Elyse Weinberg :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

There was some kind of magic at work in the frayed songs of Elyse Weinberg’s 1968 debut, Elyse. Part of the allure was its mystery. Who was Elyse? The answer to the question was revealed to be more fascinating than any imagined myth when Elf Power’s Orange Twin Records reissued the album with Elyse’s permission in 2001. Emerging from the Toronto folk scene alongside Neil Young, Weinberg was signed to Roy Silver and Bill Cosby’s Tetragrammaton Records, which released her debut. She palled around with Mama Cass and hit the Billboard charts, but soon turned her attention to a new album, Greasepaint Smile.

(Read the Aquarium Drunkard review of Greasepaint Smile.)

The album never saw release — until now, via Numero Group’s Numerophon imprint. It’s a wilder and grittier than its predecessor, produced by David Briggs and featuring accompaniment by J.D. Souther, Nils Lofgren Kenny Edwards, and Neil Young. Soon after, Elyse parted ways with Silver, and signed to Asylum to record another record — one still in the vaults — before leaving the music industry entirely. She moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, then Ashland, Oregon, pursuing spiritual enlightenment. She took on a new name: Cori Bishop, chosen for its numerological resonance. And slowly, she found her way back to music, recording a new album In My Own Sweet Time, in 2009. “I put one out every couple of decades, whether I want to or not,” she jokes over the phone. She’s considering her next: “I think I have one more to do, then I’ll be happy.” Bishop spoke to Aquarium Drunkard about her lost (and found) albums, spirituality, and recording with Neil Young.

Aquarium Drunkard: It must feel a little bit strange for a record that’s sat up in the attic so long come back into your life.

Cori Bishop: It does. Rob [Sevier of Numero Group] called me out of the blue. I guess he found a test pressing or something of it. He had been a fan of the first one he called and said, “What do you think about reissuing [Greasepaint Smile?]” I went, “Sure, it’s amazing that anyone cares.”

AD: So many people picked up on the first record when it was re-reissued by Orange Twin.

Cori Bishop:Yeah, that was amazing too. I got a call from Richard Goldman, a friend of mine in L.A. and Andrew Reiger from the band Elf Power. The band was on tour in Minnesota in the dead of winter and he walks into a record store and finds that old album, he likes the art work and he takes it home. I guess he got it for a dollar. [Laughs] His record player was broken and he finally got it fixed and said, “Wow, we should put this on our label.” So he and Laura [Carter], the prime movers of Orange Twin, they called me and found a pristine copy of the album on eBay and remastered and remixed it. A little while later, they were going to be in Portland playing and they asked me if I wanted to open for them. I hadn’t played in decades, you know? So I went, well okay. We had no rehearsal, [and they] played better the album and it went really well. It was really sweet.

AD: Greasepaint Smile feels very different than the first record. It’s kind of heavy, more of a rock record.

Cori Bishop: I think so. I think it’s more raw. The first one was very over the top and had some psychedelic influences to it. This one was very much “what you heard was what it was.”

AD: Did you feel more comfortable with that approach?

Cori Bishop:If I look back on both of them, I was so in-the-moment. I had no idea of what it took to make a record. I was just a bundle of reactions. There was no thought or plan, I just picked what I thought were the best songs I had at the time and said, “Let’s do these.” When I listen back, I hear a young girl crying for love and crying for a higher love. Now, 40 years later having been on a spiritual path for decades, I can look back and see that. I think people can relate to that, because we all have that yearning in our hearts. And everyone bought into that – the guitars are out of sight. Nils [Lofgren] and Neil [Young]…it was just phenomenal how they played.

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