Sweetwater is the debut studio album by the Los Angeles band, Sweetwater. The album is musically enriched by several influences from different genres that the band sought to experiment with. Much of the band's resemblance came from Jefferson Airplane, the group that successfully integrated jazz fusion into their compositions. Upon the album's release, it was largely unnoticed, but still became the band's only work to chart in the Billboard 200. Their most acclaimed track is the opening cover version of "Motherless Child"
Sweetwater formed from eight individuals of different ethnicities performing in coffeehouses in Los Angeles. With psychedelic music at the height of its popularity in 1968, Reprise Records decided to sign the band to their label to capitalize on it. The band was not just limited to the psychedelic scene though, as Sweetwater involved itself in multiple genres ranging from folk rock, latin rock, and classical music. Reprise knowingly produced for the band, despite the fact their sound was not marketable to the general public.
Recording commenced at the Sound Factory in Hollywood, California with producer Dave Hassinger, notable for producing other musical groups like The Electric Prunes. The tracks included original material along with covers of traditional pieces. The band was highly versatile as it had eight musicians who played a wide variety of instruments including congas, percussion, and bongos. The congas, in particular, were peculiar to a band at the time as Santana had not yet come to prominence with its take on latin rock. Another interesting aspect regarding recordings, was the total lack of electric guitar. There were instances of electronic music, yet the band disregarded the use of the instrument, even in live performances. Arrangements of the instrumentals were conducted by Alex del Zoppo and Frank Herrera, and, in all aspects, the two utililized the capabilities of their bandmates as they were involved in the process of each track. For that reason, there was complexity in their instrumentals in both the psychedelic tense of tracks like "My Crystal Spider", and the classical one of tracks like "Motherless Child". Nansi Nevins was the lead vocalist on all tracks, and is noted for her performance on the debut, especially on the opening track. Sweetwater is the only album that Nevins was apart of throughout. Nevins was involved in a car accident in December 1969 which prevented her from completing future albums.
Sweetwater was released in 1968 with the catalog number RS #6313, just getting in to the national charts at number 200 were in would stay for two weeks. With the album, two singles, "Motherless Child b/w "Why Oh Why and "My Crystal Spider" b/w "What's Wrong" preceded it, both of which failed to chart. Still, "Motherless Child" became popular in Los Angeles when it was constantly played on FM Radio. The band's take on the traditional blues song became a favorite associated with group. The cover features the group in their usual live attire, and their primary instruments in hand. Despite the limited success of their debut effort, Sweetwater, in 1969, would partake in the proceedings at the Woodstock Festival, and became remembered as the first band to perform.
Motherless Child - 5:04
Here We Go Again - 2:32
For Pete's Sake - 2:50
Come Take a Walk - 3:48
What's Wrong - 4:00
In a Rainbox - 3:17
My Crystal Spider - 3:52
Rondeau - 1:15
Two Worlds - 3:56
Through an Old Storybook - 2:32
Why Oh Why - 3:00
Nansi Nevins - lead vocals
Frank Herrera - bass guitar, backing vocals
August Burns - cello
Elpidio Cobian - congas, percussion
Alan Malarowitz - drums
Albert Moore - flute, backing vocals
R.G. Carlyle - acoustic guitar, bongos, backing vocals
Alex Del Zoppo - keyboards, backing vocals