REVIEWS #1 - 10




Note: Some of the reviewed titles have not been reissued, while others are out of print. The availability stated reflects the status at the time of writing.

(Review #1)

DAMON: Gypsy Eyes (CD Daily Bread US 1999)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Sounds best on: Opium, Expensive wine

Info and/or Purchase from:

After being located a couple of years back and being informed that his 1969 LP "Song Of a Gypsy" traded hands for $3500 on the collector geek market, David del Conte aka Damon has delighted his 200 fanatic fans with appearances at record conventions and a legal CD reissue of his claim to fame (see review #2). Then when rumors of brand new recordings surfaced the enthusiasm gave way to a certain uneasiness among elder acidheads, unable to shake terrifying memories of Moby Grape & Bent Wind "reunions", not to mention burnout 1980s hippie anthems & John Lennon tributes by Gandalf The Grey, Faine Jade et al. So despite some excited third party ramblings it is with a certain steel-faced nonchalance this spanking new artefact, housed in a rather cheesy drawing of a gypsy girl's eyes, gets plopped onto the CD tray.

But the 1999 Damon hits you right away, right between the eyes and into dark regions of the cortex where old psychedelia is perpetually spinning. The soundscape is almost identical to the 1969 instalment, floating acid fuzz licks on top of Arabian rhythms, and on top of that Signore D:s deep mysterious voice, part crooner part head. His songwriting skills are amazingly intact, moody chords shifting back & forth with each syllable perfectly matching the underlying melodic structure. To cap it off, the track sequencing matches the first LP with an admirable sense of continuity, kicking off with a program declaration and ending with half-spoken wisdom from the gypsy annals, taking the listener through all kinds of changes & situations inbetween. Especially the 2nd track is an awesome trance journey from the halls of psychedelic perfection.

In relation to "Song of a Gypsy" an anally retentive nitpicker may argue that the songs here are longer for no particular reason, and that his voice occasionally takes one step too many on the red velvet carpet of loungism, but that's just bread crumbs fallen from the table of this musical feast, and may in fact turn out to be limited comprehension from the listeners side.

Spring 2007 update: Damon is currently working on an updated version of "Gypsy Eyes", to be released on vinyl. Stay tuned.

(Review #2)

DAMON: Song Of a Gypsy (reissue CD Daily Bread US 1998)

Rating: 9 out of 10

Sounds best on: Opium, Dawamesk, LSD

Info and/or Purchase from:

For the full beginner's guide to Damon you're gonna have to look elsewhere, as I'm gonna play the elitist and assume you're already familiar with this LP. It's certainly a weird world where a local 1969 100-press of introspective California drug music 30 years later resurfaces as a household name but then weird is what psychedelia is all about. Four different reissues during the 1990s should give you an indication of the sheer heaviness of Damon's vision, and apart from a few narrow-minded guitarrock fans, everyone in the "scene" (=acidheads turned record collectors) agrees that this is one of the Big Ones, perhaps even the Real Biggie.

The first reissue, a vinyl press single sleeve issue of 400, came courtesy of Phillipe C back in '94 or so, followed shortly by a CD issue from the same tapes with an approximate reproduction of the gatefold. Recently came a deluxe legal German vinyl issue with faithful textured gatefold sleeve, overbearing liner notes from Clark Faville and a bonus 45 with great non-LP material. And finally Damon/David del Conte himself has put the whole thing out on CD with the single sleeve design. All four reissues sound good but the two recent ones are from the master tapes and therefore have an edge, apart from the obvious benefit of putting green into Damon's own wallet rather than the numbered Swiss bank account of some European record collector.

But why only a '9', you ask. Weeeellll, "Funky funky blues" just doesn't do it for me, no matter how many times I hear it. Apart from that, this LP is flawless.

(Review #3)

JAKE HOLMES: The Above Ground Sound (Tower US 1967)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Sounds best on: 50s-style roach

Info at:

Availability: No reissues yet

Since both Vernon Joynson and Ron Moore omitted Jake Holmes in their tomes, I'll try to set the record straight. Originally one of a zillion talented young Village troubadors caught in the shadow of the three Tims, J H got his break in 1967 in the unlikely form of LA-based teen-beat peddlers Tower. Stranger still they gave him free reins, limiting their commercializing to the very clever "underground" inversion of the title. The whole thing was packed in a nice period-style sleeve and shipped to unsuspecting consumers.

Holmes was no wimpy Simon & Garfunkel bi-product however, something this undeservedly obscure debut proves. Now, before getting into the full trip, here's the question you've all been asking: Yes, "Dazed & Confused" is on board, and yes, it sounds almost exactly like the Led Zep version; only Jimmy Page's hard rock riff and a few Keith Relf lyric alterations set them apart. Page has claimed in recent interviews that he hasn't heard the original and only knows it from Relf, but ex-Yardbird Jim McCarty says otherwise: "We played with Jake Holmes in New York and I was struck by the atmosphere of 'Dazed and Confused'. I went down to Greenwich Village and bought his album and we decided to do a version. We worked it out together with Jimmy contributing the guitar riffs in the middle." (read more at What Jimbo M doesn't tell you is that Holmes' original is much better than Zep's "classic", with a doomy intense atmosphere fuelled by his world-weary, un-Plantesque vocals, and a killer acid fuzz break. It is the centrepiece of the LP, but around it revolves several more reasons why Page chose to mortgage his Crowley castle to settle out of court.

The opening track "Lonely" kicks in with breakneck guitar strumming while Jake raps on most poignantly in NYC street fashion, after which guitars of all shapes and colors enter the soundscape. Introspective folky soulsearchers & everyday light-jazz observations follow suit, all nicely highbrow and confident, a few strands of coffee house masturbation redeemed by Jakeys unusually atmospheric voice, which sounds not unlike DEEP-era Rusty Evans. The 45 pick "Genuine Imitation Life" is especially good, a fact that didn't escape the eagle eye of Frankie Valli who based a bizarre Four Seasons 1968 Sgt Pepperish LP extravaganza around it. The two garage acid excursions are the best, however. All over a really good LP, had it been on Elektra Holmes would've been running neck to neck with Tim Buckley.


(Review #4)

JAKE HOLMES: A Letter to Katherine December (Tower US 1968)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Sounds best on: Absinthe spiked with a few drops of LSD

Info at:

Availability: No reissues yet

After the non-success of his debut, the record execs must've had a collective cow when Jake Holmes strolled into the office with the tapes for this follow-up LP under his arm. Indeed, one wonders what kind of secret Hoover files Holmes held on the Tower guys, who previously had recorded entire Chocolate Watchband LP sides with session men, but allowed Holmes complete artistic freedom and strange, uncommercial 45 picks to boot.

Again, the front sleeve is very nice-looking and what you might expect from a would-be Tim Hardin, but over on the back a reference to Poulenc amidst fluffy poetry should set alarm buzzers ringing. Drop the vinyl on the turntable and... yes, Mr Holmes has decided to do a Zappa, get serious, and create like, satire, you know. So what you get is acute observations on topics like "High School Hero" and "Saturday Night" set to music which sounds like what you'd expect to hear at a Paris art gallery in 1915. I shit you not; this is early modernist classical with Chuck Berry lyrics. Whew! Except with Chuck B you never got the vibes of a bitter outsider getting back at jocks & bullies from the elevated position of the Artist, which is what Jake delivers. After the triumphant 'He didn't graduate!' that concludes "High School Hero" you can almost see the ugly smile on Holmes face, like if the Cheshire Cat had paid a visit. Despite the freak value this stuff essentially sucks, proving the once-promising J H guilty on charges of taking too little acid and falling in love with his own ideas.

But like a suede-clad James Bond he then finds salvation at the very brink of death, opening side 2 with what is not only the high-point of the LP but of his entire career, or anyone's career (we're talking Scorpio Tube levels here); viz, the extended LSD-drenched showstopper titled "Leaves Never Break". Some may know this from the "Growing Slowly Insane" CD compilation and can proceed right to the end of this review, those that still remain should consider the prospects of a 2nd bardo merger between C A Quintet and the Deep at the operating table. The celebrated "Dazed & Confused" seems a mere sketch for this desperate slab of torment, as Jakey mutters and yells about the disintegration of his mind while evil dual fuzz guitars impatiently lurk in the wings. Surely a dispatch from the lands of utmost psychedelia, this track almost - but only almost - makes the LP. You owe it to yourself to hear it, anyhow.

Holmes would release a couple of more LPs on Polydor and CBS, and compose an entire LPs worth of material for Frank Sinatra in 1969 (true). Jake's mid-60s NYC band-colleague Tim Rose concludes our saga: "Jake Holmes did all right. He's been voted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame - he's the top commercial jingle writer in New York City and has been for the past twenty years, so he did OK."

(Review #5)

13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS: Easter Everywhere (MONO reissue no label US? 1999)

Rating:   9 out of 10 (Mono)

10 out of 10 (Stereo)

Sounds best on: LSD, dude

Info at: Roky Erickson official website

Availability: Out of print, alas

As hinted at in my Elevators Reference File, the elusive mono "Easter Everywhere" has been a Holy Graal for jug-heads since the dawn of time, with white label promo copies pulling in $400 while blue label official issues have remained hearsay of rumors of a Vg- copy mentioned in the backroom at the Austin record convention. Now someone out there in bootleg-land decided to do the world a favor with this nice-looking counterfeit, original label and all, though I have to object to the very 1985-ish glossy texture of the colorwise authentic gold sleeve. No lyric sheet, naturally.

Now "mono" was something they had before they invented "stereo", OK kids? During a brief period albums would appear in both formats, and as it happens this period coincided with the early stages of the golden era of psychedelia, which means that a lot of really good albums exist in both mono & stereo. And often there's a huge difference, not only because of the basic aural improvement (most would think) of two channels over one, but also cause clever people realized that you had to remix the schmaltz you'd laid down in stereo before entering mono-land. Check out Goldmine or some dorky hi fi enthusiast mag for the full tech crap and ghastly tales of rechanneled stereo and what have you, meanwhile I'll suggest that a lot of acidheads still fail to grasp the significance of these alternate mixes, which can make familiar LPs sound brand new and alien. "Blonde on Blonde" is one famous example, and there's cases ranging from the Deep to Pink Floyd to July all within the narrow frame of psychedelia. Sometimes the mono mix sounds better, sometimes not.

The Elevators' debut LP "Psychedelic Sounds" is a case of mono clearly having the upper hand. So too, has it been suggested, is "Easter Everywhere". Rather than making some broad lazy-ass rock critic style statements on how the "general vibe" changes, I'll take the full consequences of a gaping hole left in the first edition of my book and do a track-by-track rundown of the mono vs stereo "Easter", which is far less painful than it may appear.

SLIP INSIDE THIS HOUSE - This 8-minute encounter with a higher intelligence certainly left little room for improvement in its stereo incarnation, and I can't say the mono mix adds anything. The enchanting, mystical air is somewhat lost with the loss of rich layers of reverb, and with headphones on it's clear why stereo was considered such a significant upgrade. Roky's vocals stand clearly at the forefront, but this cannot balance the stripped down, way more traditional nature of the mono soundscape, which reveals much more of the melodic skeleton and even suggests monotonousness at times. Though the mix is less elaborate than some others on the LP, stereo wins this first round hands down. SLIDE MACHINE - Much of the same applies on Powell St John's great track, though the mono mix has a strong identity of its own. The layers of acoustic guitars and lyrical guitar figures that were beautifully woven into the stereo mix have been pushed back, removing the psychedelic layers of the production and revealing a rawer, more basic structure. I prefer stereo. SHE LIVES IN A TIME OF HER OWN - Different from the mono 45 mix, with rhythm gtr lower while other instruments have been brought up, giving the fuller mono LP variety a definite edge. Roky´s doubletracked lead vocals have been mixed down into one channel, producing an odd effect. However, neither of these versions can match the awesome stereo LP mix which is one of the best jobs of the entire LP. Hearing it on headphones I discovered that even the fucking jug is doubletracked and channel separated. As psychedelic as it gets! Stereo wins again. NOBODY TO LOVE - What works against the mono mix elsewhere is possibly an advantage on this Stacy track, as his lowkey introvert vocals tend to drown in the stereo mix, making his great lament seem a bit undistinguished at first. In mono the vocals are clearer and more central in the soundscape, now at the expense of acoustic rhythm and what sounds like congas (check it out), which are almost completely lost in mono. This track fits better on the mono LP, and some may prefer this mix all over, though not me. BABY BLUE - The Elevators went for mood and jams on this one and the psychedelic mixing board wizardry was not a key point when laying down the finishing touch. Therefore the difference between stereo and mono is less pronounced and most notable in the loss of an acoustic rhythm guitar (again) and the general depth of the soundscape... the stereo version sounds better.

EARTHQUAKE - side two opens with a celebration of physical love that was given an intense, close-sounding stereo mix appropriate to the subject matter. As an effect the distance between stereo and mono isn't that huge and while I again prefer the wider sound of stereo, the mono version could have its' advocates. Stacy's "earthquake" fuzz guitar may have a slight edge in the mono mix. DUST - No contest. The stereo mix is way beyond the pale, narrow sound in mono. However, the official stereo mix pales in turn next to the unofficial alternate stereo mix available on a couple of bootlegs (see my book), which is a few precious minutes in the presence of the ultimate godhead. Dig it out, crank it up and ask yourself how a bunch of Texas kids barely out of their teens could create a statement of such intense beauty and knowledge. LEVITATION - As with "She Lives", this John Ike-era recording offers three official versions to consider. I championed the mono 45 mix in my book, but am pleased to inform that this mono LP mix is even better; retaining the awesome drive of the 45 sound - best defined by Stacy's recurring rock'n'roll riff - while adding the full bottom bass, drums and jug from the stereo LP mix, which when separated from the entire LP actually is the least brilliant in the trinity. Mono wins this round, but try to dig up all three versions for an instructive lesson in mixing board philosophy. I HAD TO TELL YOU - Same objection as on "Dust" though on a lesser scale. The harmonica that wails lyrically far away in the right stereo channel is loud and upfront in mono, projecting a '64-era Dylan sound at times. Also, the blending of Roky´s and Clementine's vocals work better in stereo. POSTURES - As with "Baby Blue", the edge of the stereo version essentially derives from the basic difference between one channel and two; the former sounds somewhat dry and stiff compared to the sensual flow and groove of the latter, even though no specific remixing can be detected. Love this track, which is unique in the Elevators catalog. Dan Galindo digs it too!

CONCLUSION: Hearing this LP in mono makes you realize how much of the "Easter Everywhere" magic that actually resides in the production and mixing phases, with Tommy's advanced theories on music and psychedelic sound skillfully applied. The average psych fan can be content with the stereo version, while really fried Elevator heads ought to dig up this mono issue and add a couple of more fine points to the understanding of the eye-pyramid enigma.


(Review #6)

SPIFFYS: Spiffys (no label US 1967)

Rating: 5 out of 10

Sounds best on: A tall cool one

Info at:

Availability: Uh, eBay now and then. No reissue.

Military school rock'n'roll bands occupy a special niche among local 60s garage LPs. Only a handful such items have been found, among which the US Naval Academy's pride the Spiffys occupy an elevated position, being alone to lay down not one but two snazzy-looking LPs between social functions and nightly Code Red sleeping barrack raids. Prep rock fans will reckognize Uncle Sam's r'n'r deal, wherein an "official" academy rock group has musically inclined recruits pass through its ranks, creating entirely revamped line-ups every three years or so, and executing every known form of dance and pop music in the process.

The Spiffys name had been going a good ten years before someone decided a vinyl imprint of their artistic vision was in order. A decent budget was apparently allocated, as the sleeve job is one of the most impressive ever on this type of LP, a blue-filter photo of euphoric cadets throwing their sailor caps in the air combined with great gold & silver graphics. There's even a photo of the musicians - drawn from classes '67-'70 - on the back. As for the music, one should bear in mind that these are Annapolis, Maryland boys, which means that there's gonna be a beach music (look it up) influence. This blue-eyed soul bastardization tends to sound better at a Myrtle Beach club after several jugs of beer than in the privacy of your hi-fi room, and the optimistic, lightly brassed tacklings of Memphis Stax/Atlantic material offered by the Spiffys are no exception. Beige-toned Motown and Limey Invasion stuff like "Satisfaction" and all soldier boys' special favorite "Gloria" fare better, as do a few early-60s type ballads of unknown origin.

Saving the best for the last, there's an excellent "Walk Away Renee" where Mike Brown's suave baroque wizardry is replaced by genuinely heartfelt teenage woes. Well, aren't there any group originals, you ask? Sure there is, but never more than one, and true to form it is the highlight of the LP. "No Pain" is a great uptempo number in the garage-soul mold (less scary than it sounds), well-played and well-sung archetypal local pre-hippie garage band fodder. All over, the Spiffys debut is a mid-level artefact sliding neatly between the more famous preprock and Justice label scenes.


(Review #7)

SPIFFYS: Spiffys '68 (no label US 1968)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Sounds best on: Another tall cool one, plus one tiny joint split five-ways

Info at:

Availability: eBay now and then. No reissue.

With a couple of members graduated and shipped off to the exotic beach resorts in Vietnam, the Spiffys phased in some freshmen cadets and decided to really get with the changing times. Unfortunately, they didn't lose the ambitious senior member - possibly the guy credited as "band leader" on the sleeve - who enjoyed his soul music so much that he insisted the leadoff spot on "Spiffys '68" belonged to his incredibly bad reading of "Testify". You're not gonna believe the vocal job here, which has all the subtlety and precision of a drunken sailor yelling insults to a barman having thrown him into the street. Too bad, as the Spiffsters otherwise are pretty much on a roll on this 2nd LP, losing the brass and doing numbers better suited to their whitebread constitution; in some cases even surpassing the originals.

First of all there´s two Buckinghams numbers, which may not send shivers down most spines but sound fine like wine to someone who's already rotted away most of his brain on deep analysis of the Justice LP catalog. Then two staples of the burgeoning FM rock scene get the Spiffy treatment, namely "Light My Fire" - long version, mind you - and "Whiter Shade Of Pale". And they both rule! The Doors hit is given a loose, almost jazzy reading, substituting the uptight LA studio sheet music with a hopeful Bay Area ballroom trip, complete with Pigpen-ish organ and Garcia-esque guitar plonking. Just as enjoyable is their deconstruction of Procol Harum's pseudo-Bach meets pseudo-Dylan "classic", which strips away the intellectual polish to reveal the song for what it ultimately is: a 1961 last dance type tune, perfectly suited for Dion or Little Anthony & the Imperials. As fun, though completely different, as Smokin' Willie's insane biker treatment a few years later. "Spooky" is on board too, a strong atmospheric version rivalling the original and reminding you what a great song it is.

The Spiffys then reach an ultimate peak in the form of "Dreams", a marvellous group original capturing the magic of '67-era Byrds or the first Reprise LP by West Coast Pop Art. Someone wisely put this track on the Oil Stains compilation way back if you want a sample. Unfortunately the joke is turned once again on the listener, as this impressive string of songs is followed by a bad version of the always awful "99½". Why do garage bands play these crappy soul tunes? Neither a decent closing version of "The Letter" or the once-again excellent navy blue/gold (midshipmen gang colors) sleeve design can make amends for these two sweaty soul poopers. An almost great LP courtesy of 5 rockin' crewcuts in gala uniforms.

(Review #8)

JOHN YLVISAKER: Cool Livin' (Avant Garde US 1967)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Sounds best on: Two tabs of acid downed with communion wine

Info at:

Availability: Partial reissue is long OOP. Originals aren't terribly pricey.

With the recent advent of the "Archivist" collector guide and the "Holy Fuzz" compilation the pagan world may be prepared to discover what a handful of open-minded collectors already know, namely that the seemingly unhip field of 1960s-70s Christian psychrock contains some of the greatest records ever made. I'm not gonna tally that amazingly heavy roster here - see the aforementioned book for that - but ask you to simply take my Word for it.

Before boarding the X-ian (dealer spelling to make it seem cooler) Ark one should bear in mind the genre's original visionaries, a decent churchgoing couple who cut fully realized integrations of swinging folkrock with verbatim Luke & Matthew lyrics at a time when secular rock groups were still debating the prospect of going 12-string. I'm talking, of course, about Mr John Ylvisaker and his lovely wife Amanda. Though I'm kinda low infowise on the Ylvises it seems they came out of Minnesota, and from that Gomorrah-ish vantage point spread the Logos across the Nation - at least that's what the liner notes to this debut LP indicates. John writes the songs, sings and plays guitar while Amanda plays keyboards and Strawberry AC-ish flute and session pros provide the rhythm section.

To prepare yourself for the full Ylvisaker experience, contemplate the idea of Elvis ditching his mid-60s Hollywood crap and reinventing himself as a TV evangelist, then recruting P F Sloan and Curt Boettcher to provide songs in a Greenwich Village-meets-Southern-sermonizing style. And no clichéd comments about dorky Christians please, cause John Y is smart, suave and has a clearer view than most atheists. He also has a wonderful rich tenor voice which does whatever he asks of it. The arrangements are atmospheric and varied with acoustic guitars and flute on top of a typical upscale Grassroots folkrock soundscape, while the performances are classy and tasteful. Forget Jello Biafras incorrect sarcasms about sloppy playing in the "Incredibly Strange Music" book, seems Jello had had one Heino record too many when uttering that nonsense.

Wrapped in an early 60s style blue filter photo sleeve, side 1 of "Cool Livin'" deals almost exclusively with problems of urban life from a realistic and intelligent modern religious perspective, culminating in the marvy "Who cares for the city", which is like Bohemian Vendetta backing Scott Walker tackling P F Sloan at his peak - this track is gonna floor you, christian or heathen. Best remain horizontal and pop a DMT joint in yer mouth to prepare for the next track, "Do you know what I have done", a musically advanced and almost chaotic acidpunk dramatization of a New Testament episode (forgot chapter & verse, sorry) - yer not gonna believe this piece of tormented confusion.

Over on side 2 we get a more mixed bag, with J Y mocking modern ways in an ultracool NY nightclub comedian fashion, an atypical ballad, and two jubilant rockers on the virtues of leading a x-ian life - dig those hypnotic flute ornaments and garage Vox organ riffs. We also get another acidtinged excursion in "Highly polished tin" whose strange complex mood approaches Peter Grudzien-land, especially when a sentimental carousel organ sails into the soundscape. All over a solid, sophisticated early x-ian folkrock LP with three awesome tracks the top attraction. No exact reissue exists, but an excellent vinyl compilation of the first two Ylvisaker LPs appeared a few years ago on the Mystic label, bearing the title of this debut while utilizing the sleeve design for the follow-up (see review #9).

This record is not for sissies, but for men and women who want to have peace with God.

(Review #9)

JOHN YLVISAKER: A Love Song (Avant Garde US 1968)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Sounds best on: Holy mushrooms and Dry Martinis

Info at:

Availability: Partial reissue is long OOP. Originals require some searching.

This follow-up album was recorded in April 1968 when the hippie dream was collapsing in smack and teargas out in the streets, though by the look of our Lutheran couple you'd think Ike Eisenhower was still in office. The actual vinyl shows John & Amanda in as good, or better, shape as on "Cool Livin". A little more sophisticated this time around, with jazzy drum licks & organ embellishments restating the Manhattan nightclub mood with greater force - I can't imagine these sounds going over too well in Bible Belt redneck communities, actually. To fans of the strange and psychedelic it sounds swell though.

Mr Y's lyrical skills also reach new heights, whether he deconstructs Old Testament claims of prophetic powers - this track borders on heresy - or gives a new slant to the tale of Pharaoh and the infant Moses, ending with the memorable exclamation 'He must be of mixed race!'. Side 1 also brings 'Noise Of Solemn Assemblies', an awesome piece of organ-led psychedelia as good as anything you'll find on Gandalf or Freeborne. In fact, this might be the right tune for a lot of decadent 2002 druggies to jump-start their new, Christian way of life. Side two brings a couple of more traditional hymn-like tunes - perfectly listenable and given an odd vibe by John's flawless red velvet crooner vocals - but then the urban sarcasms kick in again on 'The Camel Swallowers', dissing Joe Schmoe as well as x-ians with equal precision. It's like if Dylan had gone religious way back in 1965 when the sarcastic genie was still with him.

Things reach a glorious peak with yet another moody psych masterpiece in 'Palm Sunday' with its perfectly balanced soundscape of organ, flute and eerie guitar figures. 'Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord' indeed. And they say the devil has the best music - well maybe if you're a Freddie Mercury fan. Me, I'll be in church on Sunday. You should be there too. A good upbeat fuzzrocker closes the LP, which ranks at least on par with the more garagey "Cool Livin", and is a more consistent and elaborate affair. The aforementioned Mystic label reissue unfortunately omits 'Palm Sunday', though it does recycle the great purple nightclub-vibe sleeve design of "A Love Song".

John Ylvisaker later cut a children's record, and two live private LPs I'd love to hear, one of which may actually precede these two Avant Garde efforts. An interesting x-ian 60s garage LP, the Wanderers from Connecticut, features two Ylvisaker covers, so he must have been as big as Sky Saxon on the church dance circuit. And he's still around!

(Review #10)

PERRY LEOPOLD: Christian Lucifer (CD/LP Gear Fab US 1999)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Sounds best on: Psilocybe shrooms, holy water

Info at: Perry Leopold's Christian Lucifer

Availability: Both Gear Fab pressings are still in print

In the upcoming Hollywood epic on great acid music talents lost in the haze of mismanagement, record label idiocy, bad timing or just poor luck it is reasonable to expect that Mr Perry Leopold of Pennsylvania will take a centre stage position. His legendary 1970 LP "Experiment in Metaphysics" breathes with a fiery vision unusual for the "acid folk" genre, a handle otherwise reserved by unscrupulous record dealers to hype bad James Taylor imitations.

Undeterred by the non-success of his debut, Perry entered a Philly studio in 1973 to cut this follow-up which had enough of a budget to feature an elaborate production and rich, tasteful orchestrations. But as the man himself dryly observes in the liner notes, the market for psychedelia was rapidly collapsing under the nightmarish ascension of glam rock, disco and 70s punk in the haywire public mind. Not wishing the degradation of having to compete with Chicory Tip and Elton John, Perry shelved the tapes for 25 years until an archealogical team led by Gear Fab's Roger Maglio unearthed them recently.

And some pretty damn good stuff it is. Mr Leopold, who in 2000 still refers to his music as "acid folk", uses the really big brush - think D R Hooker or Damon-size - when depicting his visions of drugs, religion and more; beginning with a Book Of Revelation quote we enter a spellbinding 9 minute "Sunday Afternoon in the Garden of Delights" which is everything you ever wished for in dark epic folkpsych, then withdraw into the private meditations of "The Windwill", and continue to shift between the prophetic and the personal throughout the album. As on the 1970 LP, the authority and presence is absolute, untouchable. Perry sounds as big a star as Tim Buckley.

Far from being a rehash of the earlier LP, "Christian Lucifer" shows a clear change in both sounds and structures. Perry's remarkable voice has grown more lyrical and while some might miss the earlier beatnik touches, others will appreciate the smooth rich vocals which are similar to another great folk vocalist, Sal Valentino of the Beau Brummels (especially on their "Triangle" LP). Another album that springs to mind is UK troubador Amory Kane's underrated "Just To Be Here" (circa 1970) - those who enjoy AK:s enchanting song suite on side 2 will certainly nod in approval of Perry L:s moods and arrangements.

But for all its qualities and talent, I still rate the debut LP higher than "Christian Lucifer". A couple of the seven tracks, like the final "Vespers", are a little too close to standard singer/songwriter fare for me. Some of the originality, or even dementia, from 1970 seems to have fizzled out three years later. It may be a deliberate try for backdoor commercial appeal, or it may be an effect of the more expressly Christian orientation evident here. Or maybe he just got tired from playing world class folk music for sub-100 audiences. In any event, this is a much-deserved, though three decades overdue, second chance at a wider audience for a significant acid folk artist.



© Patrick The Lama 2000-2001

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