Opal / Happy Nightmare Baby / 1987
Opal grew from the ashes of Los Angeles based band, Clay Allison, when in 1984 vocalist Kendra Smith (Dream Syndicate) and guitarist/songwriter David Robak (Rain Parade, Rainy Day) decided to take their brand of neo-psychedelia on the road as Opal. Eventually scoring a deal with SST in the US and Rough Trade in the UK. Opal‘s first album from 1987, Happy Nightmare Baby is an amazing mix of folk/pop and psych-rock. Diverse beyond description, Kendra Smith’s lethargic vocal-style becoming the outward identity of the band’s sound. With Robak’s guitar adding a storm of atmospheric color and textures over a stripped down musical arrangements. In other words, there is a lot of interesting detail happen, if you have the patients to look.
Unfortunately, Smith left the band during the tour for Nightmare. She was then replaced by vocalist Hope Sandoval. Who together with Robak formed Mazzy Star in 1988. Mazzy Star climbed the charts in the 90’s with the suprisingly great track, Fade Into You. It’s worth the effort to tracking down the catolog’s of all three bands (Clay Allison, Opal and Mazzy Star) if an electric mix of the Velvet Underground and folky dream-pop fit your game.
We should also mention that a deeper exploration of the delights of Rainy Day, Rain Parade and the Dream Syndicate would be time well spent in the Paisley Underground. All three brilliantly executed with the David Robak– assembled project, Rain Day being the gem of the bunch. Strictly a covers-album featuring songs from the likes of NeilYoung, Big Star, Velvet Underground among others. The record is difficult to find but worth the hunt for the notable (and insightful) vocal performances by Michael Quercio, Kendra Smith and Susanna Hoffs.