
Watch marked the start of a new chapter for Seatrain, and especially Andy Kulberg. He was the last of remaining founding members of Seatrain, and had been ever-present throughout the band’s career.
Jim Roberts was another founding member of Seatrain, but hadn’t contributed to their third album The Marblehead Messenger. The last time Jim Roberts cowrote songs with Andy Kulberg was on Seatrain. However, with Richard Greene having left Seatrain, Jim Roberts and Andy Kulberg decided to renew their songwriting partnership.
The Jim Roberts and Andy Kulberg songwriting partnership contributed a trio of songs to Watch, including Pack of Fools, Freedom Is The Reason and North Coast. Andy Kulberg penned Scratch, and had written Abbeville Fair with Richard Greene, prior to his departure from Seatrain. Lloyd Baskin contributed Bloodshot Eyes and We Are Your Children Too. They were joined by covers of Bob Dylan’s Watching The River Flow and Al Kooper’s Flute Thing, and became Watch which was produced by Buell Neidlinger.
For Seatrain Mk V, Watch was the first time the band had recorded together. The rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Julio Coronado; bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg and guitarist and vocalist Peter Walsh. They were joined by keyboardists Lloyd Baskin and Bill Elliot. Augmenting Seatrain were a number of session musicians.
This included a guitarist Paul Prestopino; banjo player Bill Keith; flautist Jill Shires; oboist Allan Vogel; tuba player Bob Stuart and a string section. They were joined by vocalists Wayne Daley, Sandra Lee and Sha Na Na. Producer Buell Neidlinger also played bass on Watch, which gradually took shape. It was a quite different album from The Marblehead Messenger.
Given how different an album Seatrain was, it was an album that surprised the critics, but still found favour with them. They excepted Seatrain to continue further down the road that began on Seatrain, and continued on The Marblehead Messenger. That wasn’t the case. The new lineup of Seatrain set about reinventing their music on Watch.
While critics were impressed with Watch, it failed find an audience amongst record buyers. Just like their three previous albums, Seatrain commercial success eluded Seatrain. It was a familiar story, and one that founding member Andy Kulberg had heard before. He knew that Watch was the end of the line for Seatrain.
Not long after the release of Watch, Seatrain split-up, this time for good. There was no comeback this time. Instead, Andy Kulberg rejoined the Blues Project who had reformed in 1971. After four albums and five lineups, the Seatrain were no more.
Sadly, Seatrain were the latest in a long line of bands who could’ve and should’ve reached greater heights. Despite their talent, commercial success eluded then. However, what didn’t help was that Seatrain went through five different lineups. With a settled lineup, who knows what heights Seatrain lead by Andy Kulberg might have reached?
Instead, Seatrain remained a cult band, whose music was enjoyed and cherished by a small group of discerning record buyers. They remember the quartet of albums that Seatrain released between 1969 and 1973. Each of these albums were quite different.
This ranged from the American roots fusion of Sea Train in 1969; to the two carefully crafted albums that George Martin produced, Seatrain in 1970 and 1971s The Marblehead Messenger. Two years later, in 1973, Seatrain returned with Watch, which was their most eclectic album. It was a fusion of Americana, blues, country, folk, gospel, pop, progressive rock, rock and soul, where Seatrain sought inspiration from American’s musical past and present. Despite the eclecticism of Watch, which was recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records, this couldn’t transform Seatrain’s fortune. Watch which is an underrated and oft-overlooked album, proved to be the swan-song, from one of America’s great lost bands,..Seatrain.
Five Drummers, Five Guitarists and Four Albums-The Story Of Seatrain.