the National Gallery (Bhagavad-Gita)


Cleveland, 1967-8

In the free swinging days of the late 1960s, record companies were open to creative projects that defied the norms of popular music. The National Gallery was an ambitious attempt to combine the visual art of Paul Klee, the poetry of Cleveland based producer Roger Karshner, and music composed by Chuck Mangione.

Roger Karshner was friends with legendary Cleveland DJ Bill Randle, and often exchanged books and records. One of the books Roger obtained included paintings by Paul Klee, to which Roger wrote poems that described his feelings and interpretations of some of the works. He sent copies of the words and the paintings to Chuck Mangione who worked out musical passages. Roger and Chuck went to Cleveland Recording and recorded  "Long Hair Soulful" with the James Gang as the band (the Glenn Schwartz version). A local newspaper had noted that the James Gang were recording the song as a 'demo'. Karshner arranged a 45 release of "Long Hair Soulful" on Philips records, using the name Bhagavad-Gita, reflecting Roger's interest in the spritual text. This 45 was issued with a sleeve picturing the Klee painting that inspired the contents. 

The 45 was successful enough for Philips to release a whole LP changing the 'band' name to a more recognizable National Gallery. Roger and Chuck went back to Cleveland Recording and recorded with Richie "Dick Whittington" Green playing all the musical parts (beside drums) and Karshner playing drums. The organ parts were recorded using the Cleveland Symphony's cathedral organ, and the vocals were provided by some Kent State students. The James Gang was not involved with any more of the recordings. The LP included a stereo remix of "Long Hair Soulful".

Outside of some interest in the underground music community, the LP disappeared without much sales, but over time has attracted interest by collectors for the unique compositions and arrangements. The LP track "Diana In the Autumn Wind" has been sampled by Hip-Hop artist Kalib Kweli.

After the LP release, Roger Karshner went on the produce the Little Big Horns, Spontaneous Corruption, and Eli Radish before moving out to Los Angeles where he was re-hired by Capitol. Chuck Magione also worked on the Little Big Horns before he hit it big with the jazz community.

Discography -

Bhagavad-Gita  - Long Hair Soulful / Long Hair Souful (instrumental) - Philips 40485 (white label promo and blue label stock)
The National Gallery - S/T (LP) - Philips  PHS 600-266 (stereo)

Thanks to Richie Green and Roger Karshner