All In One

In late 1968 or early 1969, a six-piece group walked into a Chicago recording studio to record an album. As they weren’t signed to a label, they had made the booking themselves. The group featured three singers, all female. One of whom also played acoustic guitar. There was also double-bass player and a drummer, both male. A female guitarist filled out the band. After the tapes had finished rolling, what was recorded was quickly pressed onto an album: a private pressing, organised and paid for by the band. Not many copies were made, perhaps 100, maybe 500. The albums were sold at live shows or given to friends and relatives. And that was it.

The band was called All In One, and the outline of their story is similar to many do-it-yourself musicians from the Sixties and later who wanted to document their existence, what they sounded like. It’s good to have a physical object saying “here we are, this is what we do.” During the Seventies punk era, it’s what Buzzcocks did with their Spiral Scratch EP. Taking the DIY path had precedents.

It was an approach which meant there was no mediation. Control was in the hands of those being recorded. Naturally, these obscure and rare records can attract interest. Some Sixties examples, like All In One’s untitled album, are great and need to be heard more widely. This first-ever reissue reveals the band to have been mysteriously spectral, with an intensity which would have been reined in had they been on a mainstream label and given a regular production. The rough edges would have been smoothed off. From its opening moments, the album telegraphs that All In One were uncultivated: a band in the raw, and one with its own ideas of its identity.

The recording took place at Boulevard Studios, on the edge of central Chicago (early on, the building housed the Chicago Historical Society: it was constructed in 1892. In the second half of the 1980s, it housed The Limelight Club). Boulevard itself was independent and on the edge of Chicago’s music business. Anyone could hire the facility and All In One were amongst the clients who walked through the door. Vee Jay Records used it in the 1950s, as did the blues-jazz-vocal label United. Rockabilly singer Sparkle Moore recorded there too. The Crestones’ 1964 garage rock classic She’s A Bad Motorcycle was made at Boulevard. The Chicago religious publisher F. E. L. Church Publications Ltd hired Boulevard in 1968 to make Sarah Hershberg’s Women Of The Old Testament album.

Boulevard had no tie-in pressing facility, so the band would have organised that themselves. The plain orange front cover of the original album suggests the budget was limited. Why orange? Why not put the photos of the band on the front rather than the back? Yet despite what can be gleaned about All In One and their world, they remain out of reach, ultimately unknowable, as enigmatic as the album’s cover. Presumably they were from Chicago. Maybe all five band members look back fondly on their album and time in the studio. Perhaps the reappearance of their affecting album will jog memories? It is feasible that All In One may, now, step out the shadows to become tangible.

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