You can now spend all that money you saved buying better records.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Stavia, the only album made by Ohio band The Brotherhood. If this were a common dollar-bin staple, it might be a pleasant surprise. But the album’s reputation precedes it, and the hype just isn’t earned. Released in 1972 in a private press edition of maybe 200 or 300 copies, the album has sold for $250 to $750, and there’s an original pressing on Discogs right now that can be all yours for $1,100. But don’t be misled by those prices, or by the name of the Spanish label reissuing the album. The Brotherhood plays perfectly competent soulful rock with a social conscience, yet there’s nothing outsider about it.
As the band’s name and diverse lineup suggests, The Brotherhood fosters racial harmony. “Color Line” starts the album with the earnest lyric, “I’m feeling blind/ That color line, yeah!” The musicianship is solid, the drums especially fevered as the well-meaning lead singer pleads, “I’m looking to the day when people can be themselves.” It’s a commendable sentiment delivered with a little soul but with perhaps less conviction than his band, who delivers solid lead guitar and swirling, mildly acid-tinged organ swirls.
Here’s the thing. If you’re one of those crate diggers hungry for private press obscurities, the thrill of that hunt is the hope of finding musical voices outside the mainstream, and striking buried treasure that may be innocent, untutored pop like Donnie and Joe Emerson, or an entirely uncommercial vision like Lewis. Stavia offers good musicianship that evokes the mellow side of ‘70s rock, but if you seek out private press records to hear something unfamiliar and unusual, there isn’t a whiff of that here.
The record label Out-Sider, distributed by Guerssen, has previously reissued albums that live up to its name, such as a 1964 album by a folksinger who called himself Robbie the Werewolf, and the quirky ‘70s psych-rock of Jeff Lieberman, whose inventive and unconventional solo on “Rock or Roll Me” transcends its generic title and clichéd cowbell accompaniment. But there is nothing outsider about The Brotherhood, a good band that perhaps ironically doesn’t color outside the lines. How conventional is Stavia? There’s a track called “Rock and Roll Band,” and unlike Lieberman’s invocation of the genre, it doesn’t hold any surprises.
Even the late Patrick Lundborg’s Acid Archives, one of the primary sources for collectors of rare private press albums, admits that Stavia isn’t that exciting: ”It’s listenable OK, but hardly the stuff private press heads crave.” As if its musical merit isn’t the main selling point, the label reminds you that originals were pressed at the “legendary Rite custom plant,” an Ohio company that cranked out trucks full of well-regarded soul 45s in the ‘60s. But a storied association does not a notable private press album make. If Stavia has been on your wish list based on its reputation, here’s some good news: you can now spend all that money you saved buying better records.