I guess you could call the New York based Classical/Jazz/Psych/Art-Rock band Ars Nova something of a blip on Rock’s radar screen. A very short lived band that went through two incarnations before packing it in and going off in separate directions. Initially, a Art-Rock/Classical band loosely akin to Procol Harum, but probably a bit more like the New York Rock n’ Roll Ensemble, they had a debut release on Elektra, amid much ballyhoo by the Elektra brass – touted as being “the new Doors”, that was probably an over-enthusiastic assessment, which proved somewhat deadly as the audience promptly thumbed their collective noses, made worse by opening for the actual Doors themselves during a tour in 1968. After that, Ars Nova I dissolved and were subsequently dropped from Elektra. Only to resurface again as a sort of Ars Nova II with original members Wyatt Day and John Pierson and the rest, all new personnel and a different direction. Losing the Classical influences (or toning them down) and diving a bit more into the Art/Psych/Jazz side of things as well as landing on a new label, Atlantic, which this album is the result, recorded and released in 1969.
But even that proved somewhat short-lived and Ars Nova did not last the year before calling it a day for good.
Largely forgotten, relegated at first to the cut-out bins and then gone all-together, Ars Nova have proven not to be worthy of the dismissal they initially received. Granted, Rock was going through a pile of changes in the late ’60s and it was hard, if not impossible to put a finger on what an audience was going to respond to or not. Tastes were changing – because FM was becoming such a key player in forming musical tastes, top-40 was in heavy competition – soon it really would become a question of Mainstream versus Underground in competing for the audience attention. And simply, some bands got lost in the shuffle. Had Ars Nova not changed direction between 1968 and 1969 and stayed in their heavily Classical-influenced vein, there was no way of telling if perseverance would have changed things or not. This was still during a time when a band would have a string of unsuccessful albums before achieving any modicum of success, but Record Companies were willing to take chances over the long haul.
Sunshine & Shadows was their second album; their first for Atlantic and their first (and only) with new personnel. It has been considered a lost gem and a rarity. With the veritable onslaught of groups suffering similar fates, the amount of time taken digging in the dusty recesses for the diamonds is getting harder and harder to do as times change. But, if you have a few minutes (about 39 to be exact), hit the play button and give this one a shot. You might be surprised or you might say “next’ – it’s all part of the discovery process. At least its here for you to decide.