Exposé Online banner

The Merchants of Dream — Strange Night Voyage
(Tune In 006, 1969/2011, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2013-11-17

Strange Night Voyage Cover artBlame it on The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper’s. In the wake of that landmark concept album, everybody and their brother was trying to get in on the concept album thing, from The Beach Boys to The Moody Blues, The Who and even Frank Zappa. The Merchants of Dream are one of the also-rans that attempted to reach for that golden ring, producing a psychedelic children’s concept album in 1968 based on the story of Peter Pan. Actually, The Merchants of Dream was the brainchild of songwriter Jack Murphy, who along with the support of producers Vinny Testa and Shadow Morton, assembled a six-piece band (including himself on keyboards and vocals) to bring the concept to life. Unfortunately, the record deal they got with A&M didn’t help much, as the record got no support from the label and sank like a stone. I found my LP copy in a cutout bin less than six months after its release. That said, the songwriting here is positively brilliant, with arrangements that mix multi-part vocal harmonies, the pop sounds of the day (think The Association or similar sunshine pop proponents), orchestrated show tunes, psychedelic rock and much more. Each side of the original LP began with an overture that contained short instrumental sections of each of the songs on its respective album side, and each side closed with an overtly psychedelic cut (“Lovelife’s Purple Circus” and “(We Are) Dream Vendors” respectively). The fourteen tracks are nothing if not ambitious, and at times when the harmonies get complex (title track case in point), they are clearly in over their heads. Still, an easily overlooked flaw when considering the totality of the project. Songs like “Dorothy the Fairy Queen,” “My Magic Boat,” “Alicey,” “Sing Me Life,” and “Jolly Roger Doldrums” are positively contagious and seriously fun. “When You’re Pushin’ Six” pulls out a folksy John Sebastian style to accompany the first-hand tribulations of a kid who is about to turn six! Overall, an excellent album that, perhaps by the time it was finally completed and released in early ’69, had just missed the whimsy and fun of late sixties pop as styles were morphing.

Filed under: , 2011 releases, 1969 recordings

Related artist(s): The Merchants of Dream

Latest news

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Pineapple Thief - Variations on a Dream – I hope I don’t turn anyone off by saying Pineapple Thief has as much in common with Radiohead, Coldplay, and Smashing Pumpkins as they do with anyone in the prog community. In my book,...  (2004) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues