Aorta was a highly talented rock band from Rockford, IL that released two albums throughout 1969 and 1970. The band was originally known as the Exceptions, a popular soul rock group that played around the Chicago area and released a handful of singles. It’s interesting to note that the Exceptions had at one time included future members of H.P. Lovecraft (another great Chicago psych band), the New Colony Six, Chicago, The Buckinghams, and Illinois Speed Press. The Exceptions eventually morphed into Aorta when band members felt a more progressive direction was needed.
In 1969 Columbia released this startling record which was a mix of psychedelia, soul, jazz, folk, and rock. The album was housed in a beautiful, graphic sleeve that has always overshadowed the great music from within. Musically speaking, Aorta’s sound comes close to Boston band Listening or even the more psychedelic aspects of early Blood, Sweat and Tears during its Al Kooper phase. There seems to be some kind of concept that reoccurs under the Mein Vein theme. Aorta is solid throughout though, featuring strong musicianship, inventive studio wizardry, superb songs with a healthy dose of fuzz guitar and wonderful string and horn arrangements.
Some songs like Heart Attack and Ode To Missy Mxyzosptlk have lots of organ and are very early stabs at what would later be coined progressive rock. Ode to Missy has some intense guitar solos and a great studio psych out ending that will put your stereo speakers on overdrive. A personal favorite is the more restrained Sprinkle Road to Cork Street, which is a dramatic folk-rock track with horns and a beautiful medieval-like intro. Trippier tracks like the spooky Catalyptic with its ethereal, acid church organ work extremely well too and make it clear that these guys could play any style of music well. What’s In My Mind’s Eye is a great lost piece of psychedelic pop that has really cool disembodied vocals and a prominent horn arrangement.
Aorta may seem grandiose and even downright indulgent at times but make no mistake this really is a great lost record. Vinyl originals are easy to come by and sell relatively cheap on Ebay as Aorta was a very popular local band. Both albums have even been reissued on CD a few years back and more recently as a digital download. Conclusion: definitely pick this great album up if you’re looking for some far out, wild psychedelia with a hint of early progressive rock.
“What’s In My Minds Eye”