Money had nothing to do with it.
A compilation of a little known group of the 60s, from Vancouver no less, never was going to rack up a profit. It’s hard enough to sell records by a “legendary” band from anywhere but Vancouver as it is. Jamie Anstey went ahead and released The Centaurs anyway.
“This is a great project,” he declares. “If I don’t put it out, no one will put it out. I really like the idea of a project, take it on and see it to a conclusion.
“It’s about getting it out there, for people to enjoy it. That’s what you want.”
For any fan of 60s rock it’s an easy album to enjoy. It features some recording the band did for Polydor in Holland, a sample of a demo recorded by Robin Spurgin as promotion tool for The Centaurs to get gigs in Europe and five tracks recorded live at Amsterdam’s T Smurf club during a typical set. The quality packaging is by Ralph Alfonso, the mastering by Stephen Marsh in Los Angeles, all paid for by Anstey who also wrote the extensive liner notes.
“I was told, ‘You’re wasting your money. You’ll never get it back.’ , Anstey remembers. “I’m not doing this for the money.”
Through his involvement in re-issue label Regenerator with partner Larry Hennesey, Anstey has become an authority on Vancouver rock of the 60s. For this compilation, he formed his own Vintage Trax label, sent some vinyl albums and CDs to Europe’s Clear Spot and to the U.S.s Light In The Attic. Regenerator will take on the rest for distribution.
“I want a package,” he explains. “It’s got to tell the story of the group. I’ve always thought that was important. It’s the right way to do it.”
The European connection begins with drummer John Gedak. By the end of summer 1966, The Centaurs had achieved popularity in Vancouver clubs but it seemed it’d gone as far as it could go. Gedak thought it might have a future in Europe, which was a radical thought for Vancouver rock at the time. Gedak had relatives in Germany with whom the band could settle. The Centaurs cut an eight song master tape at Robin Spurgin’s Vancouver Recording studio and sent the resulting acetates to prospective agents and club owners, primarily in Germany.
The first stop was Holland, where the band unintentionally made a splash in Dutch clubs, got the attention of Polydor, which released a single by “Canada’s top band.” and experienced its own version of Beatlemania with girls screaming and running after them. The Centaurs eventually got to Germany, playing in the dying days of Hamburg’s celebrated Star Club. It was in Holland, however, where it was adored before a bout of homesickness brought the band back to Vancouver. At home, the Centaurs dissolved to pursue other opportunies. There have been various incarnations of a reunited band but The Centaurs’s legacy has been overshadowed by The Collectors, Seeds Of Time or Spring.
Until this compilation. It’s not groundbreaking but it is an insight to what was influencing Vancouver bands in the clubs. Though the tape of the band live was recorded covertly, and crudely, by the the owner of the T -Smurf Club in 1967, it sounds like what many Pacific Northwest bands were doing earlier, although it is the better moments of a much longer 15 song tape. The Standells, Rascals, Don and The Goodtimes.
Although Gedak, Ron Williams, Bob Brown, Al West and Hugh Reilly have made a poor-sounding amateurish recording for themselves, this compilation benefits from Polydor sending a master of the single and roadie Don Moss discovering the master of the Spurgin demos. These have been cleaned up and enlivened by Marsh. The Centaurs are faithful to the originals and sound well-drilled and focused. The band should be applauded for its boldness and Anstey for his conviction in adding this piece to a puzzle.