Review Explosion, Short Cuts Edition, Vol. 15, RSD 2024 Roundup, Part 2: Parliament’s 2LP Expanded Inaugural 1970 Album Osmium and Gandalf’s All-Analog Self-Titled 1969 Debut are Holy Grail Finds

This year on Record Store Day 2024, the first installment of which was held on April 20, two very rare “Holy Grail”-type albums were officially reissued in special editions. Both of these albums are loosely connected in that they were released within a year of one another in 1969 and 1970, respectively. Both records were also either on — or distributed by — Capitol back in the day. They both approach the psychedelic universe from different angles, and they are fascinating and wonderful in their own unique ways.

Both of them have also been mostly out of print, especially in the United States, but they each made triumphant returns on this year’s first RSD — and I was lucky enough to have obtained both of them. Here in Part 2 of my RSD 2024 Short Cuts review roundup, they each take center stage. Without further ado, I give you Gandalf and Parliament.



1LP (Jackpot)
Limited edition of 1,500 copies (RSD First)

My RSD 2024 Holy Grail No. 1 pick is a 1969-released, psychedelic-leaning baroque-pop self-titled gem from New York’s four-man collective known as Gandalf. This is one of those eye-catching records that is often found on the walls and display areas of higher-end collectors’ shops. And, as far back as I can remember, Gandalf has always been a pricey rarity. You never see this album popping up out in the “wilds” of collecting — i.e., flea markets, thrift shops, or garage sales.

If you are a fan of groups like The Left Banke, The Zombies, and more obscure but wonderful psych-pop confection from the likes of The Glitterhouse, you’ll probably really enjoy Gandalf. The back story underlying Gandalf reminds me of two 1968 albums I love that suffered similar fates of record-label delays and band disillusion leading to the their breaking up before the albums were released and then disappeared: 1) the aforementioned Glitterhouse and their Color Blind LP on Dynovoice, which was produced by Bob Crewe, and 2) Billy Nichols’ Would You Believe on Immediate, which was produced by onetime Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham, and on which Nichols was backed by the Small Faces. The latter is arguably one of the rarest records anywhere, with reportedly only 100 copies having been pressed. The one original copy available on Discogs at the time of this posting has an asking price of (yes) $15,000.


Getting back to Gandalf, there are quite a number of wonderfully arranged cover versions on this album, including the band’s stunning, album-opening version of Victor Young’s haunting “Golden Earrings” — a song originally recorded for the 1947 film of the same name by no less than Peggy Lee. Tim Hardin’s “Hang on to a Dream” (Side 1, Track 2) and “Nature Boy” (Side 2, Track 2) — originally a hit for Nat King Cole — are arranged in such an out-of-time style that they remind me of no less than Radiohead. Seriously. If you’ve ever heard Radiohead cover “Nobody Does It Better” — Carly Simon’s megahit single from the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me that was written by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager — you know what I am talking about.


In the album’s liner notes, Gandalf guitarist Peter Sando offers a brilliant description (which I can’t top!) of their song “I Watch the Moon” (Side 2, Track 5) as being “a song of loneliness and teenage angst that was like. . . The Ronettes meet Procol Harum.” Meanwhile, adding a harpsichord and deep reverb turns a tune from 1950s pop-vocal group The Browns’ “Scarlet Ribbons” (Side 1, Track 4) into a gorgeous epic from outer-inner space. There are also some Sando originals here, including “Can You Travel in the Dark Alone” (Side 2, Track 1). And then there’s “Me About You” (Side 2, Track 4) and “Tiffany Rings” (Side 2, Track 3), both of which were penned by the Garry Bonner/Alan Gordon team who discovered the band. (Yes, they’re also the same guys who wrote big hits for The Turtles like “Happy Together”!)

Somehow, it all works wonderfully. Which, of course, raises the question as to why this album has been obscured from the limelight for so many years. For quick reference, there is exactly one original of Gandalf selling on Discogs at the time of this posting for an asking price of $900, while a few copies on eBay are asking for more than $1,000. Even the questionable blue-vinyl edition of it put out in the 1990s — probably a disrespected “Scorpio” pressing — is going for about $100.


So, you may be asking yourself, “Is Gandalf really worth it?” I picked up its RSD reissue day-of for $35, and I’m pretty much thrilled. This new edition was made in an all-analog process from the original master tapes and cut by Kevin Gray of Cohearant Audio — and that is some pretty solid DNA for an obscurity like this!

For those of you concerned about the sound quality and vinyl pressing from Cascade, I’m pleased to report the so-called “lemongrass” vinyl — which is more like a vivid opaque Kelly green with little flecks of yellow swirled in — is actually quite quiet and well-centered.


Kudos to the folks at Jackpot for understanding the mindset of collectors like us. They reproduced the look and feel of the original rainbow-style Capitol Records label as it would have appeared on the album in 1969, including the offset-lettering of the band name and album title (i.e., Gandalf / Gandalf). Also included are wonderful liner notes on the inner sleeve that give incredible and insightful background on how this album came to be.

Gandalf was released as an RSD First limited edition of 1,500 copies. so if you haven’t grabbed one yet, I would suggest getting out there and looking for it sooner than later. There are, unfortunately, those who are trying to flip the new RSD Gandalf on eBay for well over $100 already, and this all-analog reissue is only going to go up in value, and in price.



1LP (Jackpot)

Side 1
1. Golden Earrings
2. Hang On To A Dream
3. Never Too Far
4. Scarlet Ribbons
5. You Upset The Grace Of Living

Side 2
1. Can You Travel In The Dark Alone
2. Nature Boy
3. Tiffany Rings
4. Me About You
5. I Watch The Moon



2LP (Invictus/Demon)
Limited edition of 3,000 copies (RSD Exclusive)

My Holy Grail No. 2 that was issued on RSD 2024 is the elusive 1970 debut by funk-rock-soul pioneers Parliament and their fearless leader George Clinton — an album titled Osmium.

Originally hailing from Plainfield, New Jersey, Parliament unleashed its heady-brew debut in 1970 featuring musical flavors ripe for the times — including psychedelia, country, and anthemic rock — while also looking forward to the future of funk jams. For additional perspective, if you look on Discogs and consider how they describe Osmium, it is tagged under the genre labels of Southern Rock, Soul, Rhythm & Blues, Folk Rock, and Baroque Pop! Yes, these designations are for Parliament, the group that later concocted jams like “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” and “Dr. Funkenstein”!

Osmium is all over the place in the best possible way — a wonderful musical journey in its own right that has very little to do with the deep funk of later Parliament-Funkadelic releases. Just as Gandalf does in its own way, somehow, the contents of Osmium all work together really well here.

Trying to find original copies of Osmium released on the legendary Invictus label is a needle-in-the-haystack proposition, however. I’ve never come across one out in “the wilds,” as we collectors often refer to the world of garage sales, flea markets, and thrift shops. At the time of this posting, there were just seven originals listed on Discogs, ranging in price from $175 for a VG copy to $475 for a VG+.

Respected UK label Demon Records reissued Osmium as a 1LP offering in 2019, but other than that, and as far as I can tell, this record has been pretty much out of print on vinyl in America since 1970. Even if you own that 2019 edition, you may want to pick up Demon’s updated RSD 2024 2LP set, as it now includes a bonus disc of non-LP rarities.


While it’s all good and fun as an end-to-end listen, my hands-down favorite song on Osmium is the last track on Side 2, “Funky Woman,” a tune that feels like an extension of the late-period work Jimi Hendrix was doing around the time of his passing.

Much of the bonus disc is great as well — a compendium of singles, rare mixes, and alternates that have surfaced over the years. “Livin’ the Life” (Side 3, Track 1) could have easily fit on Osmium proper. The acoustic-tinged follow-on epic “The Silent Boatman” (Side 3, Track 2) deploys no less than bagpipes, pipe organ, and harp into a gorgeous excursion this side of Mountain’s “Nantucket Sleighride,” Melanie’s “Candles in the Rain” (yes, there is a gospel chorus at the end), and The Beatles’ “Let It Be.” (Almost hard to believe this recording is from the same man who made “Atomic Dog” a solo hit some 12 years later.) And then “Breakdown (Mono Single Version)” (Side 3, Track 3) gives us a taste of the James Brown-inspired funk to come, especially on the vocal choruses.


I’m glad I got a copy of this reissue of Osmium. I don’t understand why it was pressed on drab, opaque-olive vinyl, but, generally, I’m quite happy with it. If I have any disappointment, it is that the cover is somewhat lackluster, employing one of those single-pocket designs similar to the recent limited-edition live albums by Talking Heads and Fleet Foxes, both of which I reviewed in Part 1 of my RSD 2024 Short Cuts roundup back on April 27 (you can read that roundup right here), so don’t expect a fancy gatefold. The cover art also looks a little blurry to my eye, which leads me to believe it was not made from original photographic elements. Those are relatively minor nits to pick, however.


I am pleased the producers of Osmium happily recreated the distinctive Invictus label design for authenticity. Also, the inner-sleeve liner notes include photos of all the 45rpm singles labels and early rare picture sleeves — something I think is really, really cool to see!


Honestly, the more I think about it, I can’t remember having seen Parliament’s Osmium show up anywhere in my vinyl journeys over the years — even in stores — so for an ostensible SRP of around $45, this new RSD reissue feels like an excellent value. If you don’t have a copy of it yet, I’d grab one soon before they too are all gone!

Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for, among others, and you can see more of his impressive C.V. at LinkedIn.



2LP (Invitcus/Demon)

Side 1
1. I Call My Baby Pussycat
2. Put Love In Your Life
3. Little Old Country Boy
4. Moonshine Heather

Side 2
1. Oh Lord, Why Lord/ Prayer
2. My Automobile
3. Nothing Before Me But Thang
4. Funky Woman

Side 3
1. Livin’ The Life
2. The Silent Boatman
3. Breakdown (Mono Single Version)
4. Red Hot Mama

Side 4
1. Loose Booty
2. Come In Out Of the Rain
3. Breakdown (Stereo Unedited Version)


Glotz's picture

guarding their finds after they were first in line and to get served their vinyl that day... I KNOW they had these 2 in their paper bags as they they left! Grrrr.

I missed almost all of my records this year, except for Wilco. Sigh. Reminder to get there 2 hours earlier next year.

semefak46's picture

Enjoy the psychedelic journey! | spackle