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Sir Lord Baltimore

Brooklyn, NY's Sir Lord Baltimore were arguably America's first bona fide heavy metal band, and the funny thing is, they didn't even know it,since the style had yet to establish itself when the band first burst onto the scene. And because SLB's precocious, raw talent was offset bytheir immaturity and utter lack of business acumen, their budding career was summarily derailed after just two generally underrated albums.Thus, they were cursed to endure decades of obscurity until their music was rediscovered, vindicated, and often covered or flat-out copiedby many stoner rock bands of the 1990s ...read more

Brooklyn, NY's Sir Lord Baltimore were arguably America's first bona fide heavy metal band, and the funny thing is, they didn't even know it,since the style had yet to establish itself when the band first burst onto the scene. And because SLB's precocious, raw talent was offset bytheir immaturity and utter lack of business acumen, their budding career was summarily derailed after just two generally underrated albums.Thus, they were cursed to endure decades of obscurity until their music was rediscovered, vindicated, and often covered or flat-out copiedby many stoner rock bands of the 1990s and beyond.

If anything makes sense in the ill-fated Sir Lord Baltimore story, it's the fact that the commercial success attained during their existencewas as modest as the band's inner-city roots. Vocalist/drummer John Garner, guitarist Louis Dambra, and bassist Gary Justin were recentlygraduated from high school and had only been rehearsing for a few months when they auditioned for talent scout Mike Appel, who would laterhelp launch the career of one Bruce Springsteen. Impressed by the band's undeniable power and chemistry, and assured by Dambra (whohad just recorded an album with another group named the Koala) that the ferocious riffs he was playing were in fact not copped from JimmyPage, Appel decided to take the inexperienced young trio under his wing. So, after fine-tuning and rearranging their raw materials into astrong batch of songs, Sir Lord Baltimore began recording their debut album, Kingdom Come, in West Orange, NJ, where they reportedlyimpressed a visiting Pink Floyd and attracted the attention of high-powered artist manager Dee Anthony, who wasted little time pushing outAppel and taking over the group's day-to-day operation.

Anthony then commissioned Jimi Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer to mix the finished Kingdom Come at the legendary guitarist's own ElectricLadyland studios in Manhattan, before securing a deal with Mercury Records for its release in mid-1970. Unfortunately, mainstream criticsand consumers of the time didn't seem to know what to make of Sir Lord Baltimore's thundering hard rock (or, for that matter, those of anyother similar band, like the Stooges or the MC5, unless they originated in the U.K.), which presciently yielded the first documented use ofthe term "heavy metal" to describe this kind of music in a contemporary review by Creem magazine.

Nevertheless, Anthony's contacts in high places were strong enough to secure SLB opening slots on tours with Black Sabbath (including twonights at the Fillmore East) and Humble Pie, but perhaps a tad prematurely, as it was on-stage that Sir Lord Baltimore's lack of experienceand underdeveloped showmanship were revealed for all to see, sending them back to Brooklyn with tails between legs and egos in check toponder their next move. This would eventually entail the addition of Louis' brother Joey Dambra on second guitar, leading up to the recordingof their second, eponymous album, in 1971, where a concerted effort was made to both rein in the band's wild energy and broaden its soundinto more progressive realms, with some success but nowhere near as much spontaneous combustion captured within the grooves. Andwhen these "improvements" also fell short of commercial expectations, Sir Lord Baltimore were unceremoniously dropped by Mercury andleft to their own devices shortly thereafter by their fickle Svengali. The bandmembers still began working on new music with hopes of findinganother interested label, but finally gave up the fight in 1976 after a new contract for a rumored third album failed to materialize, resigningthemselves to a life outside rock & roll as their records collected dust in cutout bins.

But the eventual rise of hard rock and heavy metal and, in particular, its mid-'90s offshoot, stoner rock, finally sparked a retroactivereevaluation of Sir Lord Baltimore's work, and vindicated the now middle-aged fans and music collectors who had always championed theircause. It also jolted John Garner and Louis Dambra (now a pastor ministering to homeless families in Los Angeles) out of their musicalretirement in 2006, with the goal of recording the material intended for that never-made third album. Bassist Gary Justin hadn't picked uphis instrument in years and declined to take part, but a few session players, including journeyman Tony Franklin, were drafted to help finishSir Lord Baltimore III Raw, which was made available for sale through Sir Lord Baltimore's official website, all of 30 years after theirbreakup. Garner has since fielded several offers to perform select reunion shows in the U.S. and abroad, but has yet to come to terms thatwould bring Sir Lord Baltimore back to the live stage. « hide

Similar Bands: Bang, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Flower Travellin Band, Buffalo

LPs
Sir Lord Baltimore III Raw
2006

2.6
4 Votes
Sir Lord Baltimore
1971

3.6
16 Votes
Kingdom Come
1970

4.1
53 Votes
Compilations
Kingdom Come/Sir Lord Baltimore
1994

4
5 Votes

Contributors: rockandmetaljunkie, Tyler, BMDrummer,

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