Archive for the ‘ Psych ’ Category

PODCAST 29 Garage,Psych,Folk-Rock

I Will Go  - The Beau Brummels (1965)
You Gotta Run - The Roosters  (1966)
Song of a Gypsy – Damon (1969)
Invisible People - Hamilton Streetcar (1968)
Walkin’ ShoesThe Trolls (1964)
The Losing Game - The Five Americans (1966)
Thesis – The Penny Arkade (1968)
SwimThe Penny Arkade  (1968?)

Do I Love You - Powder (1968)
Wanting YouPaul Revere & the Raiders (1967)
Mother Nature – Father EarthThe Music Machine (1969)
Merry Go RoundReggie King (1969)
So Now You Know Who You Are - Peter Lindahl (1970?)
Think of the Good Times - The Stumps (with the Grodes)  (1967)
Secret Police - The Belfast Gypsies (1966)

Download: Podcast29.mp3
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Beachwood Sparks “The Tarnished Gold”

Tarnished Gold

Beachwood Sparks are one of the most accomplished country rock bands on the indie rock scene today.  Influenced by classic LA country rock styles rather than 90s alternative country, the group has been around since the late 1990s.  In The Tarnished Gold Beachwood Sparks have released perhaps their finest album to date, their masterpiece and a return to form (their last album came out 10 years before).

While there are a couple of throw away tracks (see the clumsy “No Queremos Oro”), the album as a whole is uniformly excellent – easily one of the finest country rock releases in the past 20 years.  ”Sparks Fly Again,” “Mollusk” and “Tarnished Gold” strongly recall the Byrds from their Younger Than Yesterday and Notorious Byrd Brothers albums, as they combine Bakersfield/LA style country with trippy guitar work.  ”Goodbye,” “Nature’s Light” and “Talk About Lonesome” find the group arriving at their own sound (indie folk, rock and country) and are more original than much of what’s here (even though what’s here is great).  ”Water From The Well” one of the album’s finest songs, sounds like a classic and should be as it’s a great folk rock cut with catchy guitar figures.

The sounds here are soft, laid back and sublime – none of this music rocks hard but it doesn’t matter because the quality of the songcraft here outshines the lack of rock n roll music.  Without doubt The Tarnished Gold is one of the finest folk/country/rock/indie albums of 2012.  It’s an important album for Beachwood Sparks in that it shows the group’s maturity as song writers and performers.  Let’s hope Beachwood Sparks continues to release records this good.

mp3: Mollusk
mp3: Water From The Well

:) Reissue | Subpop | 2012 | buy from amazon ]

Clear Light “Clear Light”

Clear Light

Clear Light was a folk-rock/psych-rock group from LA that released one LP off Elektra in 1967, famously known for including two drummers, one of them being Dallas Taylor of CSNY and Manassas fame. Paul Rothchild produced the LP, which explains why the recording sessions were fraught with tension and negativity. The group was masterminded by guitarist/vocalist Bob Seal, bass player Doug Lubahn, and lead vocalist Cliff De Young. Prior to Clear Light the band had been known as the Brain Train. Seal felt a name change was appropriate to coincide with the release of a newly recorded debut single, “Black Roses.” Seal decided on Clear Light, a concept he had come across in his readings of Eastern philosophy, a name also shared by a potent brand of LSD.

“Black Roses,” written by Wolfgang Dios, was released in September of 1967. It was a great hard charging folk-rock single with an acid tinged guitar solo that deserved to sell much better than it did. Black Roses appeared on the group’s only full length platter, released in late 1967. Many psych fans are divided when it comes to the Clear Light LP but I think it’s a good one. Maybe not a true classic on par with Love’s Forever Changes or Moby Grape’s debut but still a very good LP without any weak tracks. The band tries nearly everything within a 2 to 3 minute pop song context, loading the songs with good quirky ideas and great guitar solos (check out “Think Again”). Some tracks like “They Who Have Nothing” and the baroque “Ballad of Freddie & Larry” bear a strong Doors and Love influence, but this makes sense considering these were all Elektra groups. Other songs like the outstanding fuzz guitar psychedelia of “Sand” and the trippy “Night Sounds Loud” are more original and hinted at a strong future for the group. The former track features some great organ and spiraling acid guitar interplay. The album’s most famous track, a cover of Tom Paxton‘s “Mr. Blue,” sounds dated today with its spoken word dialogue, although, even this song is oddly appealing in its own way and definitely still considered a highlight.

Rothchild’s iron fist policy coupled with the lack of commercial success led to Clear Light’s demise, shortly after the release of this solid album. Not everyone will like this record because of its eccentric nature but it really is a crime that Clear Light was unable to release a followup to this debut. A very worthy release from a talented, accomplished California group.

mp3: Think Again
mp3: Sand

:) Vinyl Reissue | Sundazed | buy from sundazed ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Vogue | search @ ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download ]

Blo “Chapter One”

Chapter One

Blo (based out of Lagos) grew out of the Clusters, a popular late 60s group who made ends meet by covering Beatles and Stones tunes.  Before long people began refering to the Clusters as the “Nigerian Beatles” but the group also soaked up the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and local hero Fela Kuti.  To make a long story short things did not work out for the Clusters who included future Blo members Akintobi and guitarist/songwriter Berkley Jones.  In 1972 Blo made their Christmas debut at Lagos City Stadium and by all accounts blew supporting act Osibisa off stage.   Lagos City Stadium housed 10,000 vistors strong, all who were chanting “we want Blo” that day - a trio they had never seen before!

Press reports began describing Blo as Africa’s first real rock band. Following the explosive live performance at Lagos City EMI issued Chapter One in the summer of 73.  At the time nothing sounded quite like it.   The album is an extraordinary mixture of funky James Brown beats and spacey psychedelic guitar jams (check out the superb instrumental ”Miss Sagitt”).    Album opener “Preacherman” combines both these styles into something really far out and classic.  The spiraling acid guitar solos and shuffling drum work really stand out on this cut. Brilliant.  Every song is worth listening to multiple times but I’ll single out all 6 minutes of “Don’t” for it’s hazy, hypnotic vibe that’s similiar to early Can.

Sadly, Blo never really broke out of Nigeria despite having the look, superior chops, and an excellent batch of songs.

edit: Chapter One is now available on CD through Mr. Bongo (with a vinyl edition due by the end of this month). They’ve also posted the full album as a video playlist here.

mp3: Preacherman

:D CD Reissue | 2013 | Mr Bongo | buy here ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2013 | Mr Bongo | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Kalacakra “Crawling To Lhasa”

Crawling to Lhasa

This is perhaps one of the strangest and most underrated records to have emerged from the first wave of krautrock. 1972′s Crawling To Lhasa was the first and, ultimately, only set of recordings ever released by Kalacakra, the short-lived duo of Claus Rauschenbach and Heinz Martin, but where the band lacked in staying-power they more than made up for themselves in pure imagination. You would be hard-pressed to find much in the way of comparable material from this era in time.

Resting somewhere between the surreal communality of Amon Düül and the spooky grooves of Can, Crawling To Lhasa is a largely instrumental affair (even when vocals are featured, they are generally whispered, cackled or chanted to the point that they serve more as instruments than as any real vehicles of communication) exploring a sort of mysterious, stoned spiritualism hinted at by the record’s many allusions to Tibetan Buddhism. Songs meander, drift, or press on at indistinguishable points, and while this may seem to point to the record as simply being a collection of directionless jamming, the modus operandi serves the mood here in a way more elaborately crafted songs would fail to do.

All this talk about religion and mystery is not to say that this record lacks a sense of humor, however. My German is not very good, but judging by the amount of (admittedly eerie) laughter going on in the background to some of these songs, Martin and Rauschenbach definitely made it a point to enjoy these sessions – even when discussing such topics as the Black Plague in opener “Nearby Shiras.” Tempos are generally slow, though the electric Indian/medieval music hybrid “Raga Eleven” does up the energy a little with cymbal crashes and an alarmingly insistent tambourine. Though the record maintains an extremely constant atmosphere, the band is not afraid to explore several different facets of sound, from the rather beautiful, nine-minute acoustic guitar and flute meditation “September’s Full Moon” to the creeping blues pastiche “Tante Olga,” which keeps reminding me of some sort of cosmic, acoustic Endless Boogie jam session. Rauschenbach’s deranged vocal mantra and Martin’s nauseous electric guitar riff just keeping their cyclical choogling from driving me up the wall.

Garden of Delights reissued this album back in 2001 on compact disc, but unfortunately took it upon themselves to grace the end of this issue with two New Age synthesizer numbers from what must have been a reunion of sorts. Their vinyl issue makes the crime even worse: rather than tacked on at the end of the record where they can be easily ignored, these two additions are spread across both sides of the LP. Looks like you will either have to suffer through these two anomalies or look for one of the few rare original pressings of Lhasa before we can get a properly restored remaster from the band. Don’t let it dissuade you from hunting this number down, though. This is a real gem from the krautrock underground that anyone interested in the music deserves to hear.

 mp3: Nearby Shiras

:D Reissue | 2012 | Bacillus | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Flaviola e o Bando do Sol

Flaviola e o Bando do Sol

Interest in Brazil’s 1960s/1970s music scene is pretty much dominated by Tropicalia these days, but behind this popular front lay a bevy of fantastic psychedelic rock albums that don’t otherwise fit in with the kaleidoscopic coastal sounds of folks like Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa or Os Mutantes. One of these is the self-titled release by Flaviola e o Bando do Sol, an ethereal slice of psychedelic folk music put together by many of the same cats who made Lula Côrtes and Zé Ramalho’s Paêbirú such an enduring classic.

There is a lazy, mellow vibe to the proceedings here that really puts you in a midnight, beach campfire vibe, with jangling acoustic guitars and wispy flashes of percussion bedding Flaviola’s warm, reassuring vocals. Flute, dulcimer, and what sounds like a harp also make appearances here, as well as several other instruments that sound distinctly Brazilian, though I’ll be damned if I can name them. The rare, rapid-fire semi-electric number “Asas” and the catchy “Balalaica” are definitely the numbers to play to Tropicalia fans, featuring the record’s most energetic rhythms, with Flaviola and friends cheerily chanting out the title on the latter (whether or not the song actually makes use of a Russian balalaika I have no idea). Slower pieces like “Noite” and the autoharp punctuated “Canção de Outono” are more personal numbers, with sleepy sways to them and delicate finger picking.

The record is pretty short, at just under half an hour long, so I’ll keep the review short in turn. After all, this isn’t exactly an album that you can say very much about, as it’s more about the magic of hearing all these simple acoustic sounds come together – there is nothing shocking or avant-garde here, simply beautiful music that is bound to stick with you long after the needle’s been lifted. British-based reissue label Mister Bongo has done us all a favor by repressing this one on 180 gram vinyl, though if that’s not your thing (and it should be) then they also have copies on compact disc. Don’t miss this one.

mp3: Canto Fúnebre
mp3: Do Amigo

:) Reissue | 2012 | Mr. Bongo | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2012 | Mr. Bongo | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

 

Grateful Dead “Birth of the Dead”

birthofthedead

It’s no secret that the Grateful Dead jumped the shark many, many times during the course of their long career. In fact it’s pretty easy to dismiss the group outright as figureheads of the sixties counterculture’s gradual descent into hippie/yuppie oblivion, as their constituency dropped back into the mainstream American fold during the rather nihilistic, Cocaine-fueled post-Nam years and carried the band along with it. But behind the burden of all this history lies a remarkable early career that, while by no means providing the most extraordinary music of the times (our articles here should have made that one clear enough by now), managed to give us a good run of righteous records. Now Birth of the Dead, a relatively generous two-disc set released by Rhino Records back in 2001, adds another, perhaps even more exciting piece to the puzzle that is early Dead.

Split between studio and on-stage material, the material found on the former represent some of the band’s earliest forays into the recording studio, and the sounds they waxed during these sessions are a revelation. The band here is raw, frazzled and gnarly, still rooted in the blues and folk traditions they emerged from and free from any of the light funk fusion flavors that would come to tarnish their jams in the proceeding decade. The tempos here are fast, the guitars brittle and Pigpen’s Vox Continental dripping with garage cool. Had it come from any other group, “Mindbender” (possibly the crown jewel of the collection) and “Can’t Come Down” would be regarded as psychedelic folk-rock nuggets of the highest caliber. One almost wishes that some of the instrumental takes of these songs would be shuffled around the disc instead of being placed back-to-back with their masters, but the lack of vocals here help alleviate any repetition irritation. The most unusual cut on the first take is probably “Fire In the City,” in which the band is found backing jazz singer Jon Hendricks on a political number originally written for use in a mid-sixties documentary feature. The combination works much better than one might expect, with Hendricks letting his hair down a little beside Jerry Garcia’s piercing blues leads.

The live disc is a further joy, painted in surprisingly crisp sound quality and featuring a lengthy anthology of 1966 concert recordings apparently culled from a number of sources. Some of the usual suspects are to be found here, numbers which would follow the Dead onto their debut album such as “Viola Lee Blues” and “Sitting On Top of the World,” but these are backed with some rarely-heard material from the era, including a solid rendition of Dylan’s oft-covered “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and the traditional ballad “In the Pines.” The blues and R&B numbers in-between are all solid, if not particularly exhilarating, but are definitely worth their weight for hearing this band in its prime really cut loose. The seven-minute closing romp “Keep Rolling By” has some razor-sharp Garcia guitar action going – at times sounding more like fellow Bay Area pickers John Cippollina or Jorma Kaukonen than his own latter-day self – and a bevy of endearingly ragged group vocal shouting. Merry Prankster Dead like it should be.

So if you’ve never really given the band their due, put off by their mythological hokum and alarmingly obsessive legacy, give this set a shot and see where you end up. There’s a lot of great rock and roll to be found here, and it deserves to be taken on its own merit. And if you’re digging this and haven’t already jumped into the band’s self-titled debut (released a year after the material contained herein was recorded but born of many of the same impulses), maybe now you’ll have the proper context to digest that often underrated set.

mp3: Mindbender
mp3: One Kind Favor

:D CD Issue | 2001 | Rhino | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

El Congreso “El Congreso”

A pounding bass drum and a cyclical guitar riff slip into a swaying flute rhythm before exploding into a whirl of electricity and an explosive chorus. Calm, dynamic and controlled: thus does “Mastranzas de Noches,” a psychedelic garage-folk adaptation of a classic Pablo Neruda poem, manage to provide one of the most memorable opening hooks of any psychedelic record to emerge from Latin America. This 1971 debut by Chile’s Congreso is one of those rare, imperfect albums that somehow manages to hit a certain chord despite the noticeable flaws. A beautiful mix of jangling folk rock, cordillera accents and jazz touches, El Congreso would be a crate digger’s holy grail if there were even the slightest chance that this southern hemisphere obscurity might make it into the bins anywhere outside its own continent. All us extranjeros will probably have to rely on Record Runner’s excellent, Brazilian import-only reissue to tap into the sounds here, but don’t let the difficulty of acquisition deter you from exploring these grooves. This one is worth hunting down.

Despite El Congreso‘s relatively even conformity of sound, there are definitely some cuts that stand out a little higher than the rest. Emerging from the record’s heart, “Has Visto Caer Una Lágrima” and the heavy-battery “Mírate al Espejo” show the band at the peak of their artistic powers. The former affords us with an infectious melody and some radically grounded bass, which let the song’s incisive, obtusely-political lyrics seep in to full effect as we are confronted with “una bala de cristal, un cañón de turrón, o una bomba como un bombón” (“a bullet of crystal, a gun of nougat, or a bomb like candy”). “Espejo” shows of Fancisco Sazo’s soulful vocals and lets the band explode into what might be the record’s most impressive instrumental performance with pounding piano and dive-bombing lead guitar. This is immediately followed by the swaying anti-aggression of “Rompe Tu Espada, Vive La Vida” (“Break Your Sword and Live Your Life”), which is worthy of classic status in pretty much every sense of the word, commercially-hampered but artistically-graced by its ragged acoustics and a somewhat fevered production.

That rough-hewn construction is beautiful, but is also the product of one of the record’s flaws: the band is loose beyond all get-up, especially drummer Sergio González, whose uniquely constructed, tom-heavy runs occasionally fall out of time as the band pushes things outward. Usually this works, considering the nature of the material, but it is not enough to qualify the man for the stoned Pollockian drum solo that closes out the album’s longest cut: the otherwise funky eleven minute instrumental “A.A.R.” It’s a rather undignified way to lead us out of the swirling flute and fuzz guitar improvisation that precedes it, and would have been better off sacrificed for the inclusion of one of the two non-album cuts that close out the Record Runner reissue. The psychedelic, wah-pedal overdrive of “Nuestro Es El Momento” would have been the worthiest replacement, introducing some tasteful, sylvan flute and violin accents to what are perhaps the band’s most brilliantly claustrophobic moments.

All quibbles aside though, this one comes very highly recommended. Few records of any vintage manage to bring as much to the table as Congreso does here, and you’d be doing yourself a great disservice not to lend an ear to your South American brothers-in-arms. The band continues to perform around Chile (I managed to catch a show of theirs early last year at a political rally), albeit in a revamped lineup that veers dangerously close to middle-of-the-road jazz fusion. If you’ve given this one awhile to sink and are eager for more, I’d recommend turning to 1975′s Tierra Incognita or 1977′s similarly self-titled Congreso, which, while polishing up the band’s sound, maintain most of the fundamental elements that make these earliest recordings such a distinct pleasure.

mp3: Maestranzas de Noche
mp3: Rompe Tu Espada, vive la vida

:D Reissue | Record Runner | buy here ]
:) Original | 1971 | Odeon | search ebay ]

Flower Travellin’ Band “Make Up”

In the wake of their rather extraordinary, barnstormer of a classic, Satori, the Flower Traveling Band stepped up to the bar and managed to pull off that all-too-rare of feats, an artistically successful follow-up. While not quite the record that Satori had been, Made In Japan managed to establish the Band as a force to be reckoned with, and hinted at a long and illustrious career to come. Something seems to have gone a little haywire in-between the time that third record hit shelves and the compilation of what would come to be the group’s fourth, and final, release: 1973′s studio/live double-record set, Make Up. The Traveling Band had shed off a good percentage of the psychedelia that had marked their most legendary work, and instead developed themselves into a progressive, hard rock band, in tune with the sound of the era.

So what does all this have to say about Make Up? Well, despite the odds being against it, the record is a solid work, with some memorable material and at least a few gems. Most of it is something of a grab bag, veering back and forth between hard rock bluster and rather sentimental balladry. “All the Days” is one of the record’s heavier, most typical Traveling Band numbers, with a gnarly guitar solo and a rather schizoid bass line. The following “Look  At My Window” is a ten minute cut of acoustic prog that makes it clear that the band wasn’t planning on resting on their laurels, as marked by some great vocal harmonies. “The Shadow of Lost Days” is hundred-proof blues, and a showcase of sorts for Joe Yamanaka’s soulful wail. The more unusual cuts to be found here include a twenty-three minute work-out on Made In Japan‘s “Hiroshima,” half of which is unfortunately taken up by a ridiculously overextended drum solo, and a laughable riff on “Blue Suede Shoes” featuring the band’s manager on lead vocals that never should have happened in the first place, much less have been recorded for all of posterity. If it weren’t for a roaring live take of Satori‘s legendary second movement and the soaring, atmospheric acoustic closing number, “After the Concert,” the second record might be considered pure filler, but as it is these last two tracks almost makes it worth sitting through the preceding half hour of hits-and-misses.

Make Up may not be the place to start with the Flower Traveling Band’s catalog, but if you have already dug the majestic freak-outs of Satori, then you could do a lot worse than picking this collection up as well. The band would not release another record until 2008′s rather dismal reunion album We Are Here, making this the end of the line for one of Japan’s most highly-regarded psychedelic exports. The two-disc set has most recently been reissued by Phoenix Records, and while their set commands a rather high, double-CD price new, you can score a copy second-hand for far less.

mp3: Look At My Window

:D Reissue | 2011 | Phoenix | buy here ]
:) Original | 1973 | Atlantic | search ebay ]

H.P. Lovecraft “H.P. Lovecraft II”

There are some bands that maintain classic status to a certain informed percentage of listeners despite almost complete anonymity elsewhere. Chicago folk-rockers H.P. Lovecraft may never have made much of a musical impact on the 1960s/1970s psychedelic rock scene, but they did manage to lay down two extraordinarily cosmic records of west coast rockers that rank up with the best the era had to offer. Their self-titled debut, released on Philips in 1967, set the scene: tight rhythm section, spaced-out guitars, whirling organ, and wide-screen vocal harmonies. Though they took their name from Edgar Allen Poe’s most worthy of successors, the mind-warping writer H.P. Lovecraft, their music itself leaned far closer to the wired, black-light anthems of bands like Jefferson Airplane and Mad River than anything overtly Gothic.

By the time that H.P. Lovecraft II hit shelves, the band had undergone a series of personnel changes and a timely relocation to Los Angeles. Though the material was immediately recognizable as being that of the same band, the jams were tighter and just that much more surreal, with a greater emphasis on experimental keyboard work (as well as a heavy new dose of reverb and tape delay). It was a clear distillation of all that the first album had promised, a kaleidoscopic refraction of the folk influences that weighed so heavily in the band’s choice of material and a closer embrasure of the spectral edge to their sound. Even when the band was not drawing inspiration directly from their namesake’s work, as in the frenetic “At the Mountains of Madness,” there was a weird edge to their lyrics that was hard to ignore. Cuts like “Electrollentando” and “Möbius Trip” were some of the most memorable compositions the band had conjured: floating, meditational heirs to the preceding album’s centerpiece, “The White Ship,” which had been the closest that Lovecraft had ever come to a charting single. Momentary detours here come in the form of the medieval folk pastiche “Blue Jack of Diamonds” – which, while not one of the group’s finest moments, manages to survive on a twist of charm and a benignly pleasant melody – and the brief-but-bizarre affected vocal collage of “Nothing’s Boy.”

After releasing H.P. Lovecraft II, the band would find itself disintegrating at the height of its powers due to band member disillusionment and differing ambitions. A false reincarnation of the band (under the abbreviated monicker Lovecraft) would release a mild slab of country rock a couple years down the line, but for a more authentic “lost third album” one should turn to the live Fillmore West recording released on compact disc in the mid nineties. Here the band’s talents shine brighter than ever as their instrumental prowess is unleashed from the restrictions of the studio. Really, though, any additions to Lovecraft’s limited catalog are welcome. If you don’t have of of this band’s recordings, do yourself a favor and remedy the situation: these are a few slabs of wax that no collection should be without.

mp3: It’s About Time
mp3: At the Mountains of Madness

:) Original | 1968 | Philips | search ebay ]
;) Download | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]