The 1960s were a unique time in music, in which rock 'n' roll turned into rock, and folk-rock blended with psychedelic threads and classical overtones, with all kinds of exciting results. The musical world was filled with crazy geniuses and masters of their craft - you could find them on every corner, if you knew where to look. Paul Levinson worked with some of the best of them - making music in a wide spectrum of the new genres - but somehow managed to escape being famous.
Paul Levinson, Stu Nitekman, and Ira Margolis formed The New Outlook in 1966 - a folk-rock group, singing harmony like The Kingston Trio and The Highwaymen on Allerton Avenue and White Plains Road, Orchard Beach, Bronx House Community Center and other hip haunts of the Bronx. Stu sang most of the leads, and played guitar. Paul and Ira sang harmony, with Paul doing the falsetto. Paul and Stu wrote all of The New Outlook's material. "If Leaves Fall Tomorrow" is the classic New Outlook sound. "Sunshine's Mine," with Paul singing lead, is a little different, with more of a strummy sound, ala The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Critters.
The New Outlook was signed to TM Music - the company owned by Bobby Darin - in 1966. Not much happened. The group sought other pastures. One fine Sunday afternoon in the Spring of 1967, Ellie Greenwich (the legendary songwriter who wrote some of Phil Spector's biggest hits for the Crystals and other wall-of-sound groups) and Mike Rashkow were walking in Central Park in NYC, and bumped into The New Outlook singing harmony. Ellie and Mike liked what they heard, signed them, changed their name to The Other Voices, and got the guys a contract with Atlantic Records. Two singles ensued. (One, "No Olympian Height," was written by Brute Force, who later talked George Harrison into releasing his notorious "The King of Fuh" on Apple Records.) The flipside of both singles was "Hung Up On Love" (1968), written by Paul Levinson & Mikie Harris. More than 35 years later, it was included on Rhino Handmade's 2004 "Come Into the Sunshine" CD (compiled by Andrew Sandoval).
But back in 1968, The Other Voices/New Outlook broke up. Paul kept looking for his break, stirring the pot, and went on to write songs with folks including Linda Kaplan (who later wrote the "Toys R Us Kid" commercial jingle), Jimmy Krondes (composer of Earl Grant's "At the End of the Rainbow"), and Ed Fox, a New York City piano player and songwriter.
From 1969 to 1971, Paul and Ed wrote a whole bunch of songs, with more of a psychedelic twist than The New Outlook's music, including influences from jazz, chamber music, and Indian raga. They created a record label - HappySad Records - which Paul took over. In 1972, HappySad Records released a self-produced 13-song LP album, Twice Upon A Rhyme, with vocals by Paul and Ed, and studio performances and overdubs by guitarist extraordinaire Peter Rosenthal, jazz-great saxman Boris Midney, exuberant organist Donny Frankel, pianist and drummer Mitch Greenberg, and other notables and unknowns. (One famous classical recorder player contributed some great riffs but insisted on remaining anonymous so as not to jeopardize his professional reputation.) "Looking for Sunsets (in the Early Morning)" has Paul doing lead; "The Lama Will Be Late This Year" features Ed.
Twice Upon a Rhyme didn't get all that much attention when it was first released, but new people are beginning to discover it. The original vinyl was rave reviewed in Japan's Record Collector's Magazine in 2002 and is listed in the legendary Hans Pokora's 4001 Record Collectors Dream. "The Lama" more than any other cut on the album has been singled-out for praise as a free-wheeling psychedelic dream jam.
In December 2008, Big Pink/Beatball Records re-issued the complete Twice Upon a Rhyme LP as a mini-CD, with three bonus tracks. Early in 2009, Vivid Records issued the same CD in Japan. And in December 2010, Whiplash/Sound of Salvation Records in the UK re-issued a remastered, repressed vinyl of the album. In a review in the January-February 2011 Shindig Magazine, Austin Matthews said of Twice Upon a Rhyme: "superb fuzz guitar irresistibly drizzled across several tracks … a memorable personality indelibly locked inside the grooves … the perfect sound track for a lethargic spring day."
In January 2011, HappySad Records released Spun Dreams - demos (studio and home) by Paul Levinson and The New Outlook, 1966, and a few additional tracks - for digital distribution.
For more details on Twice Upon a Rhyme, including track listings, see the artist entry for Paul Levinson with Ed Fox and Peter Rosenthal.
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