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The Love Exchange

The Love Exchange were a typical support-level Los Angeles band of the psychedelic era, right down to their name. Their chief claim to fame is their 1967 single "Swallow the Sun," a nice folk-rock-psychedelic tune that's emblematic of the time with its trippily optimistic lyrics, garage-like Mamas & the Papas female-male harmonies, and swirling organ. The record was anthologized on the Los Angeles portion of the Highs in the Mid Sixties series, and also on the folk-rock volume of the vinyl Nuggets series on Rhino in the '80s. They also managed to put out an LP in 1968 that, in addition to featuring "Swallow the Sun," had an assortment of psych-folk-pop crossover efforts; "Swallow the Sun," incidentally, is a cover of song by the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, "Dark on You Now," with some different lyrics.

The Love Exchange grew out of some teenage surf and garage bands in the Los Angeles suburb of Westchester. It was teenage singer Bonnie Blunt who was the group's strongest asset, giving them the competent vocals in the soaring, folky Mamas & the Papas/early Jefferson Airplane style. (As an interesting trivial note, the first woman singer in the Love Exchange was Laura Hale, daughter of actor Alan Hale, famous as the skipper on Gilligan's Island.) They weren't accomplished writers, though, and on their sole album, much of the material was penned by producer Larry Goldberg. These were garage-psych-folk-rock efforts with their utopian, rose-colored lyrics and organ-modal-guitar combinations, like a minor league Peanut Butter Conspiracy. The aura of psychsploitation was enhanced when Goldberg took some of the LP's backing tracks and added vocals by non-group members to create a Christian rock album credited to the Crusaders. Some of the album's songs were also used on a soundtrack album for a musical titled How Now, Dow Jones, credited there to the Floor Traders. And, finally, the songs did come out in their original form on an LP actually billed as a Love Exchange record, as it should have been all along.

None of this helped the Love Exchange gain much credibility, although they played often in Los Angeles and at some festivals. In keeping with their general lack of consistent packaging, their name was changed to Charity in the late '60s for an album on Uni, although as it ended up, organist Walter Flannery was the only member who performed on that LP. They were still performing as the Love Exchange live at that point, but broke up after appearing at the Newport '69 Pop Festival in Southern California. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
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