Schibbinz was an Argentinean rock quartet group that produced one LP in 1968. Comprising three Americans and one Carlos ‘Payo’ Giraudo — the 15-year-old vocalist, guitarist and guiding creative force of the group — their sole recording, Livin’ Free, was distributed to friends and family. It quickly became so scarce that this reissue is not produced from the original master tapes, which have been lost, but is instead sourced from a pristine original copy of the record. Breathlessly exuberant press releases notwithstanding, the music on Livin’ Free truly is something special.
The title track begins with a jangly guitar line and blast of drums that would sound right at home on a tune by Real Estate. “In Sunshine and in Shadow” is an original that would stack up against the best efforts of early Byrds; a moody, lightly psychedelic garage-folk missive. Perhaps it’s the rudimentary single-microphone, one-take recording process, but “Go Softly Now” is exactly the kind of low-key bedroom-pop gem, replete with hiss and wood-block percussion, that would cause quite a stir in the current MP3 blog scene.
All the members of Schibbinz except one were 15 at the time of recording (guitarist Mike McNernety was an elderly 17), and the unforced naiveté that permeates the records is one of Livin’ Free’s greatest charms. This quality is particularly apparent on the record’s cover songs, including a haunting take on The Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane” and a rollicking, bass-heavy version of perennial surf instrumental “Ghost Riders In The Sky.” The CD reissue tacks on three bonus tracks, including a rousing, primitive version of “Gloria,” that is a genuinely fresh take on this done to death ’60s R&B classic.
The Livin’ Free record proper goes out on a strong note with the one-two punch of “If I Belong Here,” an understated two-minute number with gorgeous harmonies and an expert jangly guitar line, and “December Winter,” an ode to the South American summer and poet Robert Frost with a plaintive vocal by Payo that reverberates far beyond his young age. Livin’ Free is not just a record-collector-dream recording, seemingly out of time but grounded in classic song craft; it is also a reminder that for decades young people have approached rock music in an effort to transcend time and space, and create something lasting and sincere.