About the band:
The Kaplan Brothers was founded by brothers Ed and Richard Kaplan in the late 1960s. They performed principally as a trio, but occasionally as a four piece (see "Notes", below) and got their start in the Chicago area, mainly playing regular gigs at local nightclubs and hotel lounges.
In 1968 they released their first full length LP. "The Universal Sounds of The Kaplan Brothers" consisted mostly of covers of pop songs of the sixties (including a rendition of the exotica classic "Yellow Bird"), but also included an original composition and a cover of Havah Nagila, and proved to be a model of their records to come.
At some point in time they outgrew their local fanbase, and took their act on the road, and that's where the liner notes for the self-titled "The Kaplan Brothers" come in:
"The Kaplan Brothers have entertained Lady Bird Johnson and have been the hosts of a one hour nation-wide television special sponsored by the San Antonio World's Fair."
WOW! From small time hotel lounges to regional acclaim and headline gigs at resorts in Texas, California, and throughout the American southwest, all in only a few short years.
I wish I could say: "Man, I followed these guys on their midwest tour back in '73!", but I can't because it wouldn't be true (I wasn't even born yet), but apparently some people did exactly that -- more on that in a bit.
The band seemed to keep current with the prevailing musical trends of the time, at least insofar as what they could get away with and still get regular nightclub and lounge bookings. And while I can imagine might've delved into Disco at some point in the early 1980s (if they were still playing by that time), their repertoire had begun incorporating sounds of the psychedelic and progressive rock eras of the late 1960s and early 1970s by the time they release their 1978* LP "Nightbird." The cover of King Crimson's "Epitaph" is at once straightforward, while also having a unique character.
Back to the touring years.
Apparently, there were people who followed The Kaplan Brothers from town to town in much the same way that people followed The Grateful Dead, and apparently raw tape recordings exist, made from the soundboards of the venues they played on these tours! In my imagination, there is at least a whole album's worth of out-takes (and maybe bootleg vinyl, too.) Who knows? Maybe the band has another live album to offer the world?
The "Electric Three-Man Hebrew Band" album:
First of all, this album features the VERY SAME recording as is featured on their self-titled LP. So why are there two LPs featuring the same recorded material?
As there is no official history of the band (yet), it's not known why this happened. The speculation is that this was either printed / pressed before the 1977 (?) self-titled release, or it was printed / pressed afterward. The runout groove notations on both sides of the album read: "KAP-A-ID372C-APX" -- I'm not sure how to get a work order number out of that, and there's no actual catalog number.
It is speculated that this version of the album was what the band sold by hand from the back of their touring van while they were out playing gigs, and that seems to be a fair guess. Its no frills artwork is also sort of like a "demo tape", in a way.
In looking into the band a bit further I noted an (archived online) news clipping from a Chicago area newspaper, circa 1972, where the nightlife editor cites the Kaplan Brothers' "Electric Three-Man Hebrew band" tagline. This in turn makes me wonder if this album might not've been released even earlier than 1977? It's a real mystery.
But the album itself -- housed in a very simple sleeve design (just the band name and title, no photographs, no liner notes, and no art on the back cover) would be easily overlooked by many in the crowded used vinyl bins of the the past forty years.
My copy actually had very clean vinyl, and I played it on a louder system than I have at home (note: the local record store's in-house system is basically like a small club system), and it played through fine and sounded just great!
So what does "Electric Three-Man Hebrew Band" actually sound like?
The Beatles medley reminded me a lot of the Deep Water reunion's cover of Suite Judy Blue eyes particularly in that the band did a lot to closely emulate the original vocal harmonies and achieved a close approximation to the original (especially on the "Because" segment.)
The same is also basically true of the (early) Bee Gees cover, the Righteous Brothers cover, and the Spiral Starecase cover. All of these are honest, straightforward covers of tracks which were on the radio at the time (now considered "classic rock") and played as faithfully as any other gigging band of the time would've played them. They're instantly recognizable and easy to listen to, but not over-the-top in any way. I'd say that they're a classic example of "doing what it takes" to play in a regularly-booked cover band, at that time or since.
The "Sunshine" medley is pretty good and a fairly unique arrangement, and the Eleanor Rigby cover REALLY places this record on another level -- just in my humble opinion, of course.
The original material on this album is "Free And Easy" and "Happy". The former being pretty much a vocal pop number, the latter being in the vein of a the Havah Nagilah cover -- Klezmer-like, I suppose? And in keeping with the theme of the title of this release.
Getting back to the actual, physical copy.
While there were no splits to the sleeve, the wear of being stored long-term on a shelf, next to other records long term (and moving house, no doubt) didn't add to the sleeve's austere design so much as it made it look dirty. On the other hand, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so maybe the sleeve wear added a certain patina in the eye of a certain beholder? (I always wanted to say: "It looks like it was run over by a vintage 1975 Kirby", but doubt anyone would appreciate my sense of humor.)
As it's the same recording as on the self-titled release, and all other details are speculative (number of copies pressed, catalog and work order numbers from the company press which pressed it, etc) I see it as a pretty unique piece. For instance, I see that the catalog # given at Discogs (4517) was sourced from a profile of the band found online at another online record seller ("Bad Cat Records"), so the mystery continues.
This is a short album, only 30 minutes, and the track order is a little different than I might have it if I was listening to it start-to-finish. But again, I think it's probably pretty close to what their actual sets were like at the time.
Personally, I find the cover of Eleanor Rigby to be worth the price of admission, and it's easy to see how this band would've developed a cult following in the 1970s. Even today in an era where many older records are being re-discovered and appreciated by new audiences, it's easy to find something to like in their music.
And while I did indeed first learn of the band after reading about them in reviews and press coverage of "Enjoy The Experience", I don't see them in exactly the same way that some might -- as a part of some peculiar "outsider" art or music movement of the 1970s, or purveyors of pop-psych or naive folk or whatever else anyone might want to pigeonhole them as.
Unique? Certainly, and probably a cut above average for a local cover band that found enough local success to propel them even further, into becoming a regional, touring act of the mid-1970s.
They're definitely worth a listen, especially if you're not the sort of person who is automatically turned-off at the idea of classic rock covers.
- The Kaplan Brothers - Electric Three-Man Hebrew Band
- Band Members:
The information at Discogs was sourced from the Bad Cat Records website -- see:
- Release Dates:
Both "Electric Three-Man Hebrew Band" and "The Kaplan Brothers" are given release dates between 1969 (!) and 1977. As the band has no official biography, the actual release dates are unknown.
- "Homemade" / "Outsider Music" (etc)
Again, while I don't necessarily agree that The Kaplan Brothers fit into such internet era creations as "homemade" or "outsider" music, Enjoy The Experience is a good resource for discovering similar artists. Just don't dump them for sale on eBay or Discogs all at once! And don't call them POPCORN SOUL, either.
Enjoy The Experience - Homemade Records 1958-1992