Between 1967 and 1969 this Boston-based soft-rock quartet recorded three well-received albums for MGM, but rose above the label’s hype of the so-called “Bosstown Sound,” a promotion conceived by producer Alan Lorber. The Orpheus lineup included singer/guitarists Bruce Arnold and Jack McKennes, originally a folk duo from Worcester called The Villagers, plus bassist Eric “The Snake” Gulliksen and drummer Harry Sandler. Their second LP Ascending landed at #10 on Playboy’s “Best Vocal LP” list for 1968, right between Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Are You Experienced? A powerful and popular live act, they opened for major headliners like Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Who and Janis Joplin (in a 1969 show at classical music mecca Tanglewood). Their single “Can’t Find the Time to Tell You” reached #80 on the Billboard charts, is still played on New England radio stations today, and has been covered by Hootie & the Blowfish, among several others.
After the band broke up, Arnold reformed Orpheus in 1971 and released a fourth LP with a revamped lineup of Stephen Martin on vocals (he wrote some songs for the first three Orpheus LPs), Howie Hersh on bass, Elliot Sherman on keyboards and Bernard Purdie on drums. The material was mostly Arnold arrangements of tunes penned by Martin. That lineup, minus Martin and augmented by Brad Delp of the band Boston and the Tiger Okoshi horn section, recorded Orpheus Again, which was released on Arnold’s BAM! label in early 2010. Meanwhile, McKennes, Gulliksen, Sandler and Martin reunited in 2004 as Orpheus Reborn, adding lead guitarist Robert Emmet Dunlap and percussionist Kathi Taylor, and performed old and new material at occasional gigs in the Boston area.
(by Steve Nelson)