The 13th Floor Elevators “Bull of the Woods”

Bull Of The Woods (an International Artists release) is the Elevators most controversial offering.  Some fans claim it’s their best LP but many, myself included, feel Psychedelic Sounds and Easter Everywhere are the group’s finest discs.  Frequent personnel changes, drug busts and Roky Erickson’s fragile state had destroyed the original core of Sutherland, Hall and Erickson.  Stacy Sutherland was the only original member left by 1968 and he made a game effort by putting together some newly recorded “solo” tracks with older, stray Elevator tunes that were cut during the previous year.

The Sutherland solo cuts on Bull Of The Woods are a mellow mixture of blues, roots and psych – totally different than Erickson’s feral, howling rockers.  The best of these cuts are the psychedelic “Rose And Thorn,” the spacey, heavy echoplex guitar work of “Street Song,” and the rootsy blues jam “Down At The River.” Erickson sings lead on four tracks: “Dear Doctor,” which was supposedly written as a response to a Bob Dylan number, a powerful blues rocker titled “Livin’ On,” the demented acid psych of “Never Another” (a superb psych track) and finally, Erickson’s acid damaged goodbye, “May The Circle Remain Unbroken.”   This last cut is loaded with reverb and bears striking similarities (in concept) to the final contributions of Syd Barrett (“Jugband Blues”) and Skip Spence (“Seeing”).

Overall, Bull Of The Woods is a very good album that’s worth owning – you are buying this album for the Erickson tracks.   Not recommended to casual psych or 60’s rock fans but essential listening for the Elevator enthusiast.

The excellent Sign of The 3 Eyed Men box set offers an alternative third album in the form of A Love That’s Sound (presented as a lost album of sorts).  The tracks that make up this disc are the original group’s final sessions (with Erickson and Hall in tow) and include many of the songs that made up the bulk of the Bull Of The Woods album. There are a few outtakes that never made Bull Of The Woods, such as the excellent, hard charging psychedelic rocker “It’s You” (also known as “I Don’t Ever Want To Come Down”).  Also, some of the cuts on A Love That’s Sound do not have the horn overdubs that appeared on the original Bull Of The Woods LP.

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“Rose And The Thorn”

:) Original | 1969 | International Artists | search ebay ]
:D Reissue |  2007 | Spalax | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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  • I’d forgotten but I was listening to this the other day (pondering whether or not I should buy the Music of the Spheres boxed set on Charly) and I realised Jason Pierce totally nicked that bubbling bass bit from Rose and the Thorn for I Think I’m Falling in Love. I love the 13th Floor Elevators but still haven’t reached a decision on the boxed set.

  • Such a great album. “May The Circle Remain Unbroken” still sounds fresh and original. Great review.

  • mark

    I knew that eventually I would come around to this album… it was only a matter of time. Four months ago, I purchased “The Albums Collection” – their “four” original albums on International Artists label (including the cobbled together sham-live album). This group fascinates me with their approach to making music and their dedicated search for a transcendent-psychedelic revelation. A few thoughts come to my mind after listening to all four of these albums many times over these last four months: first, their record company had no idea how to produce and engineer their sound. (When you listen to early Love, the sound is much clearer, for example). Secondly, they needed a “Brian Epstein” figure to guide and maintain their development and to mediate between their quest for an inner experience that was translatable to a projected sound and the outside world. Third, in spite of any faults that we might find with these four albums, they remain testimonies to a certain chemistry between Hall, Erickson, and Sutherland even Bull of the Woods.
    I enjoy the fragmented character of this album… the contrast between the two (Sutherland and Erickson) makes the album somewhat easier to listen to. And I completely agree with your review above: Livin On is a remarkable song as is Never Another, but also Stacy’s contributions should not be overlooked. Rose and Thorn is a rich aural fabric that seems to draw me deeper into its sound with each listen. In fact, there is not a weak song on the album. The graphics on the cover, however, are miserable!
    One last thought:
    All groups are actually a complex tangle of tensions and forces, not a stable “line-up” that will produce predictable music. It is this combination of group-collaboration and tension / internal stress that contributes to the artistic process. Hall, Erickson and Sutherland challenged each other, believed in each other, demanded from each other… each saw with another pair of eyes (three?!) and brought their particular perceptions and thoughts to bear in the performance and production of their music.
    Incidentally, has anyone read their biography?
    And who ever the elevators were, when I spin these disks, they still are. Thank you again for the thoughtful review.

  • KoolAid

    A good album, no doubt. But in my humble opinion, the best Elevators album is and always will be “Easter Everywhere”.

  • Melissa

    Fantastic album and highly underrated. Psychedelic Sounds, Easter Everywhere, and Bull of the Woods are all very different from each other. Psychedelic Sounds had their roots with rockin’ psychedelic where Easter was pure psychedelic gold and Bull of the Woods is pure rockin with psychedelic tendencies. It really depends on what mood your in for what album to play. I’ll take any of them at any time and anywhere.

  • Yeah, their best is “Easter Everywhere”, but the fragmented and trippy atmosphere mixed in with some bluesy and country tendencies of this one is great also.

  • enrico

    does not matter what album is best.. they are all different and representative of theyr moment.. well sort of. IA screwed song list on first one and promoted the band in a bad way.. not sure about royalties. elektra approached em at some time.. I think bull of the woods is brilliant, of course the psych sound is the manifesto as originally structured as a concept album

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