The Neon Philharmonic

DON GANT vocals

1 THE MOTH CONFESSES (Warner Bros. WS 1769) 1968
2 NEON PHILHARMONIC (Warner Bros. WS 1804) 1969

(1) reissued on CD (Sundazed SC 6084). (2) reissued on CD.  


1 Morning Girl/Brilliant Colors (WB 7261) 1969 #17

2 No One Is Going To Hurt You/You Lied (WB 7311) 1969 #120

3 Clouds/Snow (WB 7355) 1969 -

4 Heighty - Ho Princess/Don't Know The Way Around Soul (WB 7380) 1970 #94

5 Flowers For Your Pillow/To Be Continued (WB 7419) 1970

6 Something To Believe In/A Little Love (WB 7457) 1971

7 Gotta Feelin' In My Bones/Keep The Faith In Me (WB 7497) 1971

8 Making Out The Best You Can/So Glad You're A Woman (Trx 5039) 1972

9 Annie Poor/Love Will Find A Better Way (MCA 40518) 1976

Such was the influence of psychedelic music in the late '60s that even pop-based acts like the 5th Dimension, Kenny Rogers, and the Association felt obliged to put in their two cents' worth. Such was the case with the Neon Philharmonic, which was primarily a vehicle for songwriter/arranger/keyboardist Tupper Saussy. Also featuring singer Don Gant, the group had an easygoing, not-too-memorable Top 20 pop hit in mid-1969, "Morning Girl." Their debut album, The Moth Confesses, was a much stranger piece of work, sounding something like Jimmy Webb on acid. For all of its ambitious orchestral arrangements and operatic lyrical reach, it has dated in the most embarrassing and silly of fashions, sounding like the aural equivalent of the middle-class accountant who decides to take acid with his kids in a misguided attempt to get with it. The Nashville-based Saussy's primary credit prior to the Neon Philharmonic was his contributions to The Swinger's Guide to Mary Poppins, which featured jazz renditions of songs from the children's film. This, and even the "Morning Girl" single, weren't exactly the sort of resumé credits that led one to expect an ambitious song cycle. That's what he cooked up with The Moth Confesses, however, though the bloated arrangements, Gant's white-bread vocals, and the overwrought, sentimental lyrics came closer to Rod McKuen than Van Dyke Parks. The NH did manage another album, as well as a few singles, and were active as late as 1975. Gant was a session vocalist before dying on 6 March 1987, aged only 44. Saussy, as befitting a man with such unpredictable interests, became an anti-tax activist, going underground to avoid Federal authorities in the 1980s. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide

(issued January 1969):

All done in a tiny room within the Acuff-Rose complex on a 4-track Ampex. Over a considerable period of time. For the relatively paltry sum of $8950.36.

Glenn Snoddy got his ears cleaned for every recording and mixing session and is largely responsible for what might be terned "the sound."

Ronald Gant is Don's brother, and a more convincing argument against nepotism in the recording industry cannot be found outside him. He must be commended, though, for the quality he achieved in recording his brother's voice. He is Glenn's paid assistant.

Wesley Rose came in every now and then and snorted.

Norbert Putnam, Chip Young, Jerry Carrigan and Kenneth Buttrey were the NP's rhythm section.

Chet Atkins, Mickey Newbury, Larry Henley, Ray Stevens and Norris Wilson were inspirations to the composer and the singer.

Robert McCluskey called himself Executive Producer and sat around giving everybody a lot of guff.

All selections written and arranged by Tupper Saussy.

Produced by Tupper Sassy, Don Gant and Bob McCluskey


The Moth Confesses

by The Neon Philharmonic, Don Gant and Tupper Saussy (Warner Brothers-Seven Arts Records)

Published On Monday, June 02, 1969 12:00 AM


TUPPER SAUSSY became a big success in advertising so he could retire at 32 to write music full-time, His first year's output includes works for the Nashville and Chattanooga symphonies and a new record that makes Saussy more exciting at the moment than Beatles.

The Moth Confesses is a record because Saussy wanted to write an opera more complex than an audience could understand in a single live performance. This "phonograph opera" becomes more resonant and eloquent with each replay. The style eludes easy description, except by comparison to MacArthur Park by Saussy's friend Jim Webb (whose influence is evident in The Moth's "Midsummer Night"and "Morning Girl," available out of context as a single). Both composers create serious and elaborate structures by joining an array of classical forms with borrowings from the sentimental popular music written for Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Hollywood romances. This approach wrenches hackneyed themes and metaphors into an instantly understandable genre-a musical pop art, but with the same dignity achieved by Charles Ives when he elevated cliches from Sousa and national anthems into symphonies.

The result is an open and flexible style, allowing The Moth Confesses to range from lyric tone poems through lavish transitions to mild rock. The Neon Philharmonic-an ad hoc "chambersized orchestra"composed of members of the Nashville symphony, local jazz groups, and talent used by Bob Dylan (drummer Kenny Buttrey)-is terrific, brightly expressing the Saussy intelligence and exuberance.

The music is necessarily dramatic, to compensate for the absence of visual cues and staging of live opera. The instrumental music also has to describe narrative movement and background, since the vocal part is simply a single voice which defines a stage in the maturing of its sensibility in each of eight arias. "The Moth Confesses is a condensed opera, "say the jacket notes, "with variations on a single literary theme: desperation."

DON GANT sings the desperate voice. He establishes a convincing by the honest, open tone of his voice and by conveying the subtleties of the character's progress to painful selfawareness. The voice is in a different psychological state in each aria, thanks to Gant's emotional inflections, but it always belongs to a consistent individual.

The protagonist is "mothlike"-attracted through life by his memory of the brilliant colors of his first love. His story is a quest to recapture the exhiliaration of the original experience. But sudden setbacks perplex him: "Last night the little girl walked in and handed me my notice. They voted me out of her league and I'm sorry. I'm embarrassed."His boyishly defiant recovery retains a quality of quiet longing: "So I'm a gonna join the cowboys and shoot me some outlaws (it's something to do since I'm out here anyway) but quit it all, give it all up, if the little girl could use me."

Still he can get no closer to his ideal, and his despair becomes briefly ridiculous and self-parodying: "Although I have the key she gave me, I forgot to ask her where she sleeps at night." Then he becomes tragically resigned, remembering with detachment his love for "the thirty-year-old debutante, whispering to ghosts in the room ...Jacqueline with the past in her eyes."He faces his failure sorrowfully: "It tears a boy's heart away, loving girls who don't care about love. " And he sees others in his own jaded condition; as he tells "morning girl," "Your lips have got some color now, a little too much color now."

The Moth Confesses is a sensitive characterization by Gant, a beautiful performance by the Neon Philharmonic and a brilliant production by Saussy. The album has a spendid cover and a salutation-"Borges forever"-to one of Saussy's literary heroes.



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