Personnel: David Surkamp (vocals, guitar); Steve Scorfina (guitar); Siegfried Carver (violin, viola); Doug Rayburn (flute, Mellotron); Rick Stockton (bass guitar); Mike Safron (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Marco Rossi.
Recording information: CBS Studios, New York.
Pampered Menial was the first album from Pavlov's Dog, a band produced by Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman, the duo behind Blue Oyster Cult. The seven men in this group are revealed in the gatefold holding "Horace," a dog, while three engravings from 1849 by artist Robert Vernon make up the front, back and inside cover. Those paintings are striking, and though the music, mostly written by vocalist David Surkamp, tries hard, it just isn't as captivating as the package which surrounds it. Surkamp sounds like a chick singer, something that wasn't quite in vogue yet -- Journey and the Mickey Thomas Starship wouldn't happen for another four years, not until 1979, and even Thomas' hit with the Elvin Bishop Group was a year away, male vocalists were singing in lower registers at this point. With song titles like "Theme From Subway Sue" and "Of Once And Future Kings" the identity that a Blue Oyster Cult maintained was missing here. "Subway Sue" sounding very much like the 80s version of Mott, the band after Ian Hunter took his leave. If you thought Mott's high pitched vocals were out of place and annoying, check out Surkamp's strange warbling. The band itself isn't half bad. "Episode's mellotron, courtesy of Doug Rayburn and Siegfried Carver's violin, provide more than adequate sounds. Carver's sole composition, "Preludin," comes off as one of the best tracks, perhaps because it is an instrumental version of progressive rock that Triumvirat and early Journey were exploring, But when David Surkamp's vocals kick in again on the next tune, like Pavlov's experiments, it makes the listener want to break things, including this record. "Julia" is a mediocre lyric and ok melody, just destroyed by the vocalist who composed it. If this were an instrumental group, the music would be much easier to take. The band provides elegant rock, majestic drums by Mike Safron, additional keyboards by David Hamilton augmenting Rayburn's mellotron and flute, and solid 70s production from Krugman and Pearlman. Lead guitarist Steve Scorfina co-writes a beautiful piece with vocalist Surkamp in "Late November," but its perfection is marred by the whining sounds of the frontman. It is really sad, as there seems to be much potential here, drummer Michael Safron's "Song Dance" another highly creative number. A & R man Mark Spector had some kind of ears, what he was thinking here is anyone's guess. The solid riffs, the wonderful blend of sounds, all destroyed by David Surkamp's forced vocals which sound like some experiment by Pavlov gone awry. The Mott band from Shouting & Pointing infamy should have been put on a stage with Pavlov's Dog to see which act could clear the room first. "Fast Gun" is another solid progressive tune, but without the polish of a Brad Delp or Steve Perry, it just didn't stand a chance. Columbia Records should re-issue an instrumental version of this disc via their Legacy series, the music deserves it. ~ Joe Viglione