For the few loyal souls who keep checking in here and have missed the fact that my Lama rants have moved to a new headquarter way out on the other side of Cyber-town, let it be known that The Eternal Now is cryogenically frozen into a snapshot of the past. In other words, it is no longer updated.
The Eternal Now webpage, like everything else inside Lysergia.com, is not going anywhere but will remain permanently available for nostalgic and informational purposes.
Thanks for the attention over the years, it's been real. Like Father Yod said, 'creating in the Eternal Now is always heavy'.
Here's where the action is nowadays:
- Acid Archives Updates blog ('60s-70s music, including lots of groups and records not actually featured in the AA books)
- Psychedelia blog (psychedelic culture; an extension and feedback space for my new book "Psychedelia")
- Reflections Of The Third Eye blog (recently launched webpage with movie reviews, paraphernalia and comments)
Stay high & see you there!
- Patrick, April 2013
AS YOU HAVE SURELY NOTICED, it's been awfully quiet here in the Eternal Now this Autumn. I've had my hands full with an on-going book project that is keeping me in check like a mental lion tamer, cracking his whip whenever too much time is spent on other things. I have found time to get back into my psychedelic painting hobby, but that is basically a form of relaxation from the writing sessions. Some of you may have run into me on Facebook, where "many great men are returning" to keep in touch and revive old war stories from the trenches of record collecting. Kind of dorky, but it's unpretentious and not at all uptight, unlike many of the "hip" chat forums you see.
See y'all round the block in 2012, but I can't guarantee that this webpage will be updated for long. Keep an eye or three out for my new book, titled PSYCHEDELIA it's scheduled for the autumn 2012 & it's going to be like no book published before. Sort of. Prior to that, I will contribute to a newly launched print (yes, print, not zero-threshold digital lameness) magazine to come out of England in a few months. It will be, like almost everything in the world, psychedelic. Print is eternal, digital is temporary. Stay high and refill the supply... see you in the next Eternal Now, or Nevermore.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Tribal Rites of The Warm Season
Bill Miller of the recently reformed COLD SUN, at the Austin Psych Fest concert in May. Says Bill, "...From my hand position I think it was taken during "Rites Of Osiris" - the song that we were doing as the cell phones began to light up with news of Bin Ladin`s execution. It was so memorable - lousy hot that day - until we arrived when it got foggy and cold and like Autumn - the storm that night was perfect. Dark clouds and shadows were bound to follow us and Roky and The Black Angels all 3 back to back...".
Bill(y) also tells me the new Cold Sun album Rites Of Osiris is due from World In Sound in the Fall. To quote another wise Austinite, "Many great men are returning back to where it once began..."
Summer means fun, but more than that, Summer means yagé ! After some false starts I finally got my shit together on editing this 40-minute sampler mix of psychedelic ambient & tribal electronica favorites from the past 10 years or so. Click the Ayahuasca Mix image below to download MP3 file + some minor artwork. The file is too big to stream from my web-host, so I'm putting it on Sendspace -- drop me a line if the link has gone too old, and I'll re-upload it. Artists include Shpongle, Entheogenic, Taruna, Solar Fields, etc, and running through the flight is a DMT/ayahuasca theme that can produce vivid visions of blue angels, giant snakes & luminous cities assuming the listener has properly prepared himself before ingesting the caapi & chacruna!
Let's stay in the rainforest by noting the new reissue of the rare (as in $3000) US psych LP JUNGLE from the Red Lounge guys in Germany. Unlike the earlier repro, this is an authorized reissue and it's also in clearly superior sound, which may help this obscurity gain some new supporters. The nice packaging includes a full band story, with some surprising revelations. I'll save the full low-down for a coming review in Ugly Things magazine. Then there's the new CD repro of the superb THESE TRAILS album from Drag City, quite possibly the best album ever of psychedelic exotica.
Beyond these I haven't really picked up too many reissues of late, but instead a bunch of rare originals (most recently a clean DARIUS) and psychedelic books, and on top of that my most recent line of archeology, which is old pressbooks and PR material for cool 1960s-70s movies... ranging from "The Trip" to "Apocalypse Now", the latter for which I've built a rather substantial collection of paraphernalia, including the original 1969 script draft by John Milius... the word 'psychedelic' appears on the very first page of the script, and 10 years later Coppola & Milius finally delivered just that. All this stuff I've bought will be organized and presented, probably in book form, later on. Leaving the jungle for the smog-filled streets of Los Angeles 1983, I am proud to present a tribute website to the great RAIN PARADE, the greatest psych band of the 1980s. Check it out & then get original vinyl copies of their debut album and the mini-LP -- you need analog versions as they have a wonderful, warm sound due to excellent recording and mastering, which was to some degree lost in the digital.
It seems everybody who is not working the 9-5 wheel is involved in a movie project, and that this movie project usually goes on for several years time. I've grown sort of wary of raving about these half-finished things here since a lot of them never seem to get finished, but at least Dr Rick Strassman & co delivered a DMT movie as promised, and a well-executed one too... my only wish is that it would have been a little longer and included more on the tribal/ethnobotanical Amazon aspect. 100s of native tribes in South America have built their cultures on the use of one of the strongest psychedelic drugs on the planet, and the Western drug aficionados are slow to catch on to the implications of this. In any event, get a copy of DMT: The Spirit Molecule, and become a psychedelic researcher you too. Now I hear of several projects involving various major heads of the '60s, counterculture leaders, etc, and my long-standing obligation as a MERRY PRANKSTER supporter tells me I should mention this one at least: The Magic Trip seems to be another retread of the Furthur footage, after 3 (at least) VHS/DVD edits from the Kesey/Babbs circle in the past 15 years. To find out more about the existing movies, see my Merry Prankster page.
Another project everyone in the psychedelic scene hopes will reach completion is the true story of the adventures of the MCKENNA brothers, Terence & Dennis, also known as 'the brotherhood of the screaming abyss'. Terence left us a decade back, but Dennis is still around, and having retired from his career in ethnobotany, he's launching a book project about the extraordinary tales of him and his brother. Financing was raised via on-line donations, and hopefully it will be out in late 2012, which as brother Terence predicted, is the end of time. Now there's a deadline to meet! Read more here.
Finally, a small but vital addition has been made to the Lysergia.com universe, as I recently launched a blog (yes, a blog) featuring updates and additions to the Acid Archives Second Edition. Check it out and drop me a line if you have something we need to know.
Speaking of blogs, there are some people who do it right and have energy to keep on doing it. Klemen Breznikar's IT'S PSYCHEDELIC BABY has already rounded up dozens of interviews with psychedelic and hard-rock luminaries, and clearly takes a page from the Lysergia book in its commendable orientation towards lesser known private press and local artists, with no "60s" prejudice or "major label" tunnel vision. Even most impressively, they've managed to sign on Rockadelic & Acid Archives alumni Rich H to do a recurring column that you definitely want to read. Cool stuff, see here.
Hey, I'm supposed to be on vacation here! Enough already... stay stoned and see you later...
PsYbieNT & DOwnbEAt ChilLout reviews pt 5
First of all, if this section is new to you, please scroll down several pages to find the first 4 instalments to get an idea about the music we're dealing with here. I recently picked up a bunch of CDs from the mighty fine ULTIMAE label of France, whom I've written about at length before. Among these was Leaving Home by SOLAR FIELDS which I've been wanting to hear for a long time. Now it's here, in fact it's rotating loudly in my headphones as I'm writing this, and it's no disappointment. Au contraire, it could be a masterpiece. The double entendre of the album title provides an excellent entry point for this soaring, floating and occasionally hypnotic music -- it's 'Leaving Home' as moving out when you're 19 years old, to your first place of your own, but it's also the 'Leaving Home' of mankind's migration into space. It's a testament to the skills of Solar Field aka Magnus Birgersson of Gothenburg that he finds musical equivalents that can span the melancholy, excitement, separation anxiety and adventure of this micro-macrocosmos double exposure. It is, as pretty much everyhing on Ultimae, psychedelic electronica that will send you on gigantic trip arcs, even without the aid of chemicals, but the fundamental place of Solar Field's music remains the panoramic window of a slowly rotating space station, as inner and outer worlds flow by. Sticking with Ultimae, the best way to sample the labe has been the FAHRENHEIT PROJECT series, which offers unique tracks from many of their artists as well as other downbeat luminaries. The new PART 7 is reportedly the last, I'm sad to say, not east since it lives up to the quality of the earlier two volumes usually considered the best (#4 and #6). On #7 we get some of the usual suspects like Asura, Hol Baumann and Solar Fields, all of which contribute excellent tracks. There's also a perfect midtempo opener by GAIANA from Holland, a darkly surging and sweeping track by Norway's CIRCULAR, whose dystopic poetry sample spooked me out quite a bit when the news of the senseless massmurder at Utoya floated in. There is no need to do a track by track run-down, but simply observe a shift of tone for the last third which becomes increasingly spacier, leaving it to SOLAR FIELD to appropriately deliver the last push out of the gravitational orbit and spin away into the great unknown. The music from Ultimae that is not like the great sci-fi soundtrack you always dreamed about is instead a bit like driving around in a state-of-the-art BMW late at night in some nameless European financial district and taking in the vibes from the futuristic architecture, the shadowplay and the ghostly atmosphere. These are the emotions of a time not yet seen, the psychedelic melancholy of the future. I am somewhat less smitten with the HUVA NETWORK, at least it appears on their debut album Distances. A collaboration between Solar Fields and Ultimae founder Vincent Villuis, it is dark ambient with a minimalist bent, and a step or two too far into that space for my personal tastes. There is neither the subtle melodies nor the spellbinding cinematic visions that inform the solo works of Solar Fields and Villuis (as AES DANA), and ends up sounding pleasantly atmospheric but also elusive. The beat-less passages tend to dominate.f One exception is "Symmetric Lifes", my favorite track on the album. Some people will surely find HUVA Network more to their liking than I do, it's more a case of style than quality. The same observation probably holds true, to an even larger extent, when it comes to Humans by HOL BAUMANN, a more recent Ultimae release. XXXX While I was at it, I picked up an early Ultimae sampler CD which is no longer in print. Titled ALBEDO, it contained an enjoyable mix of dark ambient and atmospheric downbeat, pretty much in the trademark Ultimae style, and with several of the usual suspects represented. An eerie beatless track by Japan's OCHI BROTHERS successfully revisits classic electronica, while SYNC24 bring Massive Attack's Mezzanine trip into Kraftwerkian minimalism. A couple of uptempo tracks too, in case you get a sudden urge to dance... this used to be dance music, remember?
Captain's Log, Star-date: Easter Everywhere 2011
Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in... OK, so maybe some of what follows is a case of me pulling myself in, but other events have passed entirely without my doing. The case of AUGUSTUS STANLEY OWSLEY III dying, for one thing. Having retreated to the Australian wildlands to escape an impending natural disaster that would lead to dinosaurs once again ruling the earth... or something like that... the great underground chemist fell victim to something as mundane as a car crash. A week of world-wide mourning followed with the realization that pure Owsley would never again be available. The journos at the New York Times seemed more shaken by Owsley's death than almost anyone else, and followed a well-written obituary with at least two more thoughtful pieces on how much Owsley meant. Hmm... In any event, their observation concerning Owsley's marketing skills were prescient, and it's interesting to note that the man had become a household word and a 'brand' as early as mid-1966, before the first big psychedelic wave had even started. Just check the liner notes of your copy of the superb L.S.D documentary album on Capitol.
Mid-60s mug shot of the great man. Owsley was noto-
riously camera shy but had no choice but to pose here.
Unfortunately, no one ever sat down to write a full biography of this unique and difficult individual, but enough scattered writings exist that a pretty good picture can be made of his '60s activities anyway -- there's a bit in Tom Wolfe's Prankster book, and Rolling Stone wrote about Owsley many times, including an interesting retrospective piece by Charles Perry in the 1980s which I have in the Lama archives somewhere. As is customary, I will close this non-eulogy with some thoughts from Steve MORGEN that Owsley himself might have agreed with:
Did you hear that a good man died
Oh how terrible they say
But you know that's just a part of life
It kind of happens every day
If you plan on a psychedelic mind excursion any time soon, I can recommend a recently released DVD movie which is so trippy I got completely zoned out with just some vaporized Maryjane to travel with. The documentary movie "Oceans" has been called the greatest documentary ever made about, well, oceans. The first hour contains absolutely amazing footage of strange and incredible underwater scenes, and some above water too, with fish and mammals and lizards behaving in bizarre human-like ways, when they're not engaged in awesome dances of mating and whatever. You're not going to believe the seafloor drama between various mysterious shellfish, octopi and indescribable crab-like creatures... I sat shaking my stoned head thinking that this "must" be fake somehow. The last part lays on a rather heavy environmentalist guilt trip, which is easy to agree with and needed, but it will harshen your mellow... and yeah, the part with the fin-less shark sinking to the bottom is fake, even if nothing else is... the extra material shows how it was done. Years in the making, this "Oceans" movie was like some grand-scale state of the art acidhead upgrade of those old Jacues-Yves Cousteau clips from the 1970s... the sea is psychedelic, you bet, just like D R Hooker told you. Some music talk: new reissues out of MICHAEL FARNETI and STAN HUBBS, two obscure rekkids in styles that your average psych collector would never dream of checking out, but they actually turn out to be very strange and wonderful. The Farneti LP in particular is a household fave since a few years back, and I'm still looking for an original if you want to settle for the exact reissue and make some money. Both these repros are out from the deeply avantgarde and rad Companion label in the S F Bay Area... see the Acid Archives Second Edition book for reviews of both titles, back when they were unknown.
On the subject of scoring rare originals I've been on a bit of a roll of late. It started with my local colleague Mr Subliminal asking what I'd been adding to the collection of late, as we like to shoot the breeze on weird records, and I realized that I hadn't bought anything since before Christmas. Such a situation is unacceptable, and in typical fashion various must-have titles suddenly appeared like UFOs on my radar screen, the minute I decided I needed more vinyl. To cut a long story short, to the left is some of what's been happening here...
<== Mississippi "Velvet Sandpaper", a still underrated 'older guy' night tripper, IMO better than the related White Light; then the deeply atmospheric Moonlyte where side 1 offers a unique view into broken dreams & NYC rooftop romance, like an ageing West Side Story gang member weighing the good and bad of his life; the superb tax-scammer Sunshine "Makes My Day" which is like the lost mid-'70s child of Homer & Felt; another orig of the desert island Eden Ahbez but in glorious stereo this time; loner folk avatar Chuck Manson on a real-deal 1970 Awareness original & with insert too; the quirkily consistent Southern guitar jammer J Teal Band; a unique spoken word LP from the Berkeley demonstrations 1965; the aforementioned incredible monster Madrigal; a white label promo Morning Dew to round things off with something less obscure...
Have I told you about my collection of limited edition TINTIN FIGURINES? Probably not. When arranging my new tiki sculpture (see below) in the Vajrayana Lounge, after adding some jungle plants and lighting, I realized that the Tintin-inspired design could in fact be spiced up with actual figurines from the Tintin comic books. This turned out to be a very much alive field, but also one that is not cheap, but being Christmas and all, I treated myself to the perfect gift for the man who has something... the recently released theme series 'Tintin Dreams & Nightmares' was the final incentive I needed: extremely well-crafted miniatures of some of the weirdest, druggiest scenes in the Tintin books. Below is a more typical Tintin situation which finds our hero ready for a new adventure, with bad guys Rastapopolous, Dr Krollspell and Laszlo Carreidas -- the man who never laughs -- brooding over the future in a mixed Flight 714/Shooting Star setting.
Some more music: the very same Mr Subliminal has released a new album from Swedish 1970s legends KEBNEKAISE, who reformed some years back and are doing what they always done so well... a sort of 'Nordic folkrock' sound with lyrical guitar leads and an outdoorsy mountain feel. Also from the Stockholm underground network is my good friend Carl A, leading occultist, Kenneth Anger analyst, fearless writer & avantgarde composer. Carl's most recent enterprise is a website with writings from his 25+ years of meeting remarkable men, and I was honored to add an ALAN WATTS essay and two pieces about the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS to this new and intense web presence. Interviews with Sonic Boom and "Chappaqua" director Conrad Rooks can also be found there, but this is just the tip of the iceberg of this valuable clearing house for underground and esoteric information. More will be added, so bookmark the page... a brief ELEVATORS bit while I'm at it: stand-alone reissues of Psychedelic Sounds and Easter Everywhere are out from Charly/Snapper, utilizing the master tapes from the 2009 box-set of course, and featuring the alternate Psychedelic Sounds stereo mix with Tommy Hall's original running order; once you get used to hearing the LP the way Tommy had it mapped out, you may not want to revert to IA:s completely different sequence... an interesting, worthwhile revision of a holy grail.
The Easter Everywhere CD has mono and stereo versions, but to my ears the stereo didn't sound as good as on the box-set, for some reason... don't quote me on this, because I may be hallucinating & also I bought new speakers recently... did you know Cerwin-Vega have a line of 'shelf speakers' that sound as good as big, old school speakers? Very cool tiny boxes with a full sound, unless you like to play at 130 dB. Anyway, these 2-CD releases use the new 'book' type CD packaging format that Charly employ for all their I A-related releases, and as I told them I think this is probably the best CD sleeve concept so far, even if they take up a little more shelf space... apparently they're manufactured in China. Something to consider if you're releasing CDs...
Finally, I'm glad to present an update at the Lama Workshop, been a while since the last one. It's a brief article/interview with the band WATERFALL from Los Angeles, who had a rare but enjoyable LP in 1976, learn more here. PS I was a kid once, back in an earlier century, and at the time I felt strongly that this was the greatest song ever recorded. Hearing it in 2011 I'm thinking maybe I was right.
Captain's Log, Star-date: The Lesser Mysteries
beware the ides of march -- because Horn-rock sucks! Well, except for Blues Spectrum, of course. Oh, and that first CTA album is supposed to be really good, but I haven't found a way to buy a Chicago LP without embarrassment. Anyway, another psychedelic year to deal with as time is slowly winding us in towards its resolution into some unspeakable omega point center that Terence McKenna unfortunately didn't have time to explain for us before he moved up to the alien realm permanently. Let's stay alive and see where it all ends, maybe it turns out to be a Mirror At The End Of The Road that Mel Lyman foresaw.
As I pointed out long ago, this is not a blog. I'd like to remind you of this, since the inevitable downfall of the 'blogosphere' that I predicted may have begun, at least according to a tech analysis I recently saw in the NY Times. Fewer people are starting blogs, a lot of blogs are disappearing, and the 14-year old kids who apparently define technology future are moving into other crap du jour. Some of these kids, or their 19-year old brothers, have asked, nay, demanded, that the ACID ARCHIVES be turned into a blog because... well, the 'because' part is kind of a gray area, since it's actually a case of these folks being lazy and cheap but masking this behind 'internet generation' attitudes. So that's not going to happen with the AA book, nor will their be a portable Android/Ipad app either -- this demand actually makes some sense, but due to the proven untrustworthiness of netizens, it's a no-no.
As for the 'blogs', and the social web resources like Facebook, the question I've always asked, sometimes feeling like a lone voice in the desert, is this: Who Cares? Who cares what your hobbies are? Who cares about your vacation plans? Who cares that your boss was a little rude the other day? Who cares what you think about the kid's new football coach? Who cares about your private life and opinions -- except people you already know well? The answer was succinctly put by Bob Weir at an Acid Test in Los Angeles 45 years ago: NO ONE CARES.
If you have something to say, some unique hobby research or deep professional insight into a vital topic, then by all means put it up on the internet (even if a printed book would be much better and more culturally durable). You're doinga good thing; people may even thank you. But for those who have nothing particularly special to say, and who have rounded up no unique knowledge, why is it that they consider a shoulder-shrug situation important enough to put time and effort into sharing with strangers? Do they also accost strangers out on the street and flash them some holiday snapshots and lecture them on the current fiscal situation from their perspective?
The only people who care are one's real-life friends, and they may not be all that interested all the time either, not least since they already know or can guess most of it. Remember when everybody 'had' to have an AOL Homepage? Millions such pages were created, exactly like blogs were some years later. Where are all those AOL Homepages today? They are gone because they filled no function, and no one read them. 99% of the blogs will go the same way, as will the new content model that replaces blogs, etc ad infinitum.
Before putting a lot of time and maybe even some money into creating a blog, or facebook page, or myspace, or whatever is next in this chain of unplanned digital obsolecence, ask yourself two things:
1) Does anyone except people I already know care about any of this?
2) If 'yes', then: Do I have truly unique material that is not currently to be found on the internet?
Whew, that felt good getting off my chest. For a taste of cutting edge technology that truly does matter, check out the two products discussed in the column on the right.
Music-wise, I've been buying some new shit but nothing really worth reporting, and I'm covering some of it in the soon-to-appear new issue of UGLY THINGS anyway. Speaking of, I recommend checking out the internet radio broadcasts from UT editor Mike Stax; great vintage music, some of it really rare or even unreleased, illuminated commentary from Stax and generally a couple of hours well spent. Sure wish we had had stuff like this back in the 1980s moptop haze. Another radio show you may enjoy, and one which also appears in the actual aether rather than just on the net, is the Midnight Stranger on WXGC, featuring Lama correspondent and Acid Archives supporter John C, whose show is all about 1969 and the vast amounts of good music from that eventful year.
This brings us to COLD SUN, where some exciting news can be unveiled. As mentioned here last year, an album of brand new Cold Sun recordings, featuring the original band members, is in progress. Well, it was in progress, because the thing is finished and ready to fly, much like an ancient pyramid which is in fact a disguised spaceship. Yes! The album release will be announced by World In Sound shortly, and this promises to be one of the most interesting contemporary releases of 2011, much like how fellow Austinite Roky Erickson's come-back album put some alien buzz into 2010. Cold Sun have not just reformed for studio work, but actual live performances are in store, including a high-profile appearance that is restricted information for now, but will be announced shortly. No, it's not at Area 51 -- that gig won't be until the Fall. Chew some peyote buttons and watch the skies for more Cold Sun news shortly.
I'm listening to a lot of old major label warhorses nowadays, after discovering the efficient and enjoyable concept of career-spanning box-sets with a twist -- the twist being mono mixes, or previously unreleased material, or lots of bonus video stuff. So the grand Beatles mono box from 2009 has been followed by digital boxes of Creedence, Doors, Dylan mono, NeilYoung, Velvet Underground & maybe something else I forgot. I was eyeing a few Black Sabbath packages, but really I'm not too interested in the final stages of their original line-up, and will have to figure something else out for the Ozz, Geezer & co. The thing about this major artist stuff is that it was usually recorded at absolute top-flight studios for the era, which means that there may be some mileage left to squeeze out of the original recordings, beyond what made it onto old vinyl LPs. But you can never assume this, and need to pull a full caveat emptor routine audio-wise... reading on-line reviews by serious fans is usually the best filtering method.
This sort of leads up to another major label effort, namely the new book (after the rather terrific Galactic Ramble) from Richard Morton Jack & collaborators, The Endless Trip. Follow the link for details, it should be a worthwhile, if somewhat bulky, purchase... any book that treats the Doors, Morgen and Ultimate Spinach on the same canonical level has my full support. Richard says official publishing date is April, but copies are actually already floating around. Well-known music magazine The Wire featured a lengthy but to me somewhat bland review of the Acid Archives & The Endless Trip, thanks for the attention anyway. Nothing on the AA in Mojo magazine yet, drop me a line if it should happen, or indeed any other print magazine that you see with an Acid Archives reviw and I'll send 10 karma points your way. One thing that was forwarded to me and which I was happy to see was an interview with stoned occult electronica wizards DEMDIKE STARE at The Quietus webzine, where a band member comes out as an avid AA reader:
"...I got this book, The Acid Archives, about pressings in America which came out between 1965 and 1982 or something, and it's amazing, it's got all these pictures of all these crazy, obscure records by hippies and all sorts. And it was basically stating that in the last fifteen years more of these records have turned up and become famous than ever before, because of the spread of the internet and the spread of information. So loads of the records in this book have only been discovered in the last fifteen years. I find that astonishing, especially in America, which is a really heavily dug musical country – there's still so much out there to be discovered. "
- Miles Whittaker of Demdike Stare, 2011 interview by Rory Gibb at Quietus.com
Hey, we have a new catalog up at our rare LP & book website The Renaissance Fair. A bunch of high-ticket items sold right away, but there's still lots left to pick from -- our prices are deliberately low and our grading is reliably user-friendly. As mentioned there, we still have some copies left of the very limited hardcover edition of the Acid Archives book; once those 100 copies are gone, the hardbound AA:s will be extinct forever.
Finally a word about the new book on psychedelic and progressive folk by Jeanette Leech, Seasons They Change; a very well-written and well-researched book that takes a different and fuller scope on '60s-70s folk than Richie Unterberger's tomes, so that Pat Kilroy is included as an example. The book then segues into the modern wyrd/acid/whatever folk like the Espers and such, a scene that seems to have been a lot bigger in England than elsewhere, and probably has received no coverage in a printed book before. Good to see these new volumes, especially as they demonstrate how our old 'obscure' 1980s-90s collector favorites like C.O.B and Morgen are no longer obscure, but have crossed over into general retro awareness.
Seasons they do change, and Spring is coming round the bend, a season always greeted with hardened relief up here on the Nordic tundra. Stay high & see y'all in a while.
PSYCHEDELIC TECHNOLOGY UPDATE
So you have some primo buds but you're running low, and you're eager to squeeze out as much head action from the weed as possible? Or maybe you've developed bronchitis or irritable lungs from inhaling all the bi-products that come with Mary Jane,up to and including that most deadly of all smokables, tobacco? And maybe you don't want people to know you're lighting up like 3 times a day, even if it's sort of legal in some civilized countries?
The answer to this, and a bunch of other issues I forgot to include in the snake oil sales pitch above, is THE VOLCANO VAPORIZER.
The Volcano is the Rolls Royce of vaporizers, designed and built with German precision and robustness. It is not cheap, but people who don't have money shouldn't be reading this website anyway (ho-ho). I haven't run a formal consumer guidance test, but they-that-know, or at least some-of-they-that-know, suggest that when it comes to vaporizers, you need to drop the moolah to get the state of the art product, or else there will be various defects or drawbacks to the procedure. Heeding this call, I invested in a Volcano some months ago, and I could tell right away that it was a good purchase. Its pyramid shape has a vague '50s kitchenware retro feel, and unless you've seen one before, it would be very hard to guess what it does.
Here's what you do: in a special metal container roughly the size of an old Kodak photo film canister you place a small amount of ground up weed, less than what you would use for a single joint. You place the container on top of the Volcano, and then you use a special adapter piece to attach a big, clear plastic bag on top of the container. You turn the Volcano heater on. The Volcano machine will heat the container with the weed from below, and the aromatic fumes that emanate from the heated maryjane rise from the container up into the plastic bag on top, slowly filling it. The passage is airtight, meaning that no fumes are lost -- everything goes into the bag. And these fumes are not just aromatic but contain very pure THC in gaseous form. After a minute or so, the plastic bag is filled and looks like a big, semi-transparent balloon filled with stonedness. You then replace the weed container at the bottom of the balloon with a special mouthpiece, which again locks into place without leakage. You are now done, and the rest is all about getting zonked by taking tokes from the balloon at your leisure.
The taste is mild and pleasant, since many of the bi-products are discarded in the process. Some say the high is different and 'airier', which may or may not be true. The key thing about a pro-level vaporizer like this is that the weed does not burn, but is vaporized -- heated until it gives off the vital contents. One balloon may take you through an entire evening. If not, you put the weed container and attached balloon back on the Volcano, crank up the temperature a little, and in the manner described above squeeze out another full balloon from the same weed. You may be able to get 4 balloons out of a less amount of weed than you use for one single joint. In other words, your stash will last much longer. There are some minor drawbacks, mainly social ones, but for the solitary, moderate weed-head this is an outstanding alternative. For medical smokers it is the first choice, since the smoke is much purer, with much less (or none) side effects.
Now, I'm not saying that you have to be doing this at the same time, or even in the course of the same evening as you fire up the Volcano, but I came across another, even more intriguing gadget at the psychedelic end of things, which would work just fine with the Acapulco Gold. So-called Mind Machines, also known as light & sound systems, have been around for a few years, but in view of their remarkable power they clearly deserve more attention from heads & psycho-nauts. The most recent model is the Procyon AVS, which I purchased some weeks back and have been enjoying quite a bit since. The manufacturer Mindplace also have an earlier line called Proteus which is what sparked my interest in these machines, after seeing a favorable review of Proteus in a specialist magazine for psychedelic explorers. The machines all build upon the same idea, which is basically a development of Brion Gysin's old Dream Machine (look it up), expanded and broadened to the n-th degree. You put a pair of rather cool-looking glasses on, close your eyes, and enjoy an amazing bombardment of flickering lights, colors and patterns directly at your eyelids. Since the light is so strong, it reaches your optical center even with eyes closed, making it feel like your eyes are actually open after all. This is pretty cool, but the important thing is that these flickering lights have been found to affect brain patterns, and a fairly wide range of cerebral stimuli is achievable: energizing, relaxing, meditative, learning-enhancing, and more. The mind machine comes with dozens of prerecorded programs that are designed to create these specific effects, but there are also programs that are pure fun, and by fun we mean that they're quite psychedelic -- blazing assaults of kaleidoscoptic patterns and radical shifts in color. Each program lasts 10-40 minutes, and I've only tested some of the shorter ones so far. The effects on mood and mental alertness are definitely there, and I also found even the most function-specific programs pretty psychedelic.
After the show has ended, you will see far-out undulating complexes dancing behind your closed eyes for a few minutes, suggesting that these rapidly altering light and color sequences do trigger brain responses like those found under psychedelic drugs. Along with the light show there is an audio portion (via headphones) with low-register synthesizer sounds matching the tempo and shifts in the light program. These audio elements are less crucial than the visuals, and they can be augmented or even replaced with audio backdrops of your own choice -- such as modern psychedelic electronica, or maybe Easter Everywhere. The clever set-up allows you to play any music you want (from a CD, MP3 player or PC) along with the Procyon's audio track, and freely adjust the balance between the two sources. My current model is to retain some of the Procyon's audio portion in the background, since it is perfectly synchronized with the light show, and on top of this play some instrumental downbeat sounds from the compilations I've reviewed here earlier. The total effect is very trippy, and moreover it is a completely unique experience not achievable with anything this side of 50 mg DMT. These Mind Machines work, they make you feel relaxed yet alert, and they're fun.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Pete Best's Birthday
Weeeellll, I just came into town about an hour ago. Took a look around to see which way the wind blow. Where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalow? Are you a lucky little lady in the City Of Light?
Ever notice how some DOORS lines tend to stick in your head like a goddamn mantra? That's not because they are exceptionally good, but because they fit the rhythm and the tone of the music so well. The 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS had that too.
One band who knew a thing or two about both Doors and Elevators and a lot of trippy places these might take you, were COLD SUN. And even in 2010, after two decades of mystery and revelation, the Texas peyote masters may be able to surprise us in the most, well, surprising way. I am talking of nothing less than a reformed Cold Sun band, writing songs and going into the studio to record them! That's right -- the "RITES OF OSIRIS" are being conducted in California with Cold Sun master mind Bill Miller and guitar maestro Tom Mcgarrigle both present. Bill tells me that Powell St John (no intro needed) is contributing a song and perhaps also will appear on the album, which is scheduled for release in February 2011, hopefully on the anniversary of Joe Meek's death -- the day the music died, only to be assembled and live again, just like Osiris. See how this all fits together in a psychedelic way? Well, that is Cold Sun. You can thank Wolf at World In Sound for helping this happen, after all these years of insistence on the Austin band's unique greatness from the men of Rockadelic as well as myself. Keep watching the skies for the Rites Of Osiris, and I will post updates here as they arise.
Staying in Austin but getting back to the ELEVATORS, I have good reason to believe that standalone vinyl repros of their albums and various archive recordings will materialize in a not too distant future, pulled from the same master tapes and produced by the same diligent Elevators archivist as the mighty Sign Of The 3-Eyed Men CD box-set. There may even be a new box-set, but on vinyl this time. Nothing has been officially stated, so there's no guarantee these things will happen.
Would you like a 13th Floor Elevators research archive?
On a final Elevators note, I pulled out a big box of research material for my old 13th Floor Elevators book (The Complete Reference File, 2002) and realized that I don't need to hang on to this any longer; my work there is complete. So much of this is now up for sale to a younger and more energetic Vator-tripper than myself. It's many hours of interviews with various band members and friends of the band, along with dubs of rare studio tracks, some Roky live gigs from the 1970s-80s, and a couple of home-made CDR samplers of rare '60s material. The Elevators music has probably all been officially released by now, but all the interview material and Roky solo stuff is still unreleased. It's a unique collection, undoubtedly one of the best in the world, assembled over several years. Since it's mostly CDRs and cassettes I'm not asking any massive sums for it. Let me know if interested and I'll give you a break-down of the contents and we'll work it out...
If you came here looking for Acid Archives information, I am glad to announce that the response to the Second Edition has been delightfully enthusiastic and sales quite strong, so much so that I'm sad to report that the book is already out of stock with many retailers, but I become glad again, because a second printing is on the way and should hit stores in December, well in time to also change Santa's mood from sad- to gladness.
On the subject of books I have spent the last few weeks enjoying Dennis McNally's intelligent and thoroughly researched GRATEFUL DEAD biography Long Strange Trip. You may know it already, if not, it's recommended as a study of a 'rock band' which has almost nothing in common with rock bands as we usually perceive them. Well-read and analytical, McNally demonstrates how the Dead evolved out of the pre-Beatle underground and remained true to the unique creeds that took shape around San Francisco as modern jazz, bohemian folk, LSD, and strong characters came together. There is no lack of problematic stories, many of them stemming from the fact that Jerry Garcia was a leader who didn't want to lead. Inspired by this tome, I picked up a couple of live Dead CDs and paraphernalia at Dead net. If you want to get into Dead tapes but don't know how, pick up Dick's Picks Vol 22, a 1968 show which finds the band at their most psychedelic, on the verge of losing control to whatever Owsley had given them.
Up in Perth County there was a Conspiracy to grow their own grass long ago, and this agricultural iconoclasm brought repercussions into our present era. If you've read my article/interview on the band in the latest Ugly Things, you may be interested to learn that CBC -- the same national broadcasting network that released the band's rare transcription disc 40 years ago -- is currently preparing a Perth County Conspiracy program. With a little luck, both yours truly and the UT magazine will be namedropped on national Maple Leaf radio. More on this as we're getting close, in early 2011... and hopefully some PCC reissues will finally materialize too.
Speaking of UGLY THINGS magazine and reissues, I have set aside 3 highly interesting repros for review in the upcoming UT. I'll have to spare the details until then, but would like to alert you to a buried, highly limited YAHOWA 13 LP of previously unreleased, vintage material on the Sagittarius label. This may look like a bootleg, but it's a legit release & contains terrific music from FATHER YOD & SPIRIT OF '76 (this is also the album title). Only 200 copies, jump on it! Almost as hard to find is the reissue, after 20 years of demands from fans, of the classic Swedish underground HANDGJORT album. This was a big fave in the youthful acid scene we had going hear in the late 1980s, and still today it's held in high regard. The reissue is a deluxe job with an entire bonus LP of material similar to the original album, as well as a booklet and handpainted sleeve. 600 copies, the label is Psykofon, and it may be hard to find. My first copy had a pressing defect, so you may want to make sure with the dealer that it's a flat and correctly centered pressing. The final item in my UT review stack is the recent Shadoks repro of the very cool, very great KALEIDOSCOPE rekkid. This used to be known as the "Mexican Kaleidoscope", but the band biography is more complex than expected, and not really Mexican. One of the truly great Latin American psych LPs, with definite appeal to '60s garage fans. Finally, a word about the sampler CD from ShroomAngel that I've been enjoying. I've written about this small label and their very cool stable of mostly unreleased underground hardrock bands from the 1970s, and the nicely programmed 14-track sampler demonstrates how much vintage stoner stuff that is still out there. In addition to acts like FALSE PROPHET and HONEST JOHN, whose full-length archival albums I've written bout here long ago, terrific basement guitar action is offered by HOOKER, R.P.M and the fusion-flavored STAN LASSITER GRUPE. Among others. I'm hoping for vinyl format albums from some of these, in the mean time check out the sampler via an order here... a must for fans of things like Seompi or the Texas Stud.
One thing I should not review, since I wrote the liner notes for it, is the brand new R.F.D Lead Me Home reissue from Guerssen's subsidiary Out-Sider. Opinions are mixed on this, but I must admit that the one time I sat down to listen to it in a really critical frame of mind, with the preset bias that "this record sucks", it still ended up sounding pretty good to me. I dig it, but it may not be for everyone, so check out the Acid Archives review and some sound clips before dropping the moolah.
I need to move along, but would like to direct your attention to the new, custom-made tiki statue that was recently added to the Lama abode; see photo on the right. Stay high for the holidays & we'll meet in the next samsaric cycle.
Some recent aquisitions for the Vajrayana Lounge Music Library; I finally secured a clean original of the superb Aggregation, really one of the most expensive titles on a 'real' label these days. The WCPAEB is a rare promo-only MONO trip with a noticably different mix on a couple of tracks and a very good hi-fi mastering & pressing, more so than my stereo orig I think. Center top is an ultra-rare promo 10-incher for The Trip which has Peter Fonda sharing his edgy thoughts on society and Roger Corman admitting to taking LSD! The Ric Collas Trio is a local lounge LP discussed in the new Acid Archives edition.
LET'S HAVE A LUAU
This 3.5-foot, 80-pound tiki was created for me by my two artist friends Max and Adam, and is the best addition to the Vajrayana Lounge for 2010. Sculpted and carved out of a solid block of trunk wood in line with traditional craftmanship, the blond nordic material was then painstakingly sooted to achieve the look of dark polynesian wood. The design, while fairly conservative, incorporates inspiration from the Tintin comic book "Flight 714 To Sydney", in addition to sporting a psychedelic third eye that also hides the stash box. In all, an outstandingly cool piece.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Michaelmas
MANY MOONS HAVE PASSED since our last pow-wow, but this period of silence has been far from inactive. On the contrary, substantial amounts of energy have been invested in the finalization and distribution of the Acid Archives Second Edition. The work that began many years ago has now been completed, and a sense of closure has been registered here in the Vajrayana Lounge.
Although few are aware of it, the earliest embryo to what became the current 400-page Acid Archives book could be spotted back in the early 1990s. The Age Of Madness, a tome about garage 45s & compilations that I assembled and self-published as my first major project in 1992, was also equipped with a few appendix pages about 'rare LPs', a field which was relatively new then and almost unknown outside a small circle of specialist collectors. Some 20 years later, the domain of private and local albums from the 1960s-70s is no longer obscure, but a vital part of the retro music landscape. The love for this often great and underrated music has been the main motivator since the start, and seeing the major interest in a work such as the Acid Archives, it is with some delight and satisfaction that I can take a step back from the collector commotion.
The new AA Edition is indeed selling well, and history may repeat itself as there are indications that the book is disappearing from the shelves in the same rate as the first edition back in 2006, when new printings had to be scheduled only weeks after the publishing date. We printed up a whole bunch of copies for the current Second Edition, and yet it is already flagged as 'out of stock' with several retailers. If you haven't picked up your copy yet, you may not want to delay the purchase. At the same time this Edition has been designed for longevity and we will provide new runs as long as there is demand out there. Thanks all for the interest and the beautiful feedback we've received!
Immediately related to this is something you may have heard mentioned, although it's been deliberately kept low-profile: the limited hard-cover version of the Acid Archives Second Edition. Only 100 copies have been printed as hardbacks, and it will never be reprinted in that format (only as softcover). The hard-cover copies are individually numbered and signed by me. The contents are the same as the regular softcover version, but there is a special deluxe bonus item included that should delight most AA readers. At this point, a little less than half the limited 100 edition of hardbound books have been sold. If you're interested in getting a copy, contact me via the e-mail address at the Renaissance Fair website, and I'll fill in the details and current price (as fewer copies remain, the price will be gradually raised).
That's all from the Acid Archives front. I'm currently in the planning stages of a new project which will be vastly different, yet retain some connections to the philosophy and Weltanschauung on display in the AA books and Lysergia.com websites. Please don't inquire about it, I'm mentioning it mainly to show that I'm not retiring, and to put some pressure on myself...
Live well & stay high, talk more in a while.
THE ACID ARCHIVES ~ SECOND EDITION ~ OUT SOON !
A brand new, massively expanded & highly colorful new edition of the 2006 success
will be available in early September 2010.
Read all about it here:
Acid Archives 2nd Edition promo sheet (JPEG format)
Acid Archives 2nd Edition promo sheet (PDF format)
Note: There will be no direct retail sales from Lysergia. Please do not contact me to purchase single copies. Our distribution is wide and large, and the Acid Archives book should be available with any specialist dealer. For wholesale inquiries, contact Subliminal Sounds (worldwide) or Forced Exposure (USA).
Captain's Log, Star-date: Swedish National Day 2010
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnberger See with a shower of rain. We stopped in the colonnade, and went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, and drank coffee and talked for an hour. One thing touched upon in that conversation may have been this rather dazzling clip of CIRCUS 2000 performing a track from their second album. Not only is it a delight to see, but the sequence was in fact directed by Ruggero Deodato, who a few years later would receive world-wide notoriety after directing the most extreme of all Italian cannibal gore movies, Cannibal Holocaust.
Apologies for my prolonged absence from these pages, but writing assignments and drug experiments make demands on my time, and they are by necessity given higher priority than internet rants.
The t-shirt that has puzzled private press collectors for 25 years. Buy the Kristyl reissue and find out the true story behind this mystery!
One result of those projects can be found in the snazzy new reissue of KRISTYL from Guerssen, one of the truly classic '70s private pressings, now equipped with liner notes from yours truly, telling the band's story for the first time . Kristyl is a good example of the very high gold standard that was maintained during the early years of private press excavations -- it's an album you can listen to an infinite number of plays and it will still deliver its particular magic. This holds true for classic albums by the Beatles, Dylan, the Doors etc, but it does NOT hold true for most of the unknown things championed as 'discoveries' in the 2000s. A lot of it sounds good or at least interesting on the first few plays, but returning to the discovery when the sheen of novelty has worn off some months later, you may be in for yet another 'so-what' shoulder-shrug. Anyway, Guerssen have at least one more interesting reissue coming up with liners from yours truly, but I'll spare that for later.
Another album given substantial rotation here is the new album from England's psybient masters SHPONGLE. Titled The Ineffable Mysteries Of Shpongle-Land, it pretty much blew me away on the first play, and after a couple of months in its presence I'm prepared to name it their best album so far; no mean feat, considering how highly rated their earlier works are among the downbeat hallucinogen cogniscenti. The half-assed experiments and corny in-jokes that broke up the flow of their earlier works are now gone, and instead we get 9 long tracks that play through on a very even, yet also very varied, level. Simply an outstanding disc, and the masterpiece of the psybient genre along with ENTHEOGENIC's debut. Except for Shpongle I haven't had time to hang out much in the downbeat/chillout/psy sector of late, but will do so the coming summer, as has become a tradition of mine. Along with a Spice joint or two this should form a good backdrop for the very exciting WORLD CUP FOOTBALL tournament that kicks off in South Africa in just a few days. My national team is tragically not represented, for the first time since 1998, but we didn't really deserve to qualify either, in light of some embarrassingly poor games against Denmark among others. For those who did make it among the final 32, Spain certainly have an impressive team, as do Holland. Italy are probably still savouring the after-taste of the 2006 victory, and neither the German nor the Argentinian squads look as strong as they usually do -- even if Argentina boasts what may be the strongest offense line-up in the history of football.
I've been loading up on a bunch of psychedelic books and magazines too, most of which will be added to the FEED YOUR HEAD site when I have the time. One brand new title I do want to lay on you right now is Orange Sunshine by Nicholas Schou, a well-researched and entertaining tome on the Brotherhood Of Eternal Love. Written much more from the inside than the British 1980s book on the same subject, the book demonstrates the unlikely saga of how a bunch of street gang punks from Anaheim found spiritual enlightenment via LSD long before most people had heard of it, and subsequently went on to become the world's largest distributors of acid, as well as very active and inventive hash smugglers.
Have you seen this man? Johnny Gale, one of the most active, although not necessarily best liked, members of the Brotherhood Of Eternal Love
There's mucho details on the Laguna Beach Happening that I've written about extensively in the past, as well as previously untold stories around the Brotherhood's stay in Maui and the Jimi Hendrix concert arranged there, which was captured on film in Rainbow Bridge, a hippie film that is not exploitation but strange and stoned just the same. A funny detail is that one of the Brotherhood's recruits was the world-famous surfer Mike Hynson, seen in Bruce Brown's classic Endless Summer. Several years and many stoned nights later, we can see the same Hynson in full hippie regalia hanging 10 on Hawaiian waves in Rainbow Bridge. The planned documentary movie about the Brotherhood and Laguna Beach that I've written about earlier seems to be still in progress, unless I've missed something.
A less rewarding book was The Harvard Psychedelic Club by DON LATTIN. This received a bit of mainstream media attention so I picked it up, but as it turned out, the mainstream attention was due to the book's mainstream origins. While there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it, the book assumes the reader to know little or nothing at all about Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert and others, and almost no new info is presented -- the main raison d'etre for its publication may have been some previously undisclosed details concerning some back-stabbing manouevres from Andrew Weil (the famous health expert) directed towards Alpert during the brouhaha scandal at Harvard.
Some more music talk: I wouldn't have known about it if I hadn't received a tip from the turned-on Lemonaide Kid, who pointed out that everyone's favorite Elvis impersonator RICK SAUCEDO has upgraded the reissue of his own psychedelic private press masterpiece Heaven Was Blue. The new reissue is a real CD (not CD-R) and adds a bunch of bonus tracks from the same era as the LP, and a couple of these tracks will blow your mind -- they're in the exact same style as the album, and one can fantasize about them replacing the two roots rockers. Saucedo still defends the rocker tracks in his liner notes, but also explains the influence of psychedelic music on Heaven Was Blue, the concept of which came from an idea he had about an acid trip. These liner notes basically confirm all the things we used to imagine about Saucedo's LP when it was discovered in the 1990s, and this is the Reissue Of The Year for me so far. Order it directly from Saucedo's website but note that payment is via check only, which may complicate things for non-US residents.
The High Speed V, a second-wave band in Stockholm's 1980s garage scene, always dressed
in style and here letting it rip with a Yardbirds cover at Kaos, the #1 venue of the era.
Left to right Mats Kempe, Jens Lindberg, Niclas Rosén. Not shown: Stellan Wahlstrom,
Closer to the homefront I register a 2-CD compilation celebrating the Swedish 1980s garage scene, with which I was closely involved and have, in fact, to thank for many beneficial developments in my life. While we had some crazy fun with clubs, parties, booze, drugs and even some women, the scene felt pretty local and fadd-ish at the time, but over the years it has aquired a certain legendary status, more so abroad than at home. People from far away still ask about the bands and try to find the old records, most of which were self-released affairs in small runs. Boasting a front cover depicting my buddy Mans P Mansson from the Crimson Shadows / Livingstones / Word Of Life / Maggots, the A REAL COOL TIME REVISITED sampler is nicely selected, and also goes a long way towards bridging the chasm between the hardcore '66 fundamentalists (to which I belonged) and the slightly older and more general revivalists such as the Nomads. I still think those bands suck though (he-he).
Between everything else, we found time to launch another round of rare record auctions at the Renaissance Fair. The Spring/Summer 2010 Catalog is loaded with new cheap and not-so-cheap thrills, in case you've managed to miss it.
And finally, the thing that I get several inquiries each week about: yes, it appears likely that there will be another edition of the Acid Archives, and yes, work is going on in that direction. However, until it's actually rolling off the printers, the existence of an Acid Archives Second Edition is a probable event only; there are no certainties in this particular plane of existence.
It may be a while until the next Eternal Now update, so I advise you to arrange for a long, stoned Summer, and pick up the new UGLY THINGS when it's out in a couple of weeks --in it I will reveal the secrets of the PERTH COUNTY CONSPIRACY, for one thing.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Easter Everywhere 2010
What was actually found inside the Ark of the Covenant
FOR REASONS OF TEXAS, Easter is one of the most important events in the psychedelic calendar. Thus I am posting this, even though I haven't rounded up much new information to share with y'all. Music-wise I've mostly been hanging out with some of the old heavies -- Stephen Stills' first solo LP, Grand Funk Railroad's 2nd, King Crimson's debut, things like that. It's all good stuff, of course, and a working household remedy after accidentally having been exposed to some hyped-up but severely disappointing private press album. I'm still running across good stuff from the underground, but the hit/miss ratio ain't what it was 20 years ago, when Paul Major & his merry moles were digging up and dispersing unknown killer rekkids on a monthly basis. So, in 2010 I find that after having one's ears offended by some no-talent 3rd-tier singer-songwriter 1977 wristslasher custom press, the most effective remedy to clean out the self-pity is good old classic rock, with or without any DWUG influences.
The second Grand Funk LP, aka "Red", is not just a very good and highly influential hardrock album, but the (extremely good-sounding) CD reissue reproduces a bunch of vintage paraphernalia including an old concert ad that shows SAINTE ANTHONY'S FYRE opening for Farner & the boys!
This didn't escape the eagle-eye of the people in care of the Fyre's legacy today, as you can see on this rather entertaining website. E-mail them and demand t-shirts with just the old Zonk LP front cover printed and nothing else. I could buy 3 copies myself; one for me and two for my sons, who are approaching the age where it's time to learn about life's necesseties.
The rare record purchases have been few, but I did manage to add a third title to my PAUL PAGE collection -- the wondrous The Big Island Says Aloha, which finds Mr Page rounding up 12 songs that all deal with the Big Island (in Hawaii, haoles!), and deliver them in his inimitable vintage style. The recording is more primitive than his LA albums, giving off near-Korla Pandit vibes at times, and we are treated to an alternate version of the "Haole Chicken Reel Song". Some of the tracks are admittedly more goofy hillbilly pop than anything suave or exotic, but Jerry Byrd's marvy steel guitar always delivers. Anyone holding spare copies of Hawaiian Honeymoon or I Remember Blanding, drop me a line for an offer you can't refuse. I picked up a couple more obscure Exotica titles, and also a new addition to my growing collection of instrumental rock albums. Seems pre-Beatle is where the Lama collector head is at half the time nowadays.
Thanks to mysterious three-eyed connections I was recently offered a sample of the upcoming ROKY ERICKSON album, True Love Cast Out All Evil. Scheduled for release in a few weeks, this finds Roky revisiting songs from his gigantic back catalog of compositions (inside Rusk Hospital he wrote hundreds of songs), but with brand new recordings with rock band Okkervil River. With some trepidation I dropped the CDR onto the tray, but it didn't take more than 1.5 song for any jaded skepticism to be blown away by the magic presence of the Rok! It was a weird, almost paranormal experience, when the old Roky voice slowly emerged out of the weathered country singer tone that he often favors nowadays. At its best, around track three or four, the experience actually brought tears to my eyes, as the whole amazing Erickson saga played out in the back of my head, parallel to the music. The album I heard was clearly unfinished, but if it can maintain the level of the opening half or so, it will be a very big deal.
Roky and Tommy hanging out in San Francisco, 2007. Tommy is explaining what the
eye in the pyramid means from a Korzybskian perspective. Just like back in '66!
Elsewise I've been busy with several writing assignments; some liner notes for Guerssen, an article/interview for Ugly Things, and also a bigger project, all of which will be revealed in more detail down the line. Somewhat related to this I'm working on a mix tape, from which I can share two prospective MP3 inclusions that didn't make the final cut:
Easter Egg #1
Easter Egg #2
Painted eggs, honoring an ancient Scandinavian tradition for Easter. I did a
Jackson Pollock-inspired 'Action Egg', while the boys went for a more
That's all for now, folks! Hopefully I have more substantial matters to share with you at the next turning of the wheel of Dharma.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Anthesteria 2010
As we enter the second decade of the third millennium -- the year we make contact -- there is no doubt to me that we're inside of a huge, third wave of psychedelic culture that has been rolling for many years. A larger number of people are taking psychedelic drugs right now than at any other time in human history. Veteran acid advocates, turned into weary skeptics by the unwise excesses of the old hippie era and its unsurprising backlash, may not perceive this clearly, not just because of the vast generation gap, but because they are looking in the wrong places.
I've been reading up on the Eleusinian Mysteries of late; these were basically early raves where 1000s of Greeks gathered once a year to dance, sing, fast and -- during the most important part of the 9-day ritual -- "experience direct contact with the divine" inside a huge temple. A hallucinogenic compound called kykeon was at the center of this experience, and the debate and research into exactly what this compound was continues.
Persephone and Demeter, the two main godheads of the Eleusinian mystery rites, admiring each other's mushrooms. These mystery rites were an important influence on classic Greek culture, the foundation of western civilization.
2500 years later, the third psychedelic wave of our era is entirely underground, but it's an underground as vast as a mushroom mycelium (the largest living organism on earth), and if looked for in the right places, as vividly alive and engaging as anything that has gone before. After Terence McKenna's passing, there are no high-profile figureheads, which is basically a good thing -- the message is still being broadcast, but there is no scapegoat for media and governments to crucify. Psychedelic activity seems to be everywhere; a steady stream of books covering new ground rather than boring old baby-boomer nostalgia, a number of documentary movies, both amateur and professional, a music scene which (particularly in Europe) is quite serious about its psychedelic nature, and of course millions and millions of people tripping out on everything from good old LSD to curveball substances like DPT and 2-CB. Much of this activity takes place outside the US, where the atmosphere still seems subdued and slightly paranoid in the wake of the idiotic War On Drugs and 9/11. By my impression, the general mood in the US today is vastly different from the friendly, open-minded and upbeat atmosphere we met on our long road trips back in the 1990s, but hopefully the yankees will come racing back to lead the charge into the future, as they've done in the past.
One area where plenty of regular US citizens are displaying resourcefulness is protecting the environment. I joined the Nature Conservancy last year, and among other things I receive their periodical magazine, in which I just read a rather cool story regarding a project in Northern California. The organization has collaborated with local government to block off a substantal patch of forest populated by the classic Redwood trees of the region. These gigantic trees can absorb huge amounts of carbon oxide and are thus particularly well suited for re-forestation initiatives. Here's the cool part -- in order for manufacturing businesses in the area to continue as before, they have to invest in 'emission rights' by aquiring one or more of designated squares of these Redwood trees, thus ensuring that the forest remains intact. The government raises some income, the company can stay in business, and the regional contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is reduced. One has to admire the cleverness behind this win-win-win model, which is likely to be implemented elsewhere.
Some people may be surprised to hear me talk of environmental matters, but what has happened in recent years is that my psychedelic trips seem to return to this topic over and over. No matter whether I was doing mushrooms, the Cannabinoid derivative called 'Spice', or ayahuasca, nature made itself heard when I was in the trip space, showing me troubling scenes of poisoned rivers and people behaving like greedy robots.
At first I only registered these messages, which seemed novel to me, but after a while I realized that it was a persistent theme, urging me to lose my skeptical generation X indifference.
All this said, I can see where some of the recent Climate Skepticism is coming from. In the midst of supposed 'Global Warming' we're facing the coldest, snowiest winter here in at least 20 years. In my adult years I've gotten used to more or less snow-free winters, but 2010 has been totally old skool with Borean gods reminding is just how close we are to the North Pole and/or Siberia. Brr!
A daily sight outside the Vajrayana Lounge. So much for Global Warming.
Enough with the metereology. Here's the first part of an interesting documentary called Power & Control. LSD In The Sixties. The film-maker is seeking financing to finish it, but it's already interesting and entertaining enough to check out. In a recent interview, Ram Dass/Dick Alpert comes right out and states that John F Kennedy took LSD in the early 1960s, a statement which I don't think I've ever seen him make so clearly before (Tim Leary has claimed the same thing in the past). There are several other interviews with graybearded old heads, all unique to this film. Three more parts can be found alongside Part 1.
Sticking with the video clips but shifting the focus to music, here's a TV appearance by New York City band the Traits of "High On A Cloud" and "Nobody Loves The Hulk" non-fame, miraculously preserved for 40 years. Otherwise I've been listening to a lot of old favorites like the Beatles, Joy Division and Neil Young in recent weeks, not least because the reissue pipeline has been somewhat barren. A nicely done repro of an avant/proto-industrial noise fest titled THE DAILY DANCE flew in here from the Canadian tundra, and it works well as a braincleaner, kind of like the mid-section of "Sister Ray" (which has gotten some recent rotation here). Not quite as experimental but still pretty fringey is a reissue of the HEITKOTTER album, an old CA demo press warhorse popular with some psych mafiosos as well as the young Jandek legion. The liner notes speculate that Heitkotter was a one-man-band project, but to my ears it's obvious from the bent, sweaty groove that it's a live recording featuring several musicians. As it turns out, there was indeed a bass player and a drummer, and the only possible overdubs were some guitar leads. The Heitkotter bassist recently surfaced and wonders why this album has been reissued without his knowledge, hopefully this will be sorted out shortly. He also told me that there was much more recorded back then than what was pressed up on the demo LP.
A few CD comps have flown in from Past & Present, including a rather cool sampler titled Psych Bites of Australian early '70s rock, as well as a collection of 2nd-tier UK prog bands titled Maximum Prog, and two more volumes of the cool Electric Asylum. What else? Oh yeah, the NOMADDS reissues turned out to be very nicely done, with expert re-mastering by Erik Lindgren and a classy gatefold sleeve for the vinyl version. Sticking to the garage side of things, I recently got involved with a discussion on the old BATTLE OF THE BANDS album on Ren-Vell. A member of one of the bands (Raunch) featured got in touch, which led to a lot of interesting info and some music clips being posted at the excellent Garage Hangover website.
I checked out the NGOZI FAMILY in hope to expand my Afro-rock collection, but found it somewhat disappointing -- sung mostly in a native tongue and with a kind of generic funky basement rock sound of the region. Others seem to like it, but the X factor just wasn't there for me. Shadoks have another Afro reissue out called TIROGO, which is reportedly good, but I ain't dropping $50 on anything until I've heard it. Hopefully the reissue pace will pick up in coming months, and I know that vinyl jobs on top-flight titles like KRISTYL and DRENDALL, THROWER & FRIENDS are due out soon.
Here's the most recent batch of glorious original vinyl to land in the Vajrayana mailbox -- the MASTERS APPRENTICES has been a want since 15+ years, but prompted by the excellent coverage of Mick Bower & his merry Oz men in the recent Ugly Things I caved in and dropped the big moolah on a clean mono original. The album is 1/3rd weak, but the good 2/3rd is awesome.
REPORTAGE is a rare and very cool Trad Gras & Stenar-related field recording.
More in a little while, if we survive this winter cold and the wolves don't come. Below is a warming image to admire until then.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Christmas 2009
I guess for most of us un-enlightened westerners the month of December in general and the days around Christmas in particular might not be as enjoyable as they should be, when obligations and considerations large and small make demands on what little time there is. Everyone swears that this year the season will be mellow and cool, but other than travelling to the other side of the globe, it's a hard space to reach out there in reality. Still, halfway through the mid-winter festivities of 2009, it's going alright up here, and the postcard winter evening outside the window (our first snow-covered Christmas in 14 years, I'm told) contributes to a benign, faintly starry-eyed mood.
Looking further back across the year that was, here are the customary Top 10 Lists -- picked from the top of my brain, and not very definite or anything.
Patrick's best NEW musical encounters of 2009
1. PAUL PAGE: The Reef Is Calling (1961) I've been listening to a lot of Exotica during the past year, and when going over the second and third layers of that genre (the top layer I covered back in the '90s), the biggest buzz I got by some margin came from Paul Page. A profoundly entertaining mix of Hawaiian lounge music, weathered sailor tall tales, and ancient LA playboy vibes.
2. STAGEFRIGHT: D-Day (1980) Lord knows why some people have knocked this, but naively assuming they were right, I stayed away from Stagefright for many years, until I finally decided to check it out for myself, and lo & behold -- Paul Major was right all along, the nay-sayers were wrong all along, and Stagefright add another dazzling piece to the puzzle of smalltown '70s basement rock that I like to construct in idle time.
3. ETERNITY on Band Of Gold (1981) Not quite as way out into hicksville as Stagefright, Eternity belong to what I call the 'Rockadelic' style, which is early '70s-sounding teenage hardrock, with suburban stoner kids getting into Grand Funk and Led Zep and coming out with something that rocks with an atmosphere. Supposedly a Jesus Rock title, but the religious concerns are buried beneath longhair grooves and bell-bottom pants... even in 1981.
4. JOHN POLCE: The Call (1976) I probably never will understand the 'loner' or 'downer' fans. I find the music fairly easy to grasp, but exactly why its' aficionados go after boring, unmelodic no-talents while an album like Polce's debut is left behind in the $40 bin is a profound mystery to me. The first track is weak, but the rest is a trip into Catholic Calvary guilt that increases in intensity and depth with each passing minute. Parts of side 2 are utterly spellbinding -- and Polce can sing, he can play guitar, he can write songs. Unlike the garbage that eBayers pay $600 for.
5. THE JUGS: First Batch (1981) It seems there was a Deadhead combo in every tiny burg around the US by 1980, perhaps in the wake of the Grateful Dead's legendary 1977 tour. The Jugs are unlike most other Dead clones in several ways, the most important being that they sound weird as hell. I wouldn't be surprised to learn they were on LSD when they cut this album, which hits weird spots in both playing and vibe, and would make a nice bill with Bobby's Blues Band from the opposite coast. No need to be on the bus to enjoy this one.
6. FRANK HUNTER: White Goddess (1959) A good thing about getting into the rarer Exotica titles in 2009 is that the prices on a lot of heavy titles have dropped quite substantially. Thus I was able to score a clean stereo White Goddess for about $60, while $150 would have been a more typical price 10 years ago. And it's as good as legend has it: creative, arresting music that evokes nocturnal jungle clearings with subtle manipulations of mood that are outstanding even by Exotica's high standards.
Memories of 2009: an exotica LP and two cups of Ayahuasca
7. ETHEL AZAMA: Exotic Dreams (1960) A lesser known Exotica title, parts of this is pleasant but rather standard small-combo 1950s jazz with female vocals. However, on 3-4 tracks Ms Azama and her musical companions journey into proto-psychedelic spaces, with strange, alien moods that don't sound Asian as much as otherworldly. Ethel Azama's surreal-cerebral vocal style here sounds like a blueprint for the 'acid queen' stylings of Grace Slick or Linda Perhacs.
8. FARM BAND: same (1973) Another one I should have checked out long ago but simply hadn't, this is a bona fide full-blown acidrock classic, which has very little in common with the standard '70s commune LPs, sounding more like a lost album from the heyday of the SF ballrooms. The shorter tracks are OK, but on the long jams the Farm Band, under Stephen Gaskin's wise and lysergic direction, stretch out into dynamite guitar jams along the Quicksilver-Dead axis. I just dropped some modest money on an original of this, which turned out to be incredibly, unplayably warped in a bizarre way I've never seen before. Yeah!
9. BLUES SPECTRUM: same (1970) Veteran private press collectors know that the presence of a horn section isn't necessarily a bad thing, the main thing is how the horns -- just like with a guitar -- are utilized. Blues Spectrum's rare and incredibly lo-fi album has a teenage 3-man horn section who try their best to play in tune, while the band leader and guitarist howls echo-laden vocals and plays frantic Hendrix feedback leads. The combination and atmosphere is a jaw-dropper on the first play, and this little-known album (a Rite pressing from PA) has given me lots of fun in the past year.
Another memory of 2009 -- the Royalaires and "Big Lebowski"-style White Russians
10. ROYALAIRES on RPC (196?) I wrote an article about custom labels for Ugly Things magazine earlier this year, and that particular patch of land is proving fertile even as the overall field of unknown '60s-70s music has been somewhat barren of new discoveries. The Royalaires do not play garage, but a sort of '60s backwoods greaser music, with energy and rawness, whether covering 50s rock'n'roll or Buck Owens ballads. This is the kind of record you run into and appreciate only after many years of enjoying the more obvious picks, and as such its appeal is not easy to put into words. It's a rare sucker too!
Patrick's favorite reissues of 2009
1. 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS: Sign Of The 3-Eyed Men box-set (Snapper) 10-15 years ago, the notion of a glossy, band-authorized 10-disc boxset of the Elevators would have been laughable, but thanks mainly to the Herculean efforts of the band biographer and music archivist Paul Drummond, here it is! Certain minor objections can be raised here and there by hardcore fans like me, but the key discs (remastered stereo Easter, Avalon live, Bull outtakes) are flawless, and the hardcover book is simply the best printed work ever produced for the Elevators, much more so than the Feral House biography. The standing of this incredible band has now been permanently up-levelled.
2. TRUTH: Of Them And Other Tales (Missing Vinyl) At this late stage, after almost 15 years of writing enthusiastic rants on Truth, I doubt that I need to further explain this outstanding double album of late '60s westcoast sounds from a Chicago quartet with two ex-Them members. I'm listing it here in recog-nition of a long-time wish finally fulfilled, viz: a classy vinyl pressing of what has been only available on CD for 1.5 decade. Hooray!
3. BEATLES The Mono Box (Apple) Kind of hard to rate this in comparison to anything else, since the Beatles were a condition for almost all these other things to exist, but like a review in Village Voice said; while the box-set is pretty awesome, 95% of this is due to it being the Beatles, with no direct super-charge gained from the mono remastering or way-cool Japanese-style mini-LP sleeves... but I must admit the miniature poster in The White Album and the pygmy booklet with Magical Mystery Tour are incredibly neat. As for the mono mixes, Sgt Pepper definitely sounds better this way (like George Harrison always claimed), and my old fave Hard Days Night sounds as good as ever with its moody beat. The '64-65 albums in general may have an edge in mono, but from Revolver on, I think the stereo mixes are the ones (Pepper excluded). It's been a thrill to listen to the Beatles day in and out around Christmas, just like I did when I was 13-14.
4. STRAWBERRY WINDOW (World In Sound) Our friends at W.I.S haven't put out that many new releases, and they've been kind of quiet about it too, but Strawberry Window is a mighty fine archival release of a 'lost' teenage band from 1966-67 San Francisco. It's an archetypal sound from this most legen-dary scene, covering both Yardbirdsy garage, Brummelsy folkrock and free-form acid rock dual guitar jams. Traces of Quicksilver, Mad River and Butter-field's East-West are easy to detect. I would have liked to give this an even higher rating, but the total impression is damaged somewhat by the liner notes, which seem to be completely unedited and read like chaos. The sleeve is very nice-looking though, as always with this label. More may be to come from this particular SF vortex...
5. HARBINGER: same (Guerssen) 2009 was a good year for Dave Bixby, who after being tracked down saw his two rare albums get reissued, along with detailed liner notes where he gets plenty of space to tell his unusual story. As I've mentioned , I think the sound and delicate atmosphere of the Ode To Quetzal-coatl reissue was damaged by heavy-handed noise reduction (similar to some Shadoks titles), but Bixby's second LP Harbinger came out sounding just fine, certainly better than my old cassette dupe. One might engage in a Bobb Trimble type debate as to which Bixby LP is the best, and due to the nature of these two parallel reissues as well as its richer instrumentation, Harbinger may be gaining advantage. The music? It's dark, well-written, and occasionally very intense '70s folk with cosmic seeker lyrics.
6. ONE ST STEPHEN: same (Anazitisi) I review this well-known old private press in the latest Ugly Things; the album is about 2/3rds great but the reissue is so nicely done that it really boosts the entire trip. Despite being known for 20-25 years, 'Stephen's' story has never been told until now, and it was both interesting and in parts surprising -- finding out that my Earlham College hero Charlie Bleak plays bass under a pseudonym on this LP is the kind of thing that makes a whole day for me. And dig the artwork that came with the reissue... Stephen aka Don Patterson was a true talent.
7. GEORGE-EDWARDS same (Drag City) It's interesting to note, still today, how perseverance and promotion pay off. After finding out that there was a young, small fan-base for their old demo album, the George-Edwards duo wasted no time in connecting with their admirers, getting on the internet, and setting up a reissue. Perhaps due to this concentrated activity, the renowned Drag City label stepped in and put out a nicely done repro of an album that only 5 years before was completely unknown, even among hardcore aardvarks like me. In return, the duo have been generous in acknow-ledging the efforts of their supporters. All in all a very happy saga, not least because the music is great and obviously timeless.
8. JOHN PALMER: Shorelines (Void) The sometimes maligned Void label have raised their batting average in recent years, and I see no reason to put a skull & bones on their output. Very recently they've reissued one of the best things still floating around unheard by most; John Palmer's dark, powerful '70s folkrock opus Shorelines. Using a full band and even some heavy fuzz, I think this is an album that demonstrates why a full electric setting is basically always preferrable over skeletal acoustic 'downer folk' -- unless you're Tim Hardin or Nick Drake (and you're not), nothing is lost with a fuller sound, and a lot is gained. Getting back to Void, the glossy paper stock used for their sleeves go against the nature of a record like this, but that's getting a bit picky...
9. BILL MADISON: Sunday Mornin' Hayride (CD Riverman) Way yonder in Pacific Asia, South Korea to be precise, they do love obscure '70s singer-songwriter music, and while I may at times question their ability to tell the good from the smarmy, they hit the bull's eye with this rekkid. Sounding not unlike the great Drendall-Thrower circle from Michigan, Bill Madison delivers semi-electric rural s-sw and folk-blues music in the best 'Americana' tradition -- not psychedelic or very much 'rock' at all, but simply good music from an almost unknown artist.
10. YEZDA URFA: Boris (Anazitisi) Some people might say that I'm anti-prog, but (to quote The Rutles) that only shows the kind of things some people might say. So hear this: I got into Close To The Edge when I was 14, and I still listen to it regularly. Obscure US midwest prog avatars Yezda Urfa was a somewhat later encounter for me (no shit), and while I still find parts of this album hard to get into, the basic impression is that it's fun, it's weird, and it's inventive. Anazitisi have come up with another excep-tionally nice reissue, and it really seems there is a happening scene down in Greece these days.
Oops, some space still left, so here's Number...
11. V/A: LONESOME HEROES (Numero) See earlier posts below for details on this rather irresistible various artists sampler from the ambitious Numero label in Chicago; as much a triumph of concept and packaging, as a collection of excellent, obscure 1970s 'loner' folk and s-sw music.
Um, yeah. With those top 10 lists out of the way, I'm free to drop some recent news on you. Such as the fact that my old run-down of "20 Albums That Should Be Reissued" that was published in Ugly Things magazine some years back keeps getting checked off. Right here in December 2009 we have two more hits on the Lama parade -- first off, a legit and very nicely done repro of BOB DESPER from Discourage Records in Bob's own hometown. There was a bootleg announced last year but that one's buried and forgotten with this classy reissue job, which includes liner notes and even a bonus 7-incher with Desper's pre-LP 45. This landed too late to make it for my Top 10 List above, but could well qualify. Even more recent is another authorized reissue of an old fave, namely THE NOMADDS' classy beat-merseybeat album from Illinois 1965. The band's rather unusual story is told in the new Ugly Things (one of the best issues in a long time, with epic pieces on Master's Apprentices, SF Bay Area wizards Wildflower, a Sky Saxon article by yours truly, and pages upon pages of hip, obscure vintage music action) and now ex-member Lee Garner has come out with a repro of his old warhorse, 44 years after it first came out! Lee and I have been corresponding via e-mail the last few years, and he talked of wanting to do a reissue, but I wondered if things would actually fall in place for that to happen. Well, thanks to Hans Kesteloo (another garage legend) the Nomadds album did happen, although it's so recent that my copy isn't here yet. See earlier rants in The Lama Reviews and The Acid Archives book for details on this interesting and partly superb pre-garage album.
While shopping for Christmas presents I threw in a couple of box-sets for my own personal enjoyment, including the Beatles mono behemoth (see above) and a nifty 4-CD thing from Rhino called THE BRIT BOX. Compiled by my trading buddy John H in Los Angeles, The Brit Box takes a look at the British indie/dance/shoegaze scene from the late 1980s until the early 2000s.
The author in 1992. Clad in 'Madchester' gear,
he is hatching secret plans to escape suburbia.
Although I rarely write about it, I was as caught up in the Manchester mania as anyone around 1991, and went to see most of the great bands (like STONE ROSES and HAPPY MONDAYS) live. The early '90s was a great time to be young and outgoing, at least here in Stockholm, with a vibrant mood in the air that was both friendly and hip, as one drifted from club to bar to all-night party; you didn't even need the Ecstasy to feel high. Of course it was too good to last, and I found the second UK wave with bands like Oasis much less interesting -- the unique connection to the club/dance culture had been lost, and to me 'Cool Britannia' seemed to be just another U2 rock star trip.
The wall-of-guitar 'shoegazers' I found a bit more interesting, at least in small doses, and I saw RIDE deliver one of the best concerts of any English band to visit our shores back then. But I had graduated from college and embarked on my white collar career, moved in with my girlfriend, and began feeling too old to walk around in a Julius Ceasar haircut and £150 shirts from Paul Smith. When the heinous Spice Girls popped up on MTV in 1996, it seemed to signal the end of all that had been cool about the 1990s... and so I dropped out of contemporary music, and went back to the 13th Floor Elevators & Yahowa 13, while perfecting my disguise as a white shirt and tie IT consultant. Although compiled from a US perspective, The Brit Box brings back some of the magic of the early days of Spike Island and Bez, and it also rounds up a bunch of one hit wonders that I had missed out on. I would have preferred even more coverage of the post-"Fool's Gold", pre-Oasis era (with sharp hit bands like the Mock Turtles and the Soup Dragons), but on the other hand I found a lot to enjoy on the 3rd and 4th discs, which cover the guitar-band days of the late 90s' and early 00s.
Some more odds & ends before corking up the New Year champagne. After the success of the very cool Bomp! book (aka Saving The World One Record At A Time) last year, the crack team behind that tome have returned with a Bomp! Book 2, aka Born In The Garage consisting mainly of selections from Greg Shaw's legendary 1970s magazine. As I suggested in an e-mail to editor Mike Stax, the spirit of Greg Shaw seems to be alive and hovering in the air around us, and it is influencing the direction and style of some of the retro music writing seen these days. Whether my channeling of this presence is accurate or not, it's hard to imagine a better role model for young music writers than Shaw, who was unfailingly enthusiastic, open-minded, and serious -- a rare combination. Speaking of, a westcoast writer who has been at it almost as long as Shaw has come out with a new edition of his tome -- I'm talking, of course, about John Blair's canonical Illustrated Discography Of Surf Music. Now in its 4th edition, it is and will probably always remain the ultimate word on '60s surf 45s and LPs. I just got mine in the mail and it's a beauty, with color print throughout. Order here: http://www.johnblair.us/books.htm . More '60s-oriented writing that should be of interest can be found with the Psych Trails zine, whose latest issue is (almost) all Texas '60s stuff, including new interviews with Clementine Hall and Powell St John. Hear Powell wax about early peyote trips on the webzine site.
Writing of a somewhat different nature can be found at Feed Your Head, where we have added presentations of three classics in the field of hallucinogen literature, ranging from confused 1950s shrinks to fearless 1970s shamans. A more recent work on similar subjects has been published by one of our Australian correspondents, detailing the contents of a psychoactive Garden Of Eden. Check it out!
Finally, I want to direct you to one of the most valuable resources on the Internet -- the kind of rare website that actually contains unique, thoroughly researched data on an interesting subject. Chicken On A Unicycle is presented by a couple of very heavy collectors-experts on 1960s poster art & related, with a certain focus on the San Francisco scene. Check it out, but beware -- you may never want to leave! For an instant bong hit, here's a neat family tree in the Pete Frame tradition covering the ultra-great Mad River.
That's all folks! See y'all in 2010 -- the year we make contact.
PSYBIENT & DOWNBEAT ELECTRONICA part 4
You have to scroll down a few pages to find the first 3 parts, but what I'm doing here is examining the rather exciting field of contem-porary psychedelic music coming out of the electronic 'chill-out' scene, primarily in Europe. At its best, this music captures and develops the spirit of the original psychedelic era in a better way than anything I've heard within modern 'rock'. For this round I picked up two compi-lation volumes from the Israeli Avatar label. THE RIDDLE OF SANTA CATHERINA from 2006 is a somewhat uneven experience, but contains two dynamite tracks -- the suggestive dark midtempo flow of ASTROPILOT's "Son Of The SKy", and the 15-minute "Intoxicated Nomads" by NIMBA. The latter track is what prompted me to buy this CD, and it seems to break new ground with its mysterious swirling moves through tribal atmospheres not unlike Taruna's classic "Shambhala". The companion volume THE RIDDLE OF ISLA DE PASCUA (these "riddles" are explored in some amusingly cheesy Von Daeniken type liner notes) is more consistent in quality with dark, rich, droning moods, and does live up to its "tribal" genre designation. Astropilot and Nimba both return with good tracks, and I was glad to see the old Psytrance masters of TOTAL ECLIPSE still being at it. This is a good sampler and if you really like it, get the preceding volume too (or check out "Intoxicated Nomads" elsewhere)... I've earlier discussed OTT, a Briton who did a creative and much-loved downtempo remix of old PsyTrance anthems by Hallucinogen, titled Hallucinogen In Dub. I recently picked up OTT's proper, self-composed CD Blumenkraft to see what else he had up his sleeve. It's a pretty good album, but in light of his other work I found it slightly disappointing -- the beats are heavy and suggestive, with a strong club sound, but the music seems to lack the creativity and variation of the best PsyBient stuff. Not as playfully stoned as Slackbaba, nor as sophisticated as Tripswitch, Blumenkraft may work best as a backdrop for whatever activity, rather than concentrated listening. The strongest track by some margin, "Splitting An Atom" can be found on a few CD compilations... Possibly the best of all psybient/chill CDs I've heard of late is RELAXED JOURNEYS, a 2006 comp from the Norway-based Chilltribe label.
As with all the best samplers it combines a distinct style with a consistently high quality; here we are treated to 10 downbeat tracks with vast, dubby airspaces, Eastern beats, and a superb sense of melody. It's quite British-sounding in its mix of club vibes and creativity, and in fact several of the spoken word samples used are distinctly British (not American). Fans of the afore-mentioned Tripswitch, Slackbaba or the ORB at their best will love this comp, which is precisely the kind of music I hoped to find in this field... I was less smitten with CHILLOSOPHY VOL 1 from the Swedish MPDQX label. This came to me via a recommendation I read somewhere, but I must have gotten my wires crossed somehow. It's admittedly an impressive and consistent collection of sounds, but almost all of it goes into an experimental ambient-avant direction that projects dark, dystopian visions of empty corridors, arid concrete cities, and a hopeless future. There's not much melody to talk of, and the beats are angular and sharp. The vibe is a bit like the old electronic-avant LPs from the 1960s that I enjoy checking out once in a while, but that's not really why I got into third millennium downbeat. An exception is the closing "Floating Castles" by KARL-AXEL BISSLER which has a superb, understated sensuality that reminds me of the Infinite Wheel's '90s classic "Lake Of Dreams". All over, Chillosophy will undoubtedly work wonders for some people, but I'm not one of them... staying in Sweden, where there really is a lot of classy electronica being created these days, I needed several plays to get into Exploring The Tributaries by scene veterans VIBRASPHERE. Opening with a couple of atmospheric tracks close to the midtempo ambient works on the Ultimae label by SOLAR FIELD and CARBON BASED LIFEFORMS, a Nordic, melancholic, nocturnal, and-so-forth, mood is established. Vibrasphere then move from this wake-like feeling into uptempo progressive trance, where minimalist variations of arpeggio and melody are nicely applied while still retaining a sophisticated, slightly cerebral Scandinavian feel.
Impressive music, yet slightly too observationist-analytical (or simply too progessive) for my hallucino-genic hippie tastes. The brighter, joyous visions that are introduced via the two marvy tracks "Forever Imaginary" and "Ensueno" toward the end are right up my starry-eyed alley, though... beautiful early Winter listening, like right now. Exploring The Tributaries requires some patience, but once inside its snowy river landscape it is a really, really good album... migrating south from Baltic coastline icicles to Mediterranean palm trees, a rather different but equally enjoyable experience may be found on a compilation CD I picked up long ago but haven't written about before, CAFE DEL MAR VOL 11. This is a classic series of 'Ibiza' or 'Balearic Beat', put together by a DJ who was one of the original advocates of relaxing early morning music to follow all-night club partying on the small Mediterranean island. Volume 11 was recommended to me as a come-back in style after a long decline, and it could well be the best in the entire series. Superbly consistent in style and soothing but never dull in mood, this is the perfect soundtrack to watch the sun rise from a balcony above the ocean... I was surprised at how sophisticated and complex the music was, certainly not the muzak-like backdrop some might expect.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Father's Day
Friends, we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive at where we started, and know the place for the first time. Thus spake T S ELIOT some 70 years ago, and while I can't technically prove it, I have a strong feeling that he was talking about FRACTION.
You see, what has become clear to me during 2009, is that there really ain't that much out there to topple the small, canonical pyramid of truly great private pressings that, by and large, was erected 15-20 years ago. Fads have come and gone, hypes have been built and backlashed against; increasingly far-fetched collector trends have flared up like fireworks, only to come spiralling down as burnt-out debris in a year or two.
While I believe that it is vital to keep both ears and all three eyes open for new retro finds and new musical paradigms, even greater rewards may be found in revisting those original beacons of rare music mania, and to see how their auras completely engulf the lesser lights of the whatever-discovery-du-jour.
Vital to this is another realization, namely that original vinyl & ancient sleeves deliver a clean, direct hit that sends any reissue reeling, no matter how well-made. Except for a few unique cases, a reissue is a facsimile that sounds a little less great and looks a little less cool than the real thing -- a reissue is something that will do for the time being. As some of you know, I have spent substantial energy on comparisons of Orig vs Repro and how the Repro doesn't sound quite as good and so forth, but hey, Sherlock, of course it doesn't... it's a facsimile.
Some recent Lama aquisitions of original vinyl pressings
Take for instance the much-admired Live N' Wild LP by Bermuda's premier 1966 moptops, the SAVAGES. Together with a few garage colleagues from the youthful days of the '80s I've built a small religion around this album. However, these rituals of worship were based on the old Resurrection label bootleg repro, which we assumed had to be close in sound to the vintage Duane label pressing, because it looked and sounded real good. But when I came across an original almost by accident, I discovered that this old bootleg facsimile, much like the rest of them, didn't hold a candle to the genuine artifact. I'm not talking about some minor audiophile bullshit about how certain frequencies are less well represented or whatever, but a whole level of nuance and presence. And so, very happily and a bit unexpectedly, Live 'N Wild opened up one more layer of greatness, once I got the chance to check out an original. And this was just an example, mind you.
I'm sure this will piss some people off, but I call things the way I see them, and what I find in 2009 is that (A) hanging with the classic big-ticket private pressings and (B) listening to clean originals, leads to (C) a vitalizing feeling not unlike the unforgettable excitement of first hearing this great, great music many years ago.
But there are also cases where getting an original pressing will remain an impossible dream, and for such titles the question of the best-sounding reissue is of major significance. I recently picked up old faves like OBERON, PHANTASIA, B.L.O & such, and in all cases I went to the trouble of hunting down long out-of-print vinyl repros. Why? Well, if it's something where you know you'll never get an orig, then that reissue becomes as vital as an orig, and you damn sure want to have the best-sounding (i e: closest to the original) reissue there is.
So while B.L.O came out in a gatefold deluxe repro from Shadoks, I went an extra mile and excavated the old psych mafia repro from circa 1992 (incidentally, ground zero for the current psych collector infatuation with rare Afro-rock), because reliable sources have reported it to sound better than the more recent reissue. It does sound great, I must say. I'll have to get back to you on Oberon and Phantasia, and ITHACA is also up for similar reissue analysis. This is not an entirely inexpensive pilgrimage, but again, if you're going to stick with a repro, it has to be the right one.
On that same reissue front, some recent releases of interest include CIRCUIT RIDER from the Numero label -- legit & apparently in mighty good sound, along with a promotional Lama endorsement (check your Acid Archives book for details). Shadoks keep the Afro-rock kettle boiling with Introduction by WITCH, which I've been grooving to the last few weeks. It's less mature and not quite as magical as Lazy Bones, but still a very cool Zambian '70s trip with basement groove-rock, primitive Stones-like tunes, and LOUD fuzz leads. Any fan of the other Afro-rock faves will want to get this one. From our friends at Locust Records we have a new reissue of the currently-in-vogue moody singer-songwriter JAY BOLOTIN (also featured on Lonesome Heroes discussed last month). A couple of CD comps flew in from the highly active Past & Present label in England, with two volumes of PICCADILLY SUNSHINE loaded with frilly-shirt Anglo pop and pop-psych in the Hollies/Idle Race/Bee Gees tradition. They played through very well, feature a smattering of unknown tracks, and (considering the dubious licencing situation) remarkably well-researched liner notes. Finally I should mention Fly On Strange Wings by JADE, reissued for the first time ever as a richly bonused 2-CD set from Sunbeam. This is excellent, mainstream-oriented Brit folkrock with femme vocals and some psych remnants -- a little like Tudor Lodge, but clearly better to my ears.
The Eternal Now closes with a note of the passing of the great Texas producer and studio owner WALT ANDRUS, who is perhaps most famous today for his work with the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS -- Easter Everywhere in particular. Fittingly, one of Andrus' last projects was the excellent remastering job he did for the SIGN OF THE 3-EYED MEN box-set that came out earlier this year. Andrus considers Easter Everywhere the best album he ever worked on, and in the 1970s expressed frustration that the final mix-down was handled wrong, which led to the slightly muddy (not to mention too low) sound of the finished LP. It must have pleased him a lot to get a chance to go back and work on those tapes again, and the end result (as heard in the box-set) was impressive indeed. As reported by Elevators biographer Paul Drummond, the usually withdrawn Roky Erickson greeted Andrus as a long-lost friend when they converged for the 2007 remastering session. Below is a photo of Andrus in his studio 1967, generously provided by Texas music researcher Andrew Brown.
Walt Andrus 1937-2009
PATRICK THE LAMA'S
GENERIC COVERS SERIES
- Ocean Sunset with Seagulls -
Captain's Log, Star-date: Harvest Moon
The time has come, said the Lama, to talk of many things -- of shoes and ships and colored wax, and old garage comps that have no filler tracks, and record stores with Index originals in the back. However, we have to be brief, as September is as jam-packed with activity as always, after a long and pleasantly stoned Summer. First off I'd like to tell you about the new CD compilation from the always interesting Numero label in Chicago. Titled WAYFARING STRANGERS: Lonesome Heroes, this is the third instalment in a series that has earlier covered female folk/s-sw and acoustic guitar wizards.
Lonesome Heroes takes a look at 1970s loner folk with a melancholic drifter sub-theme, and manages to extract a consistently enjoyable trip from that mine field of overpriced backpacker loser albums. If you'd only heard this CD comp, those prices paid by Japanese collectors on eBay would almost seem to make sense. About 2/3rds of the tracks come from rekkids familiar to Acid Archives readers, and of the unheard (by me) material I have to throw in a word for the very good track by JACK HARDY, and 2 lines further down in the running order, the one by JAY BOLOTIN.
Both these tunes belong to what could roughly be called a Leonard Cohen tradition, and lend some weight to my hypothesis that Cohen -- unlike the much too gifted Hardin and the much too intense Buckley -- is a role model for second tier '70s downer dudes that actually works, one who can be emulated with agreeable results.
From the same era, but at the other end of the musical spectrum, we find a new archival release with those whacky white robed hipsters YAHOWHA 13. Magnificence In The Memory (Drag City, 2009) is a return to the classic basement cult jamming, after the somewhat more commercial excursions on Songs From The Source. Pulled together from a few different recordings back in 1973-74, Magnificence features Father in good form as he lectures and whispers eclectic wisdom over ominous tribal acid rock from the brethren. The Chinese Sage parody track will drive your friends nuts... it may even drive your plants nuts!
This may not be the YHWH album to start with (Penetration is still the best one for that), but any fan of the classic, unique style of the Source Family's music will want to get it. Lead guitar maestro DJIN AQUARIAN sells signed copies on eBay from time to time -- that's how I got mine, and it was generously autographed and embellished.
As you may have heard, that most classic of London temples for record collector pilgrims, Stand Out !/Minus Zero a k a "Bill & Bill" or, still today, PLASTIC PASSION, is closing shortly. After 25 years in the service of great music, and many years of similar activities prior to that, the big little shop in Ladbroke Grove will be no more. I remember first going there in 1986 when it was still called Plastic Passion, and the good vibes and outstanding selection immediately set it apart from the dozen or so other London record shops I went to, several of which were distinctly unfriendly. Not so with Bill Allerton & Bill Forsyth! It was a meetingplace too -- on one visit I had brought a stack of Scandinavian DOORS picture sleeves, which I figured I could trade for some hip private press bootleg reissues. But Bill (Allerton) declined them, although he gladly accepted several other things I had brought in, and so I was standing there with a dozen Doors 45s I had no desire to bring back to Stockholm. Next to me in the store was this young DJ guy from Los Angeles, and we started talking and he went through my Doors stack with obvious interest. So me and the guy from LA cut a cash deal right then and there at the Plastic Passion counter, and everyone was happy -- including Bill A, who watched the transaction with a curious look and his hair on end.
In the end I bought and swapped something like £150 worth of reissues and compilations from the Bill shelves that day, and was enthusiastically bid welcome on any other day. Of course, the guys couldn't believe it when I walked in 4 days later, with some holiday money still left to burn, for another round of Breeder and Heyoka boots. "You're back already!", Bill A exclaimed. Indeed I was, and would be each time I was in London. Alas, these trips are no more, but then again Nothing Lasts... except memories like this. Read more about Plastic Passion (as I still think of it) in the excellent Recordmecca blog.
This reminds me to throw in a word for another good blog (there are a few such, if you look long enough), The Psychedelic Press, which reviews psychedelic literature in a detailed and thoughtful manner.
I've been reading quite a bit of such tomes myself in recent months, and while waiting for a more thorough update at our Feed Your Head page, here are some impressions from the field of AYAHUSCA BOOKS. Edited by legendary hallucinogen researcher Ralph Metzner, Ayahuasca - Sacred Vine Of Spirits seems aimed at spiritually inclined yagé newbies, perhaps most of all within the 'New Age' scene in the USA. The book's strongest point is Metzner's 35-page introduction, which is probably the best thing I've ever read from him -- learned, lucid and authoritative. Chapters by Dennis McKenna, Charles Grob and J C Callaway (all members of the current psychedelic research elite) are also useful, covering the ethnobotany, psychology and psychopharmacology surrounding the wondrous Amazon jungle brew. The rest of the book is trip reports from about two dozen ayahusca neophytes, and for some reason this lengthy section doesn't really work. Too many of the testifiers come from similar backgrounds (middle-aged therapists dominate), and a surprising number of their reports don't really sound like ayahuasca experiences at all, but something else. There are 2-3 gems in there that will be useful to read, but a lot of the others left me scratching my head. The Israeli ayahuasca researcher Benny Shanon dismissed many of these reports as 'wishful thinking', and I see what he means. Shanon's own book, the massive Antipodes Of The Mind, contains very little of wishful thinking, but is jam-packed with phenomenological analysis of the many different aspects of the ayahuasca experience. Based partly on Shanon's own 130-something journeys with yagé, different types of visual hallucinations are identified and given scientific names, as are different types of visualized scenes, different types of distortions of time, and so on. Although the scientific-Aristotelian approach does not make for exciting reading, it's all very sensible and useful, and I was left thinking that this is what Tim Leary & Dick Alpert should have been doing with LSD in the 1960s, instead of their generally unfruitful tangents into birth psychology and Tibetan literature. The one weakness of Shanon's book is the strong bias in his sample population toward his own personal ayahuasca trips, something I suspect may draw criticism from academic peers.
Time-Space by Pablo Amaringo
The most recent (2008) book in my stack is Inner Paths To Outer Space, credited to Rick Strassman, Slawek Wojtowicz, Luis Eduardo Luna and Ede Frescka. They're all MD's or PhD's, and Strassman's name should be familiar from his groundbreaking book on DMT research, reviewed by me in Feed Your Head. Luna is most known for his collaboration with Eternal Now favorite painter Pablo Amaringo, with whom he wrote the classic Ayahuasca Visions back in 1992. The Inner Paths book seems aimed primarily at science fiction fans, exploring the ayahuasca-DMT-quantum physics-alien abduction axis that was invoked in Graham Hancock's entertaining Supernatural (discussed here earlier). For those familiar with DMT & ayahuasca literature, Strassman and Luna do not add that much to earlier writings, but I found Ede Frecska's speculative essay on the nature of consciousness very interesting. Building on Stuart Hameroff's & Roger Penrose's recent theory concerning consciousness as a cytoskeletal structure inside the brain cells, Frecska elegantly ties together various cutting edge theories that include DMT experiences and brain research, in a way somewhat like Jeremy Narby's, except more technical and detailed. The basic situation in 2009 is that scientists have no clue as to how consciousness is created or maintained, and it seems that the more they learn about how the brain works, the less they understand how consciousness can exist. The Hameroff-Penrose microstructure theory points to a solution to the riddle, which is of great interest not only to people who use psychedelic drugs, but to every thinking person on the planet. The Inner Paths book concludes with some vague talk about science fiction movies, but apart from the somewhat awkward target marketing, I found it worth reading.
Finally I must add a word about a book whose main subject is neither ayahuasca nor the nature of consciousness, but will enlarge your life and expand your mind just the same. Picking it up after a recommendation in an old Terence McKenna lecture, Michael Taussig's Shamanism, Colonialism & The Wild Man struck me as a marvellous work that combines field anthropology with humanism and ripping good stories in a rare way. Taussig is a highly respected name within anthropology whose name you may run across in ayahuasca bibliographies, and in this work he sums up 20 years of work in (primarily) Colombia. The book covers a wide history that goes back to the infamous rubber boom days of the early 20th century, and there raises questions concerning historical accuracy and Western prejudice. It then shifts perspective to a modern day vegetalista -- ayahuasca curer -- and follows this likable mestizo through a long series of events, many mundane, some quite extraordinary. Except for actually living there, I doubt you can find a more efficient way to help you understand the situation in the Amazon basin and nearby cities, with their unparalleled mix of poverty, resourcefulness, ayahuasca magic, and Catholic tradition. There are many accounts of yagé ceremonies in the book, some with Taussig participating, and these are of a somewhat different nature than the reverential stories of deep jungle rituals you usually read.
Man, that was one long involved rant. Maybe the two caps of Piracetam I dropped this morning are paying off. I didn't get to Michael Harner's Hallucinogen Shamanism as I'm preparing a separate presentation of this classic in Feed Your Head next month or so.
I was also going to review some recent aquisitions within Psybient Music, and there may be time for this in a few days. If so, these rants will appear in the column to the right, which currently contains a meditative image of the Void. Now you must excuse me because I have a rendez-vous with Eternity... and I mustn't be late.
PS You psychedelic collectors out there may want to take a trip to our Renaissance Fair, which has just been updated with an Autumn 2009 catalog featuring 100 interesting titles, both auction and set sale.
T H E V O I D
Captain's Log, Star-date: Volcanalia
Some of the same people involved with that tome can also be seen in an in-progress DMT documentary movie that looks very promising. Check out this trailer on Youtube and read more on this website. After last month's ayahuasca report, my own modest tryptamine contributions continue with some paragraphs on ENDOHUASCA, or spontaneously self-released DMT -- some of the weirdest experiences I've had.
As FRIEDRICH HEGEL pointed out back in Jena 1801, the dissolution of everything fixed is the only constant. I think what he meant is that stuff just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Such a development is greeted with enthusiasm by psychedelic persons, who watch with cool radiant eyes as Old Man runs around trying to find Cartesian-Newtonian sand castles wiped away by quantum field waves. You will recall that TOMMY HALL -- no stranger to Hegel -- postulated that New Man views Old Man much as Old Man views the Ape.
The TRYPTAMINE RE-AWAKENING keeps happening! You may not have heard about this, which is just the way some people would like it, in light of earlier psychedelic backlashes. Flying low to avoid the radar of mainstream media morons, word on Ayahuasca, Psilocybin and DiMethylTryptamine is strategically dispersed to various communities -- as an example, I'm currently reading a new book about DMT (Inner Paths To Outer Space) which seems aimed primarily at science fiction fans.
Judging by the amount of mushrooms depicted on his recently discovered 1974 album (discussed here before), I think it's safe to say that WILLIAM NOWIK is no stranger to plant hallucinogens. His new LP continues in the same style as the old Pan Symphony, and reflects once more Nowik's ability to create and sustain moods with simple means. Using mainly electric guitar and his voice, Nowik's Sellin' Shadows In The Shade album is worth checking out for any fan of the 1974 work. It's a vinyl pressing of only 150 copies, with some still left to order here at circa $40 + shipping. Other familiar faces from The Eternal Now also return, such as MIKE CRAIG, who has a CD-R of unreleased archive recordings out. I liked the electric 'rock' tracks in particular. And just the other day I received a disc of material from California edge folk legend RIN ERIC (see the Acid Archives book for details), but the first play of that one is still pending.
I've picked up some meaty rarities over the Summer, but these will be kept under wraps for the next Renaissance Fair catalog, due in late September or so. Thanks all for the great interest in the first list, especially in the midst of an economic downturn.
Six Lemon Drops out looking for ergot rye
One thing that has been spinning here of late is the LEMON DROPS, who have a recent sampler out from Guerssen. The old Cicadelic release Crystal Pure was an instant classic back in the 1980s mop-top daze, and revisiting it now the Lemon Drops still sound cool as fuck, in the '60s teen-psych style. The overlap with the current Guerssen release isn't 100%, by the way.
More unreleased '60s music arrived via a beautifully packaged LP from Anazitisi featuring 1968 demo recordings by MIND GARAGE. Their raw biker anthem "Asphalt Mother" is a bit of a classic, and the rest of this album (charmingly titled A Total Electric Happening) is similar in style -- proto-heavy soulrock with edgy psych along the Vanilla Fudge/Steppenwolf axis. Out in cyberspace discussions of the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS box-set continue, and it appears that the 'Bynum Demos' from the Spring 1966 ("You Can't Hurt Me Anymore" etc) have a few audio dropouts, unlike earlier releases of them like Fire In My Bones and Elevator Tracks from T.A.R, or the interesting Paradise Lost CD bootleg.
To return to our beloved HALLUCINOGENS, one of the last men left from the first generation of psychedelic researchers, ABRAM HOFFER, recently passed away. Beginning in the 1950s, Hoffer worked with Humphry Osmond on the highly influential psychiatric-psychedelic research clinic in Saskatchewan, and made many contributions to our understanding of these trippy compounds over the decades. He was interviewed in Hofmann's Potion, an excellent Canadian documentary made fairly recently. Like many of his lysergicized colleagues, Hoffer lived to reach a very high age (92). Read more in his obituary.
Speaking of Humphry Osmond, he explained his invention of the term 'psychedelic' in a letter to INNERSPACE magazine 1967, which I've now uploaded along with a bunch of other tasty items from the same issue, such as my buddy Michael Bowen (R.I.P) describing the success of the recently held HUMAN BE-IN in San Francisco. Watch for more updates to our psychedelic literature sections at Feed Your Head, as I found time this beautiful Summer to read a whole bunch of books, out on the balcony or down in the park.
Inevitably, the chilly September winds are drawing near & my two sons are back in class, which reminds me of a ritual I had as a teenager -- I'd listen to "Summer's Almost Gone" by the DOORS on a Sony Walkman tape while walking to school the first morning of the Autumn term.
Morning found us calmly unaware
Noon burned gold into our hair
At nights we swim the laughing sea
Summer's almost gone
THE MYSTERIOUS SAGA
OF A STRANGE SONG
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I recently picked up an obscure mid-60s club band LP by the ALI BABA REVUE. The album had a fun, sleazy undertone and a couple of rather unusual tracks. One of these was "Rats In My Room" which packed enough weirdness for me to go out on an info hunt. The Ali Baba crew remains a poorly documented Eastcoast outfit, but the song in question turned out to have an interesting history.
The first version of "Rats In My Room" was recorded by one LEONA ANDERSON in the mid-1950s, and is a Mrs Miller-style minor classic in 'incredibly strange' circles. Listen to it here and find out why.
Flash forward to the early 1960s, when two enterprising DJs in upstate New York came across Ms Anderson's old 45, and decided to update it for novelty purposes. To provide musical backing they recruited ALI BABA & THE 4 THIEVES. Ring a bell? Here's the 1963 uptempo doowop novelty version anyway, credited to JOEY & DANNY.
As you surely noticed, this cover version is quite different from the operatic original.
Now, one might assume that when ALI BABA'S combo decided to record their own version of this tune a few years later, they would stick fairly close to the Joey & Danny arrangement. Not so! Entirely outside any mainstream developments, "Rats In My Room" received yet another radical re-arrangement when it popped up on the Ali Baba Revue LP circa 1966. This version could be the best one yet, and even reminds me of the mighty YAYS & NAYS! Check it out, scratch your head and marvel at the improbable events that recur within American show business.
As a sort of epilogue to all this madness long ago, we find retro masters N.R.B.Q recording a cover of "Rats In My Room" on one of their more recent albums, but here the creativity ends, as they stick fairly close to the Joey & Danny version.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Maldivian Independence Day
Hey kids, summer's here and the time is right for drinking ayahuasca in retreat. This I just did, with weird, fun and rewarding results. Read all about it in this lengthy trip report.
Although I'm in a multi-levelled holiday mode I owe you a few words about my infatuation with EXOTICA music. Unlike most of the underground and fringe retro music bandied about today, Exotica can be listened to in a completely straightforward, non-abstract way. It will reach and delight you in the exact manner it was intended long ago; you don't need three layers of rationalization and hip urban irony to appreciate it. Exotica aims to gently lift you by the ears and transport you to a paradisical Polynesian island -- a Western fantasy that is as relevant now as it was in the 1950s.
Which brings me to my second point. Throughout modern history, as our world has become increasingly ordered, rational and boxed in, man's longing to escape has persistently found new modes of expression. According to some evolutionary biologists, our desire for exotic states of mind is as natural as our desire to reproduce. In the past 50 years of popular music, man's wandering spirit first created Exotica, then rocket launched itself with Psychedelia, withdrew into New Age, and arose again via Ambient.
I guess I should write some more things here, but my latest allotment of words was spent in that ayahuasca report, and like the Young Rascals I am merely grooving... on a sunny day. Since you're still around, I could mention that the nice-looking DAVE BIXBY reissue from Guerssen unfortunately loses some of the original's atmosphere and presence, presumably due to over-zealous noise filtering. A few Bixby fans I've asked agree that something vital is missing on that repro. I can't understand why anyone would still want to use Cedar Audio, which is an old '90s technology abandoned by most today . So, hang on to your "Quetzalcoatl" original, if you have one. Fortunately, Guerssen's corresponding HARBINGER LP sounds good, and is one of this year's most vital reissues.
Anazitisi's ONE ST STEPHEN is a beauty, with a glossy booklet featuring Stephen's previously untold story, along with color repros of his rather impressive paintings. The reason the front cover looked so odd is because the elaborate collage Stephen had created around the boy-in-uniform photo was censored by the pressing plant back then. Even more surprising was learning that my old hero CHARLIE BLEAK from Hoi' Polloi plays bass (under an alias) on this album! Charlie, if you're out there, do get in touch. Everybody and his guru digs One St Stephen tracks like "Nightly Drift", and I often use this album as a yardstick to gauge the quality of new finds -- not because it's a personal favorite (it isn't) or even great all through, but because about half of it is so strong that you can play it for your non-collector friends and they will dig it. Try doing that with recent "finds" like MARK AYERS (=completely bland '70s s-sw) and you'll understand the difference between the old skool private press classics, and the latest third-tier genre completist find. The sound on this here new One St Stephen reissue is loud and clear and leaves the old Austrian bootleg behind, although those cool bonus tracks by the "other" St Stephen (aka Front Page Review) are naturally omitted. I haven't played the FORTUNE TELLER repro from the same label enough to comment yet, but again the glossy insert with band story and photos is a delight.
Lastly, an inflight report from the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS box-set, Sign Of The Three-Eyed Men. Most of it is pretty damn great, and the Easter Everywhere stereo remaster -- arguably the most important disc in the set -- sounds terrific. The vinyl-sourced mono Psychedelic Sounds is also nicely done, and to my ears clearly superior to Sundazed's reissue from last year. I have some objections to the Live In Texas disc, where the sound quality on the KAZZ-FM tape seemed inferior to earlier known versions, and I think that the version of "Roller Coaster" from the La Maison tape should have been included. Also, the presumably pitched tracks from the 'Sump N' Else' TV show are presented in the same format as on the old Fire In My Bones, which means that a few numbers sound absurdly fast. The box-set liner notes mention the band being on "speed", but I think the real speed issue here is technical, not pharmacological. Apart from the lightning tempo, a couple of numbers (like "Fire Engine" from the 2nd show) are so pitched in tempo that they're no longer in the right key, a pretty clear indication of something being wrong.
The Live In California disc on the other hand sounds outstanding (sourced from an Avalon '66 tape I came across some years back), and to my ears this is the best document of what a majestic, world-class live band the Elevators were at their peak. Flipping forward through the box, the Bull Of The Woods outtakes (including two completely unheard versions of "Never Another") were very interesting and a definite high-point.
A discussion of the repro of the actual Bull album made me realize that the track "Til Then" is in inferior in sound to the rest of the album, and I suspect this recording may not have been intended for release back in 1968. Contrary to my earlier thoughts, the rest of the box-set Bull re-master sounds very good and is clearly from tapes. An interesting comparison of the Walt Andrus re-master can be made via the two Bull tracks on Charly's Never Ever Land -International Artists Singles box-set (from 2008).
These are all in-progress notes, and it will take months to digest this massive and generally very impressive production. The hardcover book is undoubtedly the best printed work ever made for the Elevators, easily surpassing the official Eye Mind bio.
Hey, my birthday is just a few days away. This year I'm 42 -- I said my my, and a-boo boo (thanks, Iggy). "42", you will recall from the Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, is the secret meaning of the universe -- so now all I have to do is find out what the question is. Which brings us back to the ayahuasca...
ABOVE: Let the armchair exploration begin
BELOW: Part 2 in my series of generic sleeves: 'the Asylum sleeve', with an appropriate summer holiday motif
Captain's Log, Star-date: Midsummer Night, 2009
In Scandinavia, the pagan rituals of SUMMER SOLSTICE have survived through 1000 years of Christianity and the weekend remains a major cause for celebration today. Honoring another ancient Nordic tradition, people use it mainly as an excuse to get deeply drunk, yet on good years, there is a definite Shakespearian magic in the air on the longest day in the calendar. I'm not doing psilocybe mushrooms like last year (see testimony way below), but am keeping an open mind for spirits wanting to converse.
Appropriate music is played, such as THESE TRAILS, EDEN AHBEZ, MU and the recently aquired CHARLIE EARNST, an excellent Neil Young-influenced album that must rank as one of the best X-ian discoveries of the third millennium. Otherwise, I have to say the pickings are getting slim when it comes to new private press discoveries -- I don't think the well is running dry, necessarily, but it's been many months since I got a real 'whoa!' from something unknown.
On the other hand, I'm discovering lots of great music lurking among things only given 'placeholder' reviews in the ACID ARCHIVES book, and as an effect of this insight, enthusiastic full-length reviews are currently being produced for rekkids like ETERNITY on Band Of Gold, STAGEFRIGHT'S highly entertaining barn-rocker "D-Day", above average college albums like LATITUDES '73-74 and SO IT GOES, and several others like that. Take my word for it -- there's plenty of gold hidden behind those brief entries in the AA.
I mentioned some interesting reissues from Guerssen and Anazitisi last month, and am hoping for more buzz from the vibrant European vinyl reissue scene shortly. A somewhat different experience is offered via the two cool "ELECTRIC ASYLUM" volumes from Past & Present. Any compilation where almost every track is unknown to me is sure to raise my interest, and this series presents a skilfully selected and arranged trip through obscure stoned, weird and funky hardrock 45s from the British (mainly) 1970s. Sounds good at home, and probably even better at a hip club. The same label has also come out with a new run of the classic ACID DREAMS comps ('Testament' and 'Epitaph'), originally released in 1987 as two of the earliest CD comps on the market, and still today among the very best. If you want to get in on rare fuzz garage, acidpunk and early psych 45s, these two volumes are a very good place to start.
After some delays, the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS box-set is finally shipping. The first response among jug-heads on the net seems very enthusiastic, but I'll have to save my comments until next month, as I'm still waiting for my copy to arrive. Speaking of arrive, the GEORGE-EDWARDS vinyl reissue on Drag City landed here the other day, sounding and looking very good. There's even a credit to the Lama on the back cover! As with most things on this label it's selling out fast, and it seems that the "38:38" revival is catching some real momentum, thanks in no small part to the smartness and commitment of the band members.
Trad, Gras & Stenar aka Trees, Grass & Stones
Celebrating 20 years in the business, our friends at Subliminal Sounds are going full cycle via new releases from two of Sweden's most legendary 1970s bands, KEBNEKAJSE and TRAD GRAS & STENAR. Both bands stay close to their original sound, with skills and underground vibes intact; Kebnekajse is all instrumental and highlighted by Kenny Hakansson's masterful guitar-playing, with the closing track in particular a psychedelic delight. Trad Gras & Stenar are probably familiar to y'all, and it sounds like 1971 all over again as BoAnders & the guys deliver a double album full of their trademark drone-rock; impressive and a must-have for the band's many fans. The highly active label also has two releases from younger bands coming up; a new album from the Dungen-related folk-psych outfit LIFE ON EARTH, and the debut from intriguing femme folkrock outfit LISA & PIU.
In the right-hand column you can see some new additions to the Lama record shelves, but in an even more recent development I've been getting back into EXOTICA in a big way. In the early 1990s we had some great LSD trips with Exotica music and tiki paraphernalia, but then the whole field became 'trendy' and much too crowded, and in my usual contrarian manner, I tuned out. A decade and a half later, with all the bandwagon jumpers gone, I find myself grooving on the marvellously transporting quality of 1950s and early 1960s Exotica, which sounds as trippy or even trippier today than in the psychedelic daze of 1991-92. More on this in a future instalment of the Eternal Now. Until then it's not Aloha, or even Mahalo, but MGANGA!
- N A M O A K S H O B H Y A S O H A -
Here are a few recent Lama purchases, including a handmade mandala thangka (scroll-painting) from Lhasa. Custom-made for me based on a 18th century mandala of the 'meditation buddha' Akshobhya, this beautiful item casts its light across the Vajrayana Lounge, where I spend my days writing and listening to music.
Bottom left is the FEVER TREE's great debut 45, while bottom right is a non-LP YAHOWHA 13 single I found for $10 !
Tsal Means Expressive Power, acrylic on arches by Patrick Lundborg 2009
Captain's Log, Star-date: Corpus Christi Feast
With an atypically warm and sunny Spring for these latitudes, recent weeks have triggered further decoration of the new Lama penthouse, now officially named the VAJRAYANA LOUNGE. Two artificial trees -- a 5-foot bamboo tree and a large, awesomely exotic Wisteria plant -- provide an appropriate lounge setting while incense burns and EDEN AHBEZ music plays over hidden speakers. As a somewhat surreal bonus, the Wisteria plant on my balcony was almost immediately appropriated by a sparrow couple, who built a nest inside where four small sparrow eggs now await hatching. Apparently, birds have no quarrel about artificial plants, a fundamentally buddhist outlook entirely in line with the non-dualist philosophy of the Vajrayana Lounge.
On the psychedelic music front, Anazitisi Records in Greece have announced reissues of ONE ST STEPHEN and the old Lama warhorse FORTUNE TELLER, both legit and from tapes, naturally. Another quality-minded European vinyl reissue label, Guerssen in Spain, report that their two DAVE BIXBY-related reissues are about to hit the market. Bixby's Ode To Quetzalcoatl has been discussed here and elsewhere for several years, while the rare HARBINGER album (a Bixby collaboration) is still under the radar for many. I take some pride in having identified Bixby as a performer on Harbinger long before this was known, by listening to Harbinger on cassette and hearing a familiar voice and style. It took two plays before the coin dropped, and then I kept it secret (except an excited e-mail to my Acid Archives associate Ron Moore) for more than a year while desperately trying to find a Harbinger copy... knowing that the price of it would soar once word on the Dave Bixby connection got out. Of course, Harbinger turned out to be even rarer than the Bixby LP, and my revelation and secret quest amounted to zero. In any event, he who is a fan of "Quetz" needs to check out Harbinger too, especially with the background story of a destructive cult which Bixby belonged to.
Dave Bixby (centre) with friends, 1971. Feared cult leader 'Sir' on the right.
The long-awaited GALACTIC RAMBLE book is now out (cover price £30), and has already triggered debates and favorable responses on net forums. It's a huge mother, twice as thick and more than twice as heavy as the Acid Archives book, which format it follows closely. See earlier Eternal Now posts for details and links -- this book is simply a must to anyone interested in British 1960s-70s rock and folk music. My Acid Archives colleague Aaron Milenski scrutinizes a large number of 'classic rock' titles and rows this mammoth task ashore in an impressive, convincing fashion, while Richard Falk reviews dozens of previously undocumented private press/local albums. Among many other highlights. The Lama contributions to the book are modest, and I enjoyed the chance to write only about records I really like, for once.
Back in the Vajrayana Lounge, a recent drought of vintage music discoveries has caused to me to look further back in time for kicks. Plenty of Exotica has been played, some of it via home-made mix CD-Rs provided by field experts, and I've also pulled out some old lounge records for a spin, like RICHARD VALE & THE GEMS (local 60s crooner lounge, a style I enjoy) and the WILLIE WALL TRIO. On top of this, I recently had the epiphany that instrumental rock'n'roll albums play through in a much better way than regular pop albums from the pre-Beatle era, which were often just 45 tracks plus a bunch of filler shit. Those early instro albums -- like the WAILERS' superb 1959 debut -- often offer a more rewarding listen, and so I've begun loading up on things like that.
Here are some recent acquisitions, including a long overdue KAK original. Top right is the BLUES SPECTRUM, a rare & wild teenage horn-rock/fuzz LP with a lo-fi Smokin' Willie vibe that just reeks of local realness.
If you came here looking for psychedelic information, here's a thing I recently wrote for Anthology Recordings regarding Alan Watts.
Vaya con Dios. Next time we speak, it'll be Summer!
Captain's Log, Star-date: Easter Sunday
Don't know about you, but I just came in from hanging out on the balcony for a couple of hours, sipping chai in the sun and blasting SNAKEGRINDER LIVE (dig some of it here) for myself and a few unprepared neighbors. We're not used to having t-shirt temperatures for Easter up on these latitudes, so better take the opportunity before King Frost returns.
Speaking of Easter rituals, I recently came upon a rather interesting piece for the CHRISTIAN YOGA CHURCH puzzle. As you may recall from my review, the story behind this early syncretic organ drone rock trip remains bathed in mystery, even after some serious tracking attempts. However, when reading the highly recommended "Amazing Dope Tales" by STEPHEN GASKIN, my already buzzed attention (this book will trigger acid flashbacks like no other) jumped up another notch when coming upon the chapter heading "Father Christos And The Straight Theater". Now, the Straight Theater was an SF venue that saw some interesting activity during the early freak days, and Father Christos is the dude quoted on the back of the Christian Yoga Church cover, and what might link these two? The answer, most intriguingly, turns out to be KENNETH ANGER. Gaskin writes several pages about this event in his book which I can't quote in full, but basically the story is that he went to the Straight Theater to check out a double-bill Sunday Morning ritual, with Anger (wearing a papier maché Minotaur crown) doing his 'dark arts' thing, and then Father Christos doing his thing, which was a yogic monk lecture. Gaskin was on acid (as he is for 95% of this book) but says that Christos was a nice, well-grounded guy who later visited Gaskin's crashpad commune out in Stinson Beach, and later still had a falling out with his guru MASTER SUBRAMUNIYA, left the Christian Yoga Church for the Navajo desert, and hasn't been seen since. A Christian Yoga Church disciple recently confirmed that there was a shake-up in the church in the late 1960s, and that the "Turn On!!!" LP belongs to an earlier (1967) era. What's the bottom line to all this, you ask? The bottom line is that on top of its rarity, atmosphere, and mystique, the Christian Yoga Church LP is more closely connected to the original San Francisco freak scene than we had realized. Hope you got your copy already, cause they ain't growin' on trees.
That was a lot of psychedelic info to take in, so why not let your brain take five and watch H P LOVECRAFT play "The White Ship"? Then see a young Ron Matelic (pre-Anonymous) paint Indianapolis red with SIR WINSTON & THE COMMONS on local TV!
Back to our abnormal programming: the past year or two has seen a bit of collector buzz surrounding MIKE CRAIG, a CA/AZ artist who cut two rare LPs in the early 1970s, both of which have traded hands for substantial amounts on eBay and elsewhere. After being tracked down by eager record collectors recently, Craig contacted me to set the record straight regarding these two albums. This information may not sit well with some folks out there, but here in the Eternal Now we believe that the artist is always right. Here's what Mike says (it's him, despite the third person perspective):
"Daughter Of The Moon was recorded at Desert Sound recording studio (1973), and released New Years Eve (1974). After the success of Mike’s first album the producers decided that a second album was needed to be put out in a hurry. They determined to take Mike's music in a different direction. The album cover was to be controversial and odd, so artist/model Maggie Blackburn was commissioned; her cover turned out to be odder than was hoped for. There was no time to change it so it went to press. The all female back up band (Cantaloupe Island Band) was brought into the Studio and the album was recorded. In the early 1970’s female bands were considered novelty acts and were not considered to be serious musicians. Mike was frustrated with the direction his music was going in, and by the time the recording was done Mike severed all ties with this band and became reclusive. This album was doomed -- when it went to the record pressing plant the first stampers had a flaw on them and an unknown number were pressed with the flaw in them before their quality control people found it. By this time the producers of the album were mad at Mike for not wanting to work with or go on the road with the girl band. So they pulled their money out, leaving Mike with the rest of the bills. Mike went to the record plant and took the stampers so no more of the albums could be made. The record plant had shipped out possibly 200 of these albums before Mike was able to stop them."
I also asked Mike about his first album, Stuck In Phoenix:
"The first album was very well accepted by the folk music fans (it sold out in 7 months). Limited distribution: 100 copies were autographed and given out at shows, 50 copies were given to radio stations (Because of FCC regulations this album received very limited air play, due to the fact that the title song was about committing suicide), and 250 were sold in record stores in California and Arizona. This was considered to be very dark-natured music at a time when there was sickening sweet and protest music coming from the folk scene. Mike was cranking out so many songs at this time that the producers decided not to do a reissue, but jump right in to putting out a second album (described above). Stuck In Phoenix was a simple album recorded with another California musician transplant to Arizona, Hans Olson. One of the most incredible things on this album was the front cover photograph taken by Debra Goldstein. There are some interesting things going on in the backgrounds (I will not share these things, they will remain a secret except to the original Mike Craig fans). This first album holds all the keys to the future works and career of Mike Craig -- there was a career after the second album and many more recordings (unreleased)."
Thanks Mike! Other interesting correspondence of late includes a Q & A with Dave Scott of rural rock maestros MODLIN & SCOTT. I've written about this band several times before, and was delighted to finally get their story. On a vaguely related note, I'm happy to recommend a recent solo CD from ex-Magi, ex-Long Ryders member TOM STEVENS. Titled "Home", this is an excellent collection of classic American wheat field music, a little like vintage R.E.M at times, but with the Indiana origins on proud display. Good vocals, strong songs, lots of guitar pyrotechnics... don't miss "Home".
Way up yonder at Anthology Recordings you can find a PERRY LEOPOLD appreciation that I recently put together for their downloadable reissue of "Experiment In Metaphysics" -- incidentally the only 'loner folk' album in the entire Lama collection of original vinyl.
Our 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS website is showing slow but steady growth, much like a peyote cactus out in the Texas sun. The most recent addition is an article about the band's live recordings, published in Shindig! last year and now available here. I've also just completed a piece on the highly convoluted story of the Elevators master tapes, which is slated for a new '60s-oriented paper zine from Canada. More on this once it's out. The Elevators box-set Sign Of The Three-Eyed Men has been postponed once more, and is now scheduled for June. All good things to those who wait... in the mean-time, read Mike Stax' detailed preview of the box-set in the new UGLY THINGS, which also includes an excellent piece on Roky's pre-Elevators band the SPADES and the poorly documented Austin mid-60s scene, written by our esteemed colleague Prof. Andrew Brown of Houston. The new UT has some Lama reviews and a 2-page rant on CUSTOM LABEL ROCK wherein I discuss the Century, R.P.C and Custom Fidelity custom labels. New lows of obscurity are reached as the FIVE KINETICS, VINDICATION and M.H.S ROCK albums are namedropped.
Our rare record auction website Renaissance Fair has been up and running for several weeks now, and about 1/3rd of the titles have found new homes in Europe & America. Still plenty of juicy psychedelic sirloin steaks left to sink your teeth into in the Spring 2009 Catalog. A colorful stack of new aquistions for the Lama Collection have arrived here in recent weeks, but I'll save the showoff photograph for the next Eternal Now expostulation... see y'all in May!
HIGHER STATES ATTAINED
Blue Hum For Tibet, acrylic on arches by Patrick Lundborg 2009
Captain's Log, Star-date: Mardi Gras 2009
After having dealt with some time-consuming matters out in 'reality', we're back to our abnormal programming. For proof, look no further than this interview I just did with a nice young lady from San Francisco, on the pros and cons (what cons?) of collecting psychedelic music. Apparently, eBay auctions using the 'psych' keyword are generating so strong action that general antique collectors are beginning to take note -- at least that's how she explained it to me.
On a somewhat related note, the afore-discussed Galactic Ramble book is now finished and will hit the market in a few weeks. It's kind of like an Acid Archives for British LPs, but thanks to the compact nature of the British scene, there was also room for all the famous acts, alongside the obscure flops and private releases. So there's Beatles and Led Zep side by side with Complex and the Celebrated Ratliffe Stout Band. One cool aspect is the inclusion of old reviews from the original release of the album, certainly helps bring perspective on a lot of £600 rarities.
OK, some odds & ends from the Lama mail-box. The obscure GEORGE-EDWARDS album is scheduled for a vinyl reissue on Drag City later this year. This one's certainly seen a meteoric rise in stature, considering that it was basically unknown 6-7 years ago. The band already have a CD reissue out, as mentioned here earlier. I also heard from one of the guys behind the KICKLAND & JOHNSON album, a CSN type trip that is highly rated by some. Here's what the guy (producer J Clemetson) said: "...the Clay County LP was local to Omaha, NE and Southeastern SD. We initially pressed 1000 and then re-ordered another 1000. The second pressing corrected a stereo phasing problem. About 300 copies were stolen."
Rural rock is all the rage these days! I'm currently in contact with MODLIN & SCOTT, whose album I've really gotten into of late. They (Scott) confirm that the repro on vinyl from last year was a bootleg. I'm hoping to put together an interview with these guys shortly. Another rural favorite is JIMMY CARTER, who cut the superbly mellow Summer Brings The Sunshine in the 1970s. Jimmy's still living on his Missouri farm, and is interested in bringing his music to a wider audience. Anyone interested in reissuing the Summer... album, drop me a line and I'll hook you up with the Carter Family.
I also heard from the producer of TS TRUCK, who forwarded the following: "...we were from the central Illinois area. Most of the guys were students at Eastern Ill. University in Charleston, and were from small towns -- Decatur, Champaign, Mattoon. There were only 2000 copies ever pressed of the LP." The guys in Boss-Town's old ORPHEUS got in touch again, trying to make heads or tails of the STEVE KACOROWSKI saga -- as you will recall, the K-Man used a couple of Orpheus tunes for his unique brand of Karaoke Rock. Another old Lysergia.com warhorse, the LAGUNA BEACH HAPPENING story, recently saw an interesting breakthrough as I finally heard from the main organizer behind the event, Curtis Reid. Reid contributed some corrections and additions, which have been worked into yet another revision of this long-lived saga. The same week I heard from Reid, the gentleman who parachuted himself on to the festival site (an event remembered by almost anyone who visited the Happening) also got in touch.
More illuminated '70s beards can be admired in my Sky Sunlight Saxon article, which has just been updated with some new data, as well as given a general graphic overhaul. Sky himself has read the piece and says it's hip!
The 2009 reissue scene is still in a curled-up, embryonic shape, but a brand new repro of HOPKINS & BRADLEY just flew in from Void Records. Haven't had time to play this repro yet, but the album is an agreeable teenage take on the solo McCartney vibe, with good songs and plenty of high school auditorium atmosphere. More folky and mysterious sounds are on offer from COLLIE RYAN, who has a compilation from her 3 albums out on vinyl from Yoga Records. I'd also like to throw in a word for PRESENCE, an obscure British mid-'70s Christian folkrock trip out on CD reissue from Bella Terra. I had never heard of this LP before, but it was quite good, more talented and less generic-sounding than typical genre albums. Bella Terra have also put out SANDSTONE, a rare US chamber-folk trip which is reviewed in detail in the Acid Archives.
And finally, if you have some money to spend on psychedelic artifacts right in the middle of a recession, be sure to visit the Renaissance Fair, our recently opened auction website for all things lysergic, including rare and previously undocumented private pressings.
"It was just '66 and early '67. That's all there was."
- Peter Fonda, in The Limey (1999)
S T O N E W A L L
Thanks to Miguel Rodriquez in Germany, the basic story of the mighty STONEWALL -- responsible for one of the most highly rated hardrock rarities of the 1970s -- can finally be revealed.
Stonewall was the house band of a recording studio owned by James (Jimmy) Goldstein, based in Long Island during the late '60s.
Goldstein was also a part-time member of the band, occasionally playing keyboards on their sessions. He was a performer of his own, using the stage name of "Jay James". Under that alias he recorded the album "Good Times And Bad Times" that was released on the Tiger Lily label (same as Stonewall).
Stonewall´s drummer Tony (Anthony) Assalti was the drummer on this rather weak country album by Goldstein. However, Assalti was never aware of the Stonewall album being released, and apparently became upset after learning about the Tiger Lily release in recent years. He still plays drums with drums, and is involved with the biker scene. He's not interested in the Stonewall recordings these days.
On the other hand, the guitar player Ray Dieneman was a good friend of Jimmy Goldstein. Dieneman was not aware of the Stonewall album until he saw a copy in Goldstein´s house in New York during a visit. Ray never owned a copy of the album, but was more amused than angry about the Tiger Lily release. It appears that Dienemann is the only band member to know about the Stonewall record being released at all.
According to Ray D, Stonewall broke up at the end of 1969, which would place the recordings heard on the album (which wasn't released until the mid-1970s) sometime in the late 1960s. The other two Stonewall band members -- vocalist Bruce Rapp and bass player Robert Demonte -- have not yet been tracked down.
Unreleased Stonewall recordings exist, but a release of these will be difficult until Jimmy Goldstein has been tracked down.
PS the Stonewall band member names on the Akarma bootleg reissues are completely made up.
"Wonder" by Alex Grey, 1996
Captain's Log, Star-date: Feast Of The Epiphany
This will be a short one, as we're still observing the various Midwinter holidays (any excuse to be lazy is a good one), and I'm also busy digesting a psilocybin excursion I undertook on New Year's Eve in order to bring about the New Year (according to some calendars) with a bang. While the family was celebrating elsewhere, the shroom and I painted, listened to Donovan & westcoast rock, and watched the midnight fireworks. Seven hours well spent.
Speaking of painting, the scan above shows my favorite Alex Grey work. I recently bought a glossy poster reproduction of this, which now adorns one of the walls in my new flat. The New York Times recently reported on Alex Grey's unique Chapel Of Sacred Mirrors gallery leaving its NYC location for greener pastures, discussing in passing the secret influence of psychedelic drugs on contemporary art. Not that Mr Grey makes any secret of this particular source of inspiration.
Neither does the great Peruvian artist and ex-yagé shaman Pablo Amaringo, who has been covered in the Eternal Now before. I finally managed to locate an original work of Amaringo, which now adorns another wall in my new living room, opposite the Alex Grey reproduction. The feng shui here is definitely going in a tryptamine direction! This painting, which cost me about as much as a Pokora * * * * * * LP, is the only Amaringo I've seen that includes hallucinogen mushrooms alongside his trademark ayahuasca vines and bushes. The title is Callampa Yachay and it can be seen here, along with other Amaringo paintings, some of which are available to purchase.
Something music-related, you say? Well, I've been getting back into UK folk again, although it's been more a case of revisiting old friends from druid rings and taverns than discovering anything mindblowingly great unknown. America still seems the surest bet for turning up unheard (by me) music of the ages. Thus:
The Lama's Best New Musical Encounters Of 2008
1. John Palmer - Shorelines
Dark Canadian folkrock which convincingly demonstrates
the advantage of a full rock band over a "loner" acoustic setting.
2. William Nowik
Instrumental psych-prog mushroom music from 1974 that
no one had heard until very recently.
3. Seiche - Dose After Dose
I should have checked this extraordinary progressive hardrock
LP out long ago, but better late than never...
4. Emerald Web - 1st LP
See earlier rants on this dreamy new age rock head trip; this one
can be scored for $20!
5. J B & Harley McClain
Previously unknown politically charged Dead jammer from North
Dakota, excavated by Loopden on the Bayou.
6. Rush - The Way It Is
Undocumented club band from Maine 1974 with good early
Santana moves and one long killer track.
7. Rejects (from Canada)
Many Canadian freak folkies are disappointingly cliquey and
uptight; this stoned basement footstomper is not.
8. October - 1st LP
Nocturnal ambient keyboard prog from Michigan; thick
atmosphere and eerie psychedelic moods.
9. Conte Four - 2nd LP
The lounge LP I've played the most this year; Silk & Silver can
only dream of such consistency.
10. Yahowa 13 - The Feather Of Wisdom
Some claim this live recording from late 2007 to be the best
Yahowa LP ever; I wouldn't go so far (it doesn't top Penetration
for example) but it is an extraordinary dark and intense acid
rock voyage into the space the Source Family made their own
35 years ago. Impressive and essential. Runner-up for best new
album I've heard: Entheogenic's psybient return with Flight Of Urubus.
The Lama's Favorite Reissues Of 2008
All have been discussed here, there & elsewhere.
1. Cold Sun on World In Sound
2. Strange on Shadoks
3. OWL on Locust
4. Third Estate/Agonistes on Lion
5. Truth/Them 2-LP set on Missing Vinyl
6. Alicia May CD on Beatball
7. Modlin & Scott on Mandrax
8. Wilson McKinley vinyl boot
9. Les Temps Heureux on Shadoks
10. Jade Stone & Luv (personal involvement dictates a modest rating)
The Lama's New Year Resolution For 2009
I don't know anyone who has actually managed to live up to whatever grandiose, champagne-fuelled promises they make as the fireworks go off. Not that any of it matters. In the spirit of the season, I turn to Ezra Pound for a New Year's vow that may prove difficult to hold:
"To build the city of Dioce whose terraces are the colour of stars"
I'll have to get started on that project right away, but will see y'all down the line... be sure to check out some new Lama reviews, and two major additions to our 13th Floor Elevators website... the Elevators box-set is due in April, by the way... lots of completely unheard material from the post-Easter sessions... for a first taste, here is the promo sampler.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Transylvanian Unification Day
The case for SANTA CLAUS AS AN EARLY MUSHROOM CULT is fairly strong. As anthropologists have shown, shamanic use of the Amanita Muscaria mushroom was widespread throughout the Northern-most regions of the Old World, in regions like Siberia and Lapland, where it continues to this day. Indeed, the western term 'shaman' is derived from the Siberian word for tribal healer or witchdoctor.
The mythical home of Santa Claus is most frequently placed in Northern Finland, above the Arctic Circle and not far from the NORTH POLE -- and thus right in the middle of shamanistic mushroom activity.
The hallucinogenic Amanita Muscaria, popularly referred to as 'fly agaric', is instantly recognizable thanks to its bright red cap, which is ornamented with white flecks and white gills. The association to the RED AND WHITE colors of Santa Claus need not be emphasized. More intriguing, perhaps, is the popular description of Santa Claus' posse of little gnome-like HELPERS. Are Santa Claus' dwarfish helpers in fact identical with the "hyperspatial elfs" of Terence McKenna's psilocybin reports, and the "little mushroom children" of legendary Mazatec curandero Maria Sabina? Curious indeed.
As Mircea Eliade has shown, the animal most frequently revered within Siberian mushroom shamanism is the REINDEER. Reindeers were known to consume fly agarics just like the shaman, and enter similar hallucinatory states. And what animal is it that pulls Santa Claus' sleigh high across the Northern Sky, soaring on a flight unreachable for ordinary men, before returning to ground with great gifts for us all?
One such gift may be the new GARAGE RECORDS PRICE & REFERENCE GUIDE put out by well-known garage 45 dealer/collector Barry Wickham. This hasn't been out long and distribution is limited so far, but it should be grippable with some searching. It's a specialist tome and not cheap, so make sure to eat your spinach and do your homework, and a zonked-out Santa may leave one under your Christmas Tree. On a related zitfaced 60s garage note, Mike Markesich unveiled a sample page from his much-awaited TEENBEAT MAYHEM, which won't make it until Yuletide, but maybe to next Mickelmas, the good lord willing.
Another book project on the horizon, and one with immediate Lama involvement, is GALACTIC RAMBLE. Edited by Richard Morton Jack of Sunbeam Records, this could be described as a British counterpart to the Acid Archives, featuring capsule reviews and release data for 1000s of little-known 1960s-70s albums. Thanks to the less sprawling nature of the UK rock heritage, the book also finds room for big name artists up to and including the Beatles. I've submitted several dozen reviews, ranging from ultra-obscure folk and Christian rock to my fave Donovan and Hollies discs. Acid Archives associate Aaron Milenski contributes with many more reviews, and fearlessly takes on many of the big 'classic rock' titles that I shied away from. Here is a promo page for Galactic Ramble.
The Eternal Now concerns itself with life in all its inexplicable splendour, which is why the "R.I.P" notes are few and far between here. However, the passing of YMA SUMAC deserves mention. Many are the acid-fuelled nights I sat with friends and stared at breathing walls while Yma's voice soared into the Andean mists over orchestral rain forests. Ah yes. Apparently, she was "a very difficult lady", but as an early and unique avatar of esoteric pop culture mystique, her memory will live on. If this is all news to you, learn more here, or check out the official website. From the Incas to Pablo Amaringo, from Yma Sumac to Traffic Sound, Peruvian culture continues to impress.
Another talented lady is ALICIA MAY, who fortunately is alive and well, and recently helped arrange a CD reissue of her 1976 album Skinnydipping In The Flowers. I wrote a bit about this excellent and very pro-sounding female singer-songwriter LP in a Shindig! magazine column last year, and am happy to report that the Korean Beatball CD reissue sounds extremely good, bringing Alicia's outstanding voice and sophisticated arrangements even more to the fore than the original LP. As a glamorous sidenote, the naked feet seen on the back cover belongs to noted Hollywood actor Timothy Bottoms, who was Alicia's husband at the time. Bottoms became a star after The Last Picture Show, which featured Jeff Bridges, who 25 years later popped up in the Coens' brilliant The Big Lebowski, which has a memorably surreal scene with Yma Sumac music! Do you see the connection? No? Here is Alicia's website, anyway.
More reissue talk: I must throw in another word for the STRANGE "Souvenir Album" from Shadoks. This really is an outstanding album, that combines depth and power in a rare way, and also illustrates the value of having a full rock-band setting (including strong guitar-leads), instead of skeletal acoustic "loser folk" malnourishment . The audio quality of the Strange reissue is good, and seems superior to the burn I have from an original. Unfortunately, the same is not true for the J W FARQUHAR reissue also from Shadoks, where at least to my ears some of the claustrophobic kitchen sink realness of the original has been lost, probably via noise reduction. I'm not sure why labels use these noise reducers, since the people who buy the records are hardcore vintage music aficionados who want things that sound as close to the original as possible. No one expects these rare vanity pressings to sound like Steely Dan, so why not just leave them as they are?
I picked up yet another Shadoks trip, the cool and highly esoteric Black Scorpio by the SAVAGES, who come from the rarely rockin' nation of India! Like the SIMLA BEAT albums, the Savages sound more like a US garage band than the Brit-Beaters one might expect from the colonial heritage. The album isn't great all through, but a neat club band trip with an unusual atmosphere, and a snazzy die-cut scorpion sleeve. Black Scorpio is a good one to pull out when "square" friends visit and demand entertainment.
And so Transylvanian Unification Day draws to its inevitable close, and I must rush to finalize the latest round of Lysergia.com updates, which include a brand new & lenghty essay on TERENCE McKENNA, a transcription of an interview with Stacy Sutherland of the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS, some new Lama Reviews, and other assorted brainstorms.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Samhain 2008
Thanks to the steady influx of American pop culture, Halloween has become a popular festivity up here in Odin's land, and one enjoyed by children and Lamas alike. While preparing for pumpkin-colored rites of paganism, you may want to catch up on some web-reading. To that end, we have prepared a capsule story of the constantly enigmatic INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS record label out of Texas, including the most detailed and accurate discography yet.
From I A to COLD SUN is a small step for man, and I'm happy to report that the vinyl version of the ultra-great World In Sound reissue is now out -- it's a regular LP + a 10" bonus disc, which includes the two must-hear live tracks also on the CD.
And if Cold Sun looks like the best reissue of 2008, then "Of Wondrous Legends" by O.W.L is a strong contender for the runner-up position. Briefly mentioned in my last instalment, I can now report that the sound quality is top-notch, and the liner notes detail the interesting background story on this ambitious art-rock LP, which almost got a major label release at the time. Like Cold Sun, there is also a vinyl version available, from the fine folks at Locust Music in Chicago.
Close to our homebase, the infinitely energetic people at Subliminal Sounds offer new releases from their two flagship acts, the internationally famous psych/progsters of DUNGEN (some of whom recently performed at a prestigious gala with Pink Floyd members and the Swedish king in presence!), and underground legend ST MIKAEL. The latter is done as a limited 500-press edition for Those-In-The-Know, and should be reserved before it sells out. Mikael is a wise man whos says we should eat more psychedelic mushrooms to get civilisation back on track. He's right, of course.
More reading & reissue matters! I recently wrote an appreciation of the great THIRD ESTATE, whose "Years Before The Wine" album keeps gaining in stature from its humble beginnings as an obscure private press decades ago. My story, which includes a brief interview with main Estate guy Robert Everett, can be found at the Anthology Recordings website, who also offer a pay-to-download reissue of the album. If you want music that you can actually hold in your hand, I recommend the 2-CD reissue from Lion Productions, which includes an entire bonus album by the pre-Estate band AGONISTES -- and this is damn good rural folkrock in its own right.
<= Third Estate main duo Robert Everett & Chas Harrell with their labour of love, 1976
A hepcat over at the Waxidermy excavated and posted this unbelievably cool clip of old Eternal Now favorites SNAKEGRINDER playing back in '76 before a live audience consisting of Terence McKenna and Jill Clayburgh lookalikes. Damn that guitar-player can pick! Check out my Acid Archives review for more on this mighty Delaware jam band.
I just finished reading the very interesting "Ayahuasca Visions", which features the mindblowing art of former ayahuasca shaman PABLO AMARINGO, with excellent contextual commentary by Luis Eduardo Luna. This book first came out in the early 1990s, and is still available as an affordable softcover edition. Strange visions of creatures and flying saucers are mixed with powerful stories of healing and ancient Amazonian mythology, all presented with a dazzling grasp of colors and design. Even with all the explication, a sense of utter mystery and otherworldliness remains. To tie in with the Graham Hancock book I mentioned last month, here's Hancock's hosted gallery of Amaringo's art, most of which is not in the "Ayahuasca Visions" book, and in some cases is even superior. I've made some efforts to aquire an original work of Amaringo without success; if anyone knows where to turn, please e-mail me via my Contact The Lama page.
Pablo Amaringo, 2002
Art on a somewhat more mundane scale is offered via my collection of Variants On The Generic Bachs Cover, aka the 'curtain' sleeve, shown on the right. There are undoubtedly many more such, e-mail me scans if you have any.
In the less obscure part of the universe, I've been swinging with "Sunflower"-era BEACH BOYS, England's great but under-recorded BIRDS (Ron Woods' finest hour), and STEELY DAN -- only took me about 25 years to get into the latter, but hey... Also, the recent album from Euro-psybient maestros ENTHEOGENIC may not have worked that well on mushrooms (see my Summer Solstice report), but it sounds quite good in baseline 'reality'. It's also the only record so far with an edible sleeve. Should mix well with the Halloween treats.
Late news: a batch of vintage QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE concert tapes have been officially released, which is something I've been waiting for, considering Quicksilver's outstanding qualities and rep as a live act. However, the new Voiceprint label series is a somewhat rocky ride, with reportedly average sound quality, inappropriate photos (a '70s Dino line-up pic for a 1966 show) and inaccurate dates (two shows from February '67 incorrectly promoted as from 1968). For those who remember the QMS binge I went on some years back, few Bay Area jammers can get me as excited as the magical 'CDEF' line-up that existed for a little over a year. After Jim Murray left, the Mercury cowboys found their modus operandi in the most dazzling way, and I have yet to hear a 1968 Quicksilver tape that is any less than outstanding. By the way, if you want to find a clue to where QMS -- and Gary Duncan in particular -- found some of that great theatrical Hispanic drama, listen to "Spanish Jam" on "Dick's Picks vol 22", an awesomely weird GRATEFUL DEAD show from February '68. I'm just saying, check it out, that's all...
The new Shindig magazine issue just landed here, a Texas Special with pieces on COLD SUN and the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS (a live tape survey) by yours truly. Lots of snazzy color pics as always.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Autumnal Equinox 2008
Entering what T S Eliot called "the dark time of the year" (especially around these parts), many profound events are in progess, both on the macro and micro scale. As our world changes, only two things remain certain: taxes and strange psychedelic records. Prompted somewhat by the former, I recently went on a crazed spending binge for the latter. Paris Hilton would have been impressed with my shopping spree! The fallout is still being sorted out, so more on this later.
Regular purchases of late include Euro vinyl repros of things like MODLIN & SCOTT and WILSON McKINLEY's "Spirit Of Elijah". I assumed these to be legit reissues, but here in my hairy hand they have a definite 'boot' feel to them; the latter even has the matrix number manually scratched out, like an old Doors bootleg! Both sound good, in fact the McKinley blows away the two different CD-R transfers I have from originals, which suggests a fair amount of mastering care on this notoriously lo-fi classic. As for their musical contents, you should either know by now, or check out the Acid Archives pronto.
Shadoks in Germany have found a strong, esoteric yankee stride of late, and followed their J W Farquhar repro with the even rarer and better "Souvenir Album" from STRANGE, a deeply probing, psych-flavored singer-songwriter rock album from Washington state. Response so far has been enthusiastic, and this (side 1 at least) could find a somewhat larger audience than the usual Shadoks completist aardvarks. The other upscale German label, World In Sound, should have the vinyl version of their superb COLD SUN reissue (see earlier rants below) out & ready to ship now -- but due to dollar weakness and the Porsche production value, it won't be cheap.
Coming round the bend shortly is one of the better unknown US psych-era albums I've heard in recent years, being "Of Wondrous Legends" by O.W.L. An ambitious one-man project from an ex-Mountain Bus member, O.W.L is a sophisticated, occasionally dazzling early 70s art-rock trip through Pearls Before Swine, Moody Blues & Freeborne dimensions. The best tracks will blow your head clean off! Due out from Locust Records. Remember where you read it first.
Mike Stax & his merry men at UGLY THINGS are keeping up with their new semi-yearly schedule via a brand new issue (#27) that features everything from the swingin CA kids of the SPATS to South American guerilla garage bands. For rare LP hounds there's a piece on the KOALA and the background story on the weird HOMER & THE DONTS. The Lama contents are limited to a handful of reviews, but I should have something more extensive coming up in the next issue.
Yet another good album using the generic 'sun dial' cover
More rekkids! Playing right now is YOUNG & RESTLESS, a recent find of dreamy hippie folkrock from the early 80s, with some country flavor and nice female vocals. Should appeal to some, though I bought it mainly for the generic cover, which looks almost like Sixth Station. Other obscurities bought & enjoyed include the MOODS "Live At Turner Hall" ('66-sounding San Antonio club band from '69), the MARQUEE REVUE (dynamite hippie-fuzz from early 70s Omaha cover band), TOM CARLILE & THE CRAFTSMEN (undocumented circa '68 lounge/pop from FLA with several oddball originals), the LAST NEXT (Viet Vets with some amazing tracks), RUSH (a versatile Maine '75 club band who must hate Geddy Lee's guts)... watch for Acid Archives coverage of all these in the future.
I've also been getting into early ambient & new age albums, and picked up the debut albums from both EMERALD WEB and MICHAEL STEARNS... any psych fan with a liberated imagination (i e, any real psych fan) and of a reasonably calm disposition is likely to enjoy these titles, which are well-known among genre fans, yet can be found cheap with a little patience. I predict increased collector interest in this field in the future, yes.
Although I sometimes claim to never buy CDs (unless it's modern electronica), the truth is that I load up on those shiny drink coasters too, at irregular intervals. The recent Q65 sampler from Rev-Ola was just too attractive to avoid, and it did deliver 'Ugly & Dutch' weed punk throughout. Not many European 60s bands, not even the British ones, cut as many top-flight tracks as "Kjoe". I also picked up CDs of the Youngbloods and Amon Düül II to shake my brain back and forth like Dave Aguilar's maracas!
For those of you who read books, I encourage checking out Graham Hancock's recent work "Supernatural - Meetings With The Ancient Teachers Of Mankind". Hancock is a fairly well-known name on the pop/fringe science circuit, and I haven't really bothered with his earlier stuff, but in "Supernatural" he impresses with a sincere, comprehensive and occasionally radical attitude, as enigmatic connections between ancient cave paintings, the ayahuasca tradition, DMT lab reports, DNA evolution, and the alien abduction phenomena, are examined. Loose ends left dangling like carrots in the works of Terence McKenna, Jeremy Narby, Rick Strassman, Charles Tart, Pablo Amaringo et al, are snapped up and brought together in "Supernatural", and Hancock's end result suggests that whatever we think we know about reality, it's not the final truth, and the final truth may be utterly different from what we think. Read it and marvel.
"The Wounded Man", paleolithic cave art from Pech Merle in France.
An alien-like figure seems to float in the air, pierced by spears
or arrows. The shape in the upper left remains unexplained.
"Wounded Men" frequently occur in shamanic art.
And Now... It's BONERZ Time !
What are Bonerz? No one knows for sure, but once you've seen one, you're not likely to forget it.
Popularized via the frequently hip and funny WAXIDERMY website, Bonerz are now making their way into millions of living rooms around the world.
In order to put YOU on the fast-track to the Bonerz life-style, I've assembled a small selection from the Waxidermy archives. Click on the images to enlarge... if you dare.
Special thanks to Waxidermy member "DCarfagna", who posted 4 of the 5 bonerz above, and many more like them.
Captain's Log, Star-date: August 2008
I spent a good deal of this Summer holiday sitting on the balcony sipping daiquiris (or reasonable facsimile thereof) while listening to the amazingly drunk senior dance version of "Margaritaville" by lounge maestros the CONTE FOUR. Early retirement with bingo & bowling nights is just around the corner for me... or so it seemed, until the brand new and insanely anticipated reissue of COLD SUN arrived from the good people at World In Sound. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the deranged psych fans legion, and can assure you that NO OTHER obscure album from the vintage era has been inquired & raved about as much as this ambitious descent into Lemuria via Velvet Underground.
Cold Sun's Bill Miller with autoharp and Christmas tree
So, the CD release of Cold Sun is out, and it sounds damn good, with the bass playing (which band leader Bill Miller likes to praise), the electric autoharp and the vocals all more clearly isolated than on the legendary Rockadelic album from 1991. While listening to "South Texas" it dawned on me that this really is the ultimate psychedelic track. It cannot be surpassed.
Psychedelia isn't some goofy, harmless A A Milne fantasy of doll houses and rainbows -- it's about being high on peyote in a motel room outside Corpus Christi with lizards and insects crawling all over the place, and being able to go with the flow of such an experience. The CD also contains two bonus tracks which reflect the Velvet Underground influence in a clearer way than anything on "Dark Shadows". World In Sound have a vinyl version (incl bonus 10") coming up round the bend. This stuff will kill ya & will be hard to top as the best reissue of 2008, although we have several months to go.
Word on the recent YAHOWA 13 releases is that the old 1973 recordings were surprisingly weak, while the band's recent live recording from New York is among the best things they've done. One might expect it to be the other way around, but when Yod is holding the reins -- and he still is, you bet -- one can only expect the unexpected. I was generously helped to a copy of the expensive PAVLO V reissue mentioned last month and can now report that it's a pretty good album, but neither downer folk nor new wave -- more like a mature singer-songwriter sound with shades of "Desire"-era Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. On the subject of overpriced reissues, some bozos have bootlegged the downer folk cornerstone BOB DESPER, but you needn't bother with that since a legit reissue is in progress, with bonus tracks (his rare non-LP 45) and input from the man himself. I also spotted a new reissue of MODLIN & SCOTT, an archetypal piece of rural rock which needs to be checked out by anyone into 70s Americana.
What else is buzzing? Well, a new round of updates to our Feed Your Head websites, including some recent psychedelic tomes I've read. Once you start looking around it's surprising to see how extensive and productive the current psychedelic re-awakening is. Since St Terence left us there is no clear figurehead, and maybe that's the way it should be, to keep the squares thinking nothing's going on. Meanwhile, there's more psychedelic research projects going on than any time since the late 1960s, and via shamanic and ethnobotanical backdoors our old hallucinogens are influencing various contemporary scenes. It's a serious, adult paradigm this time around -- when not watching multicolored alphabet snakes crawl across the living room wall with a $10.000 smile.
I've added two recent purchases to the LSD Documentaries website, including longtime want "The Pied Pipers" which is full of Christian lies and desinformation about both drugs and degenerate hippies. Great fun for the whole family. Other recent vinyl purchases include:
The first edition of our ACID ARCHIVES book is on the verge of selling out, and there won't be anymore runs after this fourth printing is gone. I notice that a fair number of people still seem to settle for the website version for their AA guidance, but they have no idea what they're missing. Check eBay or Amazon.com for printed copies of the real 300-page trip before it's too late.
SACRED MONOLITHS OF 1970s UK FOLK
Across the storming sea lies God's green Ireland, where a freshfaced male/female trio by the name of MAC MURROUGH recorded three albums in the 1970s. Their self-titled second LP is universally (well, in a tiny universe) acclaimed as the masterpiece, and it certainly sparkles with youthful enthusiasm and vocal-instrumental skill. This is the most trad:ish folk album in Caliban's Top 10, yet it manages to delight with energy and a somewhat eclectic brew of moody Irish ballads, Breton tunes, and some vaguely Eastern flavor. Straight as an arrow, yet classy and memorable. This LP has been called (cough) "acid folk" by people who either need hearing aids, or have never dropped acid. Neither have MacMurrough, but I wouldn't hold it against them.
Still in Ireland, but infinitely more famous in their obscurity, MELLOW CANDLE are frequently cited as a favorite among 70s folkrock druids. It's probably the most commercial-sounding title on this list, with a near-pop sensibility, driving keyboard arrangements, and dazzling female vocal harmonies that may recall Mamas & the Papas or even ABBA at times. Yet, there is plenty of substance and reflection beneath the friendly surface, and the album slowly exfoliates its melancholic magic over time. Reissued a few times, this 1972 Dublin grail should be primed to escape Prospero's island and cross over to the human world.
Britain's 1970s folk scene was full of talented, independent-minded ladies, among whom MANDY MORTON cut a particularly illustrious path through the meadow. Her earliest appearances with the Spriguns Of Tolgus presented her as a sweet-voiced village lass, but as the Spriguns metamorphosed over the decade, Mandy emerged as the leader, sending any lazy or ego-tripping males out the door. By 1978 she had formed her own label and recorded what is arguably her masterpiece, the superb Magic Lady. Fairport school folkrock blends with Volunteers-era Jefferson Airplane into a completely finalized album which grabs you from the first track (a tribute to the recently deceased Sandy Denny) and never lets go. The two preceding Spriguns' albums for Decca are also very good.
But enough of this commercial viability. From the murkiest potato cellars of the progressive folk underground came OBERON, with a sound and atmosphere like nothing else. Amateur male and female vocals sing incomprehensible lyrics in a detached liturgical manner, like an apocalyptic splinter church lamenting man's sin and decrepitude, while lawlessness and plague rage outside the walls.
There's nothing twee or cheerful about Oberon, and if any Shakespeare comes to mind, it's Macbeth. Dark, crude versions of "Nottanum Town" and "Summertime" are interspersed with acoustic guitar and jazzy flute and violin passages, while some of the lyrics heard on the slightly more conventional side 2 seem to reflect a religious sentiment. The listener experience is likely to differ vastly from what the band had intended, and indeed Oberon's naturalistic and slightly demented face may prove too real for many.
Caliban appropriately closes his list with an album that could work as a proxy for the entire British 1970s folk underground. STONE ANGEL wasn't discovered until the 1990s, but has since gained much admiration. It's all in there - frail female vocals, gothic moods, electrified versions of trad numbers, odd instrumental flourishes like crumhorn and jew's harp, and a powerful connection to ancient local (Norfolk) folklore. Helped out by a primitive recording, the band instills the atmosphere of a dark, rural past that may still be secretly alive, like seeing candlelight burning in an abandoned cottage at the edge of the forest.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Summer Solstice 2008
And here we are again, you and I, basking in the glorious brightness of June & July, although this year the Summer is shaping up kind of weird for me, and even the notion of that "me" has been called into question by some recent events.
To celebrate Summer Solstice and maybe have some fun, the Lama ate more Mexican Mushrooms (pictured above) than he should, and was taken on a journey through stupidity, arrogance, pissed-off insectile aliens, hungry guinea pigs, and a deeply moving football game. A detailed trip report, in fact a very detailed one, can be found here.
One thing not covered in that report is the music selections played. I hadn't really prepared a playlist, but started with some early GRATEFUL DEAD, then moved on to British 70s folk via the obscure CAIR PARAVEL LP, which is fairly light stuff but worked well. Next came the private press album by HILSS-LABLANC, whose Tim Hardin-inspired thoughtfulness turned out to have a surprising mantra-like quality in my illuminated state. On the other hand, the new (as in 2008) album by psychedelic ambient masters ENTHEOGENIC kind of jarred with the earthy mood I had established, and so did (oddly enough) the "Pastoral Symphony" by BEETHOVEN.
Instrumental music didn't sound right to me, a topic that Aldous Huxley also reflected upon in "Doors Of Perception", where on mescaline he felt that "voices are like a bridge back to the human world".
After some deliberation I pulled WILCOX-SULLIVAN-WILCOX from the shelf and found it to have exactly the kind of reflective, balanced mood I was looking for. Relatively Clean Rivers would have worked just as well, but I noticed during the experience that anything too familiar left the mushroom spirits cold. Some lessons learned for the next time, if there is one.
Wilcox-Sullivan-Wilcox -- great cover, terrific music
Back on Planet Earth, a couple of new reissues have been registered, including a very high-priced repro of the rare album by PAVLO V, a pretty good mid-70s singer-songwriter thing with a late-night New York City feel. My old internet aquintance JOSEPH PUSEY sees a posthumous reissue of his album, which could be described as a less free form Incredible String Band. Joseph Pusey was one of the first interviews I ever did, read it here. In a somewhat similar style, I spotted a Korean CD reissue of the sole album from Oregon hippie-folkies TREE PEOPLE, although it may have been out a while. This album is above average for the style, and should appeal to fans of things like Modality Stew or Peter Stark. I actually picked up an orig of Tree People, along with KICKLAND & JOHNSON, but both had to be returned to the seller due to over-grading. The latter LP has seen some praise as a CSN type album, although personally I found it a bit lightweight and generic.
One 70s folk LP that was clearly better than I had expected was "Shorelines" from JOHN PALMER, due out soon as a legit reissue. Basically it's like all those high-priced loner/downer folk albums currently in vogue, excecpt that it's got a full band backing on several tracks, and even some ripping fuzz leads. Certainly a welcome change of pace in a field that's become seriously over-crowded and overrated in recent years. John Palmer has more recordings and songs, and may release a new album down the line, he recently told me.
I bought a load of odd records as usual, including a couple of scarce titles for my LSD Documentary website. The Quest continues! Hey, any of you fine people have the late 1970s field recording LP "SOUL VINE SHAMAN"? Will pay cash or offer ethnobotanical samples in trade.
Um, that's about all for now. On the right is the first half of a Shindig magazine column I recently wrote; part II of it will be posted here down the line.
SACRED MONOLITHS OF 1970s UK FOLK
We were sitting down at the Pig & Whistle, Colin, Nigel & myself, weeping to our ales that we couldn't find any exciting records anymore, when our old friend Caliban walked in the door. "Be not afeard," he said, "for the isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices that, if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again". Fuelled by magic mushrooms, Caliban went on like that for quite some time, with us jotting down frantic notes on our napkins. At closing time, a playlist containing 10 SACRED MONOLITHS OF 70s UK FOLK had been assembled, and is presented here for your edification.
After two unexceptional LPs, BREAD LOVE & DREAMS made a quantum jump with their final album, Amaryllis. Decca awarded the band generous studio resources, judging by the strong production and arrangements. The band reciprocated the favor by pouring vast amounts of songwriting talent and energy into the project. Leaning towards the westcoast singer-songwriter sector of 70s folk, we are treated to excellent male/female vocal interplay over rich folkrock instrumentation, augmented by keyboards and effective use of jew's harp (yep). A couple of numbers reflect an Incredible String Band influence, while others bring in a late psychedelic feel, both musically and lyrically. I don't know many albums from the era that play through as beautifully as this, taking the listener on a journey through regular songs, conceptual snips of spoken word, and mysterious sound effects, with a level of realization that never lets you down.
Way up yonder in the Scottish Highlands CAEDMON put out one of the most highly rated, and certainly one of the rarest, albums within the progressive folkrock scene. Recorded in an Edinburgh studio as late as 1978, Caedmon's private press LP has at its core an early 1970s sound in the Fairport-Pentangle style. Crystalline femme vocals deliver trad-informed songs, which have been explored and expanded with sharp electric guitar leads, adventurous arrangements, and input from jazz and kraut-rock. Hence, "progressive". The end result may seem too elaborate and cerebral to those groomed on Liege & Lief, but could just as well be taken as a bold, original spin on 1970s Brit folkrock. The album has been reissued a couple of times.
At the other end of both the island and the musical spectrum we find the Three Magi of Kent, also known as C.O.B. I have written more about their awesome 1972 Moyshe McStiff LP than pretty much any other album in the world, so I'll keep this short. The vaguely psychedelic and ISB-like elements from C.O.B's debut LP (the excellent Spirit Of Love) are gone; here each song is a finalized, deeply personal statement. There isn't much of trad folk structures, yet the ancient atmosphere seems to preserve a pagan core from old folk music. Arabic and African sounds are integrated into the semi-acoustic English music, like remembrances of travels made long ago. Peaking with the dazzling Renaissance-like beauty of "Martha & Mary", the songwriting is varied and impressive, with outstanding contributions from all three members. Be sure to get the authorized reissue from Sunbeam/Radioactive.
Speaking of pagan, I suspect our friend Caliban rates the First Utterance album by COMUS at the top of his desert island list. One of the most legendary LPs of the early 1970s progressive folk scene, Comus is as intense as C.O.B and as eclectic as Caedmon, but it's also a lot scarier than both these. Visions of unholy magick rituals arise as creepy voices invoke ancient spirits, celebrate mental illness and murder, and generally drag you into someone's gothic asylum nightmare. Amidst all the folkrock paganism a soaring hymn called "The Herald" celebrates the coming of day in the most beautiful way. Extraordinary, inspired, challenging and, well, scary.
A wild-haired "bad boy" of the UK folk scene, BARRY DRANSFIELD made some wise decisions when putting together his solo debut for Polydor Folk Mill in 1972. Although mainly a selection of cover tunes, the choices seem ideal for him as a performer. Every song fits beautifully into the total puzzle, and several of them sound like they had been written directly for Barry. His vocals are surprisingly good, and in combination with acoustic guitar and his trademark violin, a haunting, almost Nick Drake-like mood is created. Side 1 is near perfect; even the two brief jigs seem appropriate diversions between the powerful, evocative melancholy of the contemporary folk and singer/songwriter tunes. Side 2 is more uneven, but all over a tremendous album with an arresting mood.
Captain's Log, Star-date: May 2008
I got a little carried away and took on too many writing assignments at once, so with deadlines looming outside my window like those walking plants in "Day Of The Triffids", this May day column will be less rambling than usual. Some interesting activity has been registered on the reissue front, such as: a CD release of the rare "38:38" album by Michigan 70s duo GEORGE-EDWARDS. This is an unusual, strongly atmospheric album which I haven't fully figured out yet, except that I like it. The band has done two parallel releases, one which combines parts of the original album with later recordings, and one (on CD-R) which is an exact repro of the original album. No vinyl version, alas, unless overseas visionaries step in. See their excellent website for info.
Another underground favorite now reissued on CD is "Wizards" by J D EMMANUEL. The concept of minimalist ambience may not blow you away, but you needn't be more advanced in your tastes than me to find this album impressive in its sophistication. Works both as background music in the daytime and more focused listening past midnight. Oh yeah, originals of this album aren't expensive, and it's likely to be an Acid Archives "best buy" in the future.
More initial "J" dudes see their labors of love (and anger) exhumed this month, as J W FARQUHAR's rare "The Formal Female" album gets a Shadoks overhaul, including a color print cover (the original budget only managed b & w). I've written about this album here long ago, and it's worth checking out for those who enjoy the more idiosyncratic private press US basement sounds.
Recorded after a nasty divorce, I like to think of it as the Heitkotter version of Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks"... with a drum machine too. I enjoy about half of it quite a bit, and the front cover just reeks of acid, but you may want to sample it before dropping $45 on this PA kitchen sink project.
I was recently contacted by a relation of the old Baltimore favorites, FORTUNE TELLER. See earlier rants for some subjective Lama impressions of their long lost "Inner City Scream" album, which seems to finally pick up some momentum among collectors. A band website has been created, including photos of Fortune Teller fans posing with their trophy and soundclips from the album.
Speaking of trophies, here are some recent arrivals to the Lama hermit cave. Top left is a field recording of Tibetan monks -- reportedly one of the best in this style, and it's certainly spooky:
You all know this of course, but the Grandfather Of Psychedelia, DR ALBERT HOFMANN of Switzerland, passed away recently. He reached the age of 102 after tripping on acid for 60+ years, draw your own conclusions from that. Dr Hofmann was a great man, an old-school academic who despite his traditional European schooling had to follow his heart and recognize the greatness he saw in the potential of LSD. Apart from the LSD discovery, he did very vital work on identifying and synthesizing several other hallucinogenic substances, such as psilocybin. Right now he's soaring through the higher bardos!
The STEVE KACOROWSKI / STEVE DRAKE saga will never end! After some e-mail inquiries from people "touched" one way or other by the Kacz magic back then, I've updated the KACZ FILE with a lot of new data. Learn about the origins of karaoke rock and marvel at how it all came to be.
That's about all we have time for this month, but to compensate for the brevity of this update I've added a recent column I wrote for SHINDIG! magazine on the trendy and frequently exciting field of Afro-Rock. Should be on the right somewhere.
THE LAMA'S ESOTERIC TRIPS
Captain's Log, Star-date: April 2008
And so it happened, as we entered the second month of the Tibetan year 2135, that Easter Rites began on Winter Solstice, which was followed by a night of Full Moon. The signs are heavy, so much so that the Lama recently felt compelled to throw an I-Ching hexagram to decide whether to bid on an eBay auction with a 98% feedback seller (the Oracle's negative response was duly heeded).
Summer is still but a glimmer on the horizon, but if you want to get in the proper mood, I fully recommend the remarkable book "Children Of The Sun" by Gordon Kennedy. Self-published out of California, this traces the westcoast nature boys & alternative lifestyles back to their origins among German naturists and artists of the late 19th century. You will see paintings from 1910 that look like Avalon Ballroom posters. You will see photos of Eden Ahbez in full spiritual mode. You will learn, and you will marvel. Reading this book, and then seeing Sean Penn's celebrated "Into The Wild" tells me that the serious hippie is coming back, which seems fitting at a time the Tibetans call the Year Of The Earth Rat.
Speaking of "Into The Wild" (which is a must-see); while I think Eddie Vedder's soundtrack songs were appropriate in style and not bad, his vocals seemed to lack the proper sense of yearning and self-reflection. This inspired me to meditate on the concept of 1970s Drifter Rock, which will be dealt with in the near future. Let's say for now that some RELATIVELY CLEAN RIVERS tunes would have worked beautifully with all those desert & canyon panoramas.
German painter Fidus (right) and artist friend K W Diefenbach, late 19th Century.
Fidus' works would influence the psychedelic art
of 1960s San Francisco. =>
Some new records have flown in here, as usual. One odd bird was the previously unknown "Symphony To Pan" by WILLIAM NOWIK, an upstate NY trip from 1974. It's instrumental and ostensibly proggy, but the organic way the music evolves and the non-uptight mood makes it quite agreeable for psych heads. I had the notion that this is what the THIRD ESTATE might have done if they'd skipped all the French Revolution lyrics and expanded their instrumental passages to a whole LP. A copy of William Nowik was recently ebayed to the tune of $350... more copies may pop up.
Around the same time, and a little further south, the NEUTRAL SPIRITS were on the verge of inventing 70s punk-rock, and didn't even know it. I'll be reviewing this interesting and somewhat underrated album for Ugly Things shortly, the basic message being that there wasn't just one Jonathan Richman strumming three chords in the basement in the early 1970s, but many. The Void reissue looks and sounds good, and is the first vinyl repro ever of Neutral Spirits. From the reliable people at Guerssen we have a trinity of related releases concerning the COOLEY-MUNSON band, who cut a rare and highly rated album of loner folkrock (or whatever) in early 70s California. Their "In Debt" LP has more weird angles and sharp corners than the average genre LP, and is worth checking out. Band member ALAN MUNSON has two more CDs of 1970s material out with Guerssen, which should appeal to admirers of "In Debt".
The INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS box-set from Charly mentioned last month is now here, with above average packaging and some interesting contents. The Elevators "Scarlet & Gold" pops up in better sound than I've ever heard it, so maybe some of the recent tape finds have already been put to use? Similarly, the two Roky Erickson-Clementine Hall duets from 1967 appear in crystal clear sound. Some of the other stuff is in mediocre sound, but you get a whole bunch of good garage and psych tracks that otherwise have only been around on IA 45s. As for the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS, there are whispers of a massive box-set that will utilize all the master tapes recently found, plus previously unknown recordings, along with live tapes and other pieces of the pyramidal puzzle. Interest in the band is soaring after Paul Drummond's "Eye Mind" biography (see below), with newspaper articles and newbie inquiries in internet chat forums. Later this year... waiting may be filled!
<= I.A. garage legends, Thursday's Children
The release date for the hotly awaited COLD SUN release from World In Sound has been moved to May. This, I've been told by mysterious sources, is for exciting reasons, rather than some glitch in the process. Another group of "Eternal Now" stalwarts, FATHER YOD & YAHOWA 13 & THE SOURCE FAMILY, have a new release of previously unknown 1973 recordings coming ut with Drag City in a few months. Titled "Songs From The Source" and credited to CHILDREN OF THE SIXTH ROOT RACE (yet another family alias), this seems to move in a song-oriented direction a la "Savage Sons". Around June we will know. The current Source Family band recently played in New York City, and reports from veteran psych heads have been excited. The live music was combined with a "star pose" audience meditation, as well as a spiritual Q & A. Father's heritage is alive and well, as the sons & daughters keep extending the path.
It's not known whether any Yahowans made it to the LAGUNA BEACH CHRISTMAS HAPPENING in 1970, but there is no doubt that a bunch of members of the BROTHERHOOD OF ETERNAL LOVE were there, handing out free LSD inside the massive blockade the Orange County police had erected around the festival site. Read more about this event and the related, mysterious "100% UNKNOWN FIBERS" album in my Shindig magazine article, which has now been uploaded to the Lama Workshop.
Speaking of uploads, some tasty mushroom magic has been added to Feed Your Head, as I finally located a copy of the 1957 issue of Life magazine in which GORDON WASSON introduced psilocybin shrooms to the world. This is one of the more important events in psychedelic history, and you can read it all here, including some beautiful 1950s graphics. I've also added an interesting academic journal from 1965 with ethnobotanical reports from the Amazon jungle, namedropping ayahuasca and related substances.
Captain's Log, Star-date: March 2008
After an extended midwinter break, prompted by writing assignments and general laziness, the Eternal Now is once more moving forward through space and time. It's been kind of slow on the record purchasing front (except for a major aquisition, to be detailed later), and the resultant energy has been directed towards books & magazines. Just dig those two crazy Waika indian dudes above, getting stoned on Epena back in '65 when Syd Barrett was still eating scones for kicks. A few titles have been added to FEED YOUR HEAD, including the very first book on LSD from 1956, an important book by Stanislav Grof from the mid-70s, and a rare psychedelic magazine from 1966. I've made some interesting literature scores in recent weeks, watch for much more later this year.
UGLY THINGS have come out with a new mammoth issue, this time highlighted by a long overdue feature on LA:s SONS OF ADAM, UK rich kid folkrockers TREES, a completely drug-free account of TIFFANY SHADE, the happening NAPA VALLEY TEEN SCENE, UK band FIRE of "Father's Name Is Dad" fame and "Magic Shoemaker" infamy, and much more. As usual, a few Lama reviews can be found in the back, including INSTANT ORANGE and the must-have PATRICK KILROY & NEW AGE. Over in England, the revived SHINDIG! magazine has managed to crank out yet another issue since the last Eternal Now report, with color print all through, neat features on the early San Francisco scene, and an "Esoteric Trips" column by yours truly that looks at rare 1970s AFRO-ROCK albums.
Some platter chatter: new titles from VOID Records include an excellent-sounding repro of EARTH FREE (see Acid Archives for review) and a second, unreleased, pretty good album from BLISS of Canyon LP obscurity. Shadoks have put out a bunch of Danish & African stuff of varying quality, and a French folk album (LES TEMPS HEUREUX) which is reported to be very good.
A release with substantial Lama input is the first-ever reissue of the immortal JADE STONE & LUV, one of the masterpieces of the 70s rhinestone rock scene (my favorite genre of all). After 20 years of searching, Jade Stone suddenly popped up in his hometown Austin, with stories on hard living and broken dreams to share. The reissue has bonus tunes and a detailed account of the great man's career, reaching all the way back to pre-Beatle days. Out now from our friends at Subliminal Sounds.
Also coming around the bend is an INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS BOX-SET from Charly/Snapper, including lots of old IA tracks never before on CD, plus a detailed (accurate) label discography, and a background story from the Lama. In case anyone missed it, here's the big news once more: the master tapes for the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS albums have been found, and most inexplicably they had been sitting unused in the Charly Records vaults all this time, while the label licensed crappy-sounding vinyl-sourced tapes to whoever happened to ask. Watch for the first 'Vator tape trips in many decades later this year.
EBAY has been the subject of much on-line venom in recent weeks, due to a misguided "improvement" of their feedback system and fee structure. A seller boycott was launched, which may have been heralded by some -- in any event action has been really slow the last few weeks. Too bad, since the very favorable dollar exchange rate means that a lot of Europeans are eager to hunt down old wants at good $$$. One interesting eBay auction item that did fly by recently was the quite obscure LP by Washington state band STRANGE, whose 1979 album of agonized private press folkrock must rank as one of the last great unknown US privates. More on this album in the Acid Archives, as usual.
Hmm... what else is new? Oh yeah, a couple of neat titles have been added to our ever-expanding gallery of LSD Documentary albums. I'm sure I've said this before, but this is the only field I truly "collect", and if you have an LP lying around that might fit & you want to get rid of, drop me a line and we'll work something out.
Below is the promised part 2 of my old UGLY THINGS article on 20 good albums that need to be reissued, updated with current status. Some of the albums and reissues are also discussed elsewhere in the Eternal Now.
11. PEABODY CO (1967)
Formally a set of 10" acetates rather than a microgroove LP, the sole legacy of Peabody Co nevertheless plays like an album, and a remarkable album at that. I would call the bulk of it acid-punk, a genre typically preserved only on a handful of exclusive 45s. Others may call it "garage", plain and simple. Beyond semantics, we are treated to 11 songs from a crude but aggressive teenage band who took the Yardbirds "make it new" credo and dragged it mercilessly through the streets of whatever New York suburb they came from. The vocals are delightfully raw and snotty, and on at least one occasion manage to stay off-key for en entire song, while the drummer bangs out his frustration. Excitement mounts as the Peabodies bring in their brand new THEREMIN, and put it to insane use on a couple of songs, including a Magoos-surpassing "Tobacco Road", which actually has been comp'd. The overall sound is not unlike those other famous theremin-punkadelics, the Nite People from Ohio, so you know what to expect. There's only three covers across the 5 acetates, and some of the originals are great garage-psych that combine a Phil May attitude with fuzz raga leads and would fit on any classic 1966-67 comp you can name. A couple of atmospheric downer ballads with more modal chords sound like Rising Storm outtakes. Make no mistake: Peabody Co is miles beyond the usual teen-beat albums of run-of-the-mill cover versions. The band remains unknown, despite lots of tracking attempts, and even the New York area origin is a guesstimate.
Status: a reissue is in progress
12. GREER - "Between Two Worlds" (1973)
One of the more remarkable music scenes of the early 1970s sprang up around the tobacco fields of Winston-Salem, NC. Evolving out of two ground zero bands, Sacred Irony and Arrogance, a rundown of the names involved is almost like a who's who of future power-pop and indie cult icons: Don Dixon, Chris Stamey, Peter Holsapple, Alex Chilton, Mitch Easter, et al. Oddly, the earliest and perhaps most promising album from this smoking hotbed came from an ex-Arrogance member who would not go on to any kind of fame, one Michael Greer. Partly recorded with Arrogance in 1971 and with session musicians in 1973, "Between Two Worlds" was released locally without much fanfare and remains obscure to this day; certainly more so than the Easter/Holsapple/Stamey "Rittenhouse Square" demo LP from the preceding year. Greer's album is clearly the better, with a fully developed "major" sound, ambitious songwriting, and a wide variety of atmospheres, from dreamy late 60s psychedelia to powerful 70s hardrock. Anyone familiar with the excellent Felt LP on Nasco will find himself on familiar ground. "Between Two Worlds" is one of those LPs where the lack of recognition seems a complete mystery, but success in the music biz is perhaps more about the right time and place than anything else, and it would be several years and a mass exodus to NYC before the sharp Winston-Salem kids caught people's ears, and by then Michael Greer was no longer part of the picture.
Status: nothing new here, but a reissue of this album seems inevitable
13. STARLINERS - "Live At Papa Joe's A-Go-Go" (1967)
There are many local albums from the garage/teenbeat era, but the truly good ones are few and far between, and the truly good ones not yet reissued can be counted on one hand. While perhaps not a life-altering "Here Are The Sonics" type experience, the obscure album from Minnesota club trio the Starliners has some unusual aspects that makes it stand out among stacks of nervous Young Rascals and Rolling Stones cover LPs. Although a "live" recording only in name, the Starliners were apparently regulars at Papa Joe's, a longstanding club on the Minneapolis north side that often booked blues acts, which may tell you something about the Starliners' pedigree. The majority of the vocals are handled by a white guy with a remarkably powerful Little Richard/Wilson Pickett raspy'n'raw delivery that recalls Gerry Roslie. The band is unusually tight, as demonstrated by a well-oiled "Caravan" with a 1940s Gene Krupa-type drum solo that Iron Butterfly could only dream of. Some of the usual teen club standards appear, including strong takes on "Midnight Hour" and "Satisfaction" (better than the Stones), while a lightning-fast "I'm A Man" offers an interesting counterpoint to hometown rivals the Litter. Best of all is an outstanding, tom tom-happy, reverb-drenched jungle exploration into "Bo Diddley" that is possibly the best version ever. There's also a good band original in a Brit Invasion style, "Broken Engagement". Released on the local LeJac label which had some good garage 45s, supposedly only 275 copies of the Starliners LP survived from the pressing plant.
Status: nothing new
14. DRENDALL, THROWER & FRIENDS - "Papa Never Let Me Sing The Blues" (1971)
This one's what it's all about: a superb, completely pro-sounding LP that just reeks of class and talent, yet came out in a pressing of only 100 copies on a private Michigan label and remains unknown to this day. Much like Hendrickson Road House, the "Papa" album doesn't require more than a pair of ears to be enjoyed by pretty much anyone. The sound is rooted in a loose, rural westcoast style popularized by Neil Young on his classic second solo LP, but Drendall-Thrower make it their own, bringing in dark bluesy and cajun overtones a la Captain Beefheart, adding folk and atmospheric instrumentals and basically stretching the trip into one massive canvas of early 1970s Americana at its best. Apart from Neil, fans of Relatively Clean Rivers and the underrated Whistler Chaucer & co album on UNI will crack a happy smile of recognition, but this is really an album for everyman. Recorded at the notorious Uncle Dirty's studio in Kalamazoo, the people involved went on to release two even more obscure albums which again contain some outstanding tracks but don't quite deliver the feel of coherence that "Papa" does.
Status: nothing new 15. CHRISTIAN YOGA CHURCH - "Turn On" (1967)
One problem with rating "Incredibly Strange" albums is that the range of listener responses is much wider than with "normal" rock LPs. For this reason our list deliberately omits fringe contenders like Heitkotter, the Kaplan Brothers and Madrigal, but the Christian Yoga Church just had to be in here. With a dubious name and a cheesy cover design that would leave it untouched in almost any bargain bin, the music is an utter surprise - a hypnotic 50 minute trance-fest that leaves pretty much all drone contenders behind. And this in 1967! The Church was a real East/West church but details remain obscure, and the only familiar name on the LP cover is Del-Fi honcho Bob Keene, who must have shook his head in disgust at these freaky Nevada yoga students. A spooky reed organ leads the charge as the music goes through a series of psychedelic chameleon tricks, while different church members tune in to do their bit via percussion, flutes, spinning coins on a table, or mumbling incoherent chants. Sound effects, including what sounds like a real live waterfall, are employed alongside gong chimes. This type of recordings became common in the 1970s, but this both surpasses and predates them all, and is perhaps best approached as an unplugged version of Beat Of The Earth, or a ghostly successor to Alan Watts' legendary 1962 bohemian trip "This Is It".
Status: nothing new 16. BOB EDMUND - "I See No Colors" (1970)
Bob Edmund's only known release is unique in several ways, not least as one of the few privately pressed LPs with a mid-60s folkrock sound. Coming out of New York City in 1970, "I See No Colors" ignored the prevailing loner folk style to draw on an earlier aesthetic, when tambourine men were all the rage and McGuinn and McGuire pointed the way. Edmund was much too angry to subject his music to any type of LA slickness however, which is why his protest songs come equipped with spikes and rough edges that fit them surprisingly well. Sounding not unlike Barry McGuire on bad speed, Edmund's organ-led combo (called Byrth) can best be described as folk-garage, while his lyrics denounce the war, America, and pretty much everything in sight, and undoubtedly had not been acceptable to a major label. An interesting comparison could be made between the barely contained street-punk rage of this LP, and the happy hippie fairytale moods of Gandalf The Grey, who arose on the same NYC scene around the same time. Edmunds won't reduce himself to a Village soapbox nuisance however, and ends his album with some unexpected hymns to space travel and humanity in general. Released on his own Rabo label, the sleeve was subject to censorship as Edmund's idea of a desecrated Stars 'N Stripes was rejected by the printer. A hurt note on the sleeve explains this background, which in turn explains the album title and the Jasper Johns' style artwork.
Status: an authorized reissue is in progress, possibly with inclusion of some good bonus material from the late 1970s 17. BOBB TRIMBLE - "Iron Curtain Innocence" (1980)
Contrary to the ignorant "rock critic" view of the world, 60s-style psychedelia didn't curl up and die on December 31, 1969. Outside the big music centers, local acidheads kept sprouting up and making themselves heard throughout the 1970s, and it took the double onslaught of punk rock and disco in 1978 to wipe the stoner slate clean. There are dozens of outstanding psychedelic albums from the 70s, most of which are as good anything made in the 60s. Releasing two self-financed LPs right on the threshold of the first psych revival in the early 1980s, Massachusetts native Bobb Trimble stands as perhaps the last great exponent of original 1960s psychedelia. Neither "Iron Curtain Innocence" nor the subsequent "Harvest Of Dreams" (1982) are retro albums, but works of an artist who somehow managed to keep the original psychedelic era alive inside himself, untouched by all the bad developments of the 1970s. The music is usually described as "Strawberry Fields"-like, and Lennon-on-acid is definitely audible in Trimble's work, as is a whole barrage of classic sounds; Syd's Floyd, the Golden Dawn, Tim Hardin, et al. Apart from the Beatles it's unlikely that Trimble listened to any of these artists, but simply out of his personal aesthetics ended up creating music that is a sheer delight for psych fans. The production is reasonably modern, in a good sense, and there is not a whiff of nostalgia or recycling - Bobb's inner world is much too complex to bother with such nonsense. Side 1 opens with three tracks of devastating studio psychedelia which are almost unparalleled, after which the album moves to a more intimate, folky mood. "Iron Curtain Innocence" is a deeply personal album from an artist who almost accidentally channelled the best aspects of melodic late 1960s psychedelia, and fused the current and the old into an extraordinary whole. "Iron Curtain Innocence" has only been recycled on a 1995 sampler CD, which omitted two excellent tracks.
Status: now out on CD and vinyl from Secretly Canadian; for some reason the CD sounds better than the LP version
18. JADE STONE & LUV - "Mosaics; Pieces of stone" (1977)
Not all 70s vanity pressings are idiosynchratic basement projects; some of them are bids for mainstream recognition and success from struggling artists who seemed to have everything it takes to crack the majors, everything except luck. Jade Stone was a talented, ambitious Austin songwriter and vocalist who hoped to make it big in Nashville, and went so far as to put ads in Billboard for this self-financed album. With elements drawn from 70s soul, country-rock and psychedelia, the music is notoriously hard to describe, but its strong cinematic quality has made it a perennial favorite among local/private press collectors. Neon sign singles bars, edge city pool halls and seedy nightclubs flash by while Jade Stone sings like the rock star he hopes to be, supported by short, well-written songs and a glitzy period production. This is a "hip" which is not metropolitan hip, but dreams of fame and glamour from the American underbelly, once memorably summed up as "trailer-park music". The lime-green cover is a supremely tacky 1970s trip showing the couple in vintage regalia, including a handlebar moustache (Jade Stone), hot pants (Luv), and a psychedelic VW bus. Don't let the look scare you off; there's talent galore inside.
Status: just out on LP & CD from Subliminal Sounds 19. NOMADDS (1965)
Like the Fugitives album above, the Nomadds' selftitled LP derives from a brief, specific moment in time, which is the American teen music landscape after the British Invasion had hit, but before the eruption of crazed garage sounds. Coming out of the Freeport, Illinois club scene, these sharp kids looked to Merseybeat rather than Mick Jagger for inspiration, with excellent Gerry Marsden-influenced lead vocals, plaintive three-part harmonies and stripped down, slightly reverbed instrumentation. That makes it unusual, but what makes it truly rare is the presence of five Nomadd originals, all of which are pretty damn great. There are hooks, there are bridges and obscure chord progressions and difficult tempo shifts going into choruses, and the whole thing is pretty amazing in its Beatle-like classiness and talent. Being a popular club band, the Nomadds still had to fill half the LP with cover versions, which pour some water on the moptop ecstasy, but not more so than to keep the whole thing soaring miles above the usual lukewarm Top 40 outings from local mid-1960s bands.
Status: a band member has begun work on a reissue, which hopefully will materialize 20. FORTUNE TELLER - "Inner City Scream" (1978)
To close on a somewhat confusing note, here's a Maryland mystery that was long believed to be a 60s garage LP, due to a "1968" copyright year on the cover, and music inside that seemed to confirm this date. The incongruous band photo pointed towards a much later era, and "1978" is usually accepted as the actual release year today. This background indicates the timeless nature of Fortune Teller's music, which is stripped down basement rock, completely devoid of any hippie dreams or rock star postures. Like George Brigman's classic "Jungle rot" album from the same time and place, a sense of urban despair and working class in survival-mode persists, and again like Brigman, "Inner City Scream" could be claimed by both garage, hard-rock and 70s punk fans. There's even a dose of dynamite 60s acid-punk on "Looking glass world". Lost-in-time albums from the mid-1970s are seeing plenty of interest currently, and within that non-genre Fortune Teller offers a unique and stark glimpse of an unglamorous Baltimore reality. In line with its overall nature, the "Inner City Scream" production quality is low-budget to the extreme.
Status: a reissue has been discussed and may be in progress with a US label
Captain's Log, Star-date: January 2008
Two new books arrived over the holidays, both of them coffee-table tomes that delight the eye as well as the mind. The ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SWEDISH PROGRESSIVE MUSIC 1967-1979 may not sound attractive to some of you, but inside you'll find a lot more than just "progressive" sounds. Due to the special nature of the time and place, the psychedelic/hippie era and the stoner/hardrock scene both fall under the prog umbrella, and if you can accept that taxonomy, and also handle entries about communist troubadors, you'll find a comprehensive, impressive, and accurate guide to the era. Beyond vital names like NOVEMBER and TRAD, GRAS & STENAR the authors have gone the whole hog and managed to include very obscure titles like BRUSTNA ILLUSIONER (whose name was actually PREFIX) and PLEBB. 45s are also featured, including a bunch of 7-inchers I had never heard of before. Color print throughout with lots of great band photos. A tip of the viking helmet to authors Ulf Henningsson and Tobias Pettersson. Get it here.
A very different perspective on the 1970s is offered by the brand new BOMP BOOK, also known as "Saving The World One Record At A Time". Partly a tribute to the profound and influential vision of founder Greg Shaw who unexpectedly passed away a few years back, this is a huge, beautiful volume which reprints covers, articles and paraphernalia related to Bomp magazine.
One of the most interesting sections contains manuscripts for an early 1980s issue of Bomp that never came out, and there's also many pages of reprints from Mojo Navigator in much better quality than the xerox scans that have been in circulation. Current commentary from luminaries like Lenny Kaye and Mike Stax help give perspective on Greg Shaw's achievement.
Speaking of Mojo Navigator, I've uploaded a few pages from the 1967-April issue, which was missing in the internet scans. Lots of reviews including a piece on the first 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS album, as well as the hard facts in the "Lovin' Spoonful scandal".
Greg Shaw's want list, 1981 =>
Pretty hip! =>
More reading matters: issue #2 of the relaunched SHINDIG magazine just landed here, very snazzy-looking I must say, with coverage of Gary Walker & The Rain, the Procession, Mitch Mitchell, the Sonics, Moby Grape & even garage fashion! Maybe I should put up some photos of a skinny, zit-faced, moptop Lama in plaid pants and black polo shirt circa 1986? Maybe not. My "Esoteric Trips" column can be found in the back of the magazine, with special focus on Canadian garage & psych LPs for this go-round. It is the first and probably last time the LECTRIC MUSIC REVOLUTION have appeared in full color print. There was also a section on "Your Favorite XYZ of 2007", and since my rants were too long-winded for a printed publication, most of it was edited out. So here is the unabdridged version:
*** FAVORITE REISSUES OF 2007 ***
1. New Age with Patrick Kilroy "All Around" (RD Records)
The Rolls Royce of early acoustic Eastern trance recordings. Historically important, musically spellbinding.
2. Bobb Trimble "Iron Curtain Innocence" (Secretly Canadian)
The great lost Boy Wonder of late-phase folk-psychedelia. His other LP is just as good, but beware of the vinyl reissue of that one, which suffers from poor mastering.
3. Peter Grudzien "The Unicorn" (Subliminal Sounds)
The Van Gogh of 1970s urban folk, now equipped with an additional disc of unreleased material.
4. Index - first LP (DC Records)
Legendary ultra-atmospheric 1967 basement garage-surf finally available in its original look & sound.
5. Johnny Lunchbreak (Zero Street)
Marvy mid-70s power-pop and snappy Groovies rock from discovered acetate.
6. Contents Are (Shadoks)
Classy folkrock from hip westcoast fans in Iowa 1967.
7. Mighty Baby "Jug Of Love" (Sunbeam)
Finally a real reissue of this milestone.
8. Ahmed Abdul-Malik "East Meets West" (RCA/Scorpio)
The ultimate in cool.
9. Hamana (World In Sound)
Talented, arresting westcoast rock from Native American gets a beautiful reissue. (OK, so this is from 2006, so sue me)
10. Moby Grape - first LP in mono (Sundazed)
Hope you got one before the prince of darkness had them withdrawn!
Lest I forget, a recent CD compilation you might wanna check out is ALIENS PSYCHOS & WILD THINGS VOL 4. Although less served by hype and uncritical praise from "60s fans" than certain other garage/psych comps, this is one of the few really good series going. This instalment has a bunch of previously unheard late 60s fuzz-psych gems, including the very rare Psychotron 45 & more. The injection of DMT the Aliens series mastermind recently received apparently paid off. For those who missed earlier volumes in the series, Norton Records have done a selective recycling of their contents (Norton #289), though some of the more long-haired material is missing. Speaking of Norton, they've fearlessly assembled a sampler of the best tracks from the 20+ albums originally released in 1966-67 on the notorious Justice label, along with straight repros of the TEMPOS and PHANTOM RAIDERS albums. It's all here.
Other reissues of interest of late include the HUMAN BEAST, legit from tapes from the reliable Sunbeam label. This is one of my favorite albums from the late 60s UK underground, as it avoids the usual traps (operatic vocals, bombastic moods, etc) of the era. I ought to write a longer review of this, so for now I'll just say that it's great, and that the liner notes detail a recording session that was a lot less stringent than the end result suggests. Also from Sunbeam there's BLOSSOM TOES (both LPs) and the post-Mighty Baby HABIBIYYA, which needs to be heard by anyone looking for an whole album like KALEIDOSCOPE'S "Taxim"... very tasty, and with Susan Graubard/Archuletta of PAT KILROY & NEW AGE in there jamming! Small world. Strange, and small.
Here's some recent purchases of glorious old vinyl... mostly Weird Stuff this round, for some reason. Top centre is John Rydgren's "Cantata", a long time want I finally secured.
See y'all in February. Don't eat the purple snow!
pSYcHedEliC cHilLoUt rEvIeW sPecIaL (pARt 3)
A vital part in downbeat & psy-chill that hasn't really been covered here is the influence from DUB music. Along with the Asian/Arabic element, dub provides the main expansion of the originally Euro-centric ambient electronica into something truly new and exotic. Ambient dub was going round already in the 1990s, and there's still lots of it happening, along with a more subtle presence in many creations. Now, I'm a great fan of Jamaican 1970s-80s dub, but don't always find the marriage with Euro electronica to be all that successful. Dub is organic, living, unpredictable and (in large doses) not terribly varied. It's not necessarily a match made in heaven, unless done with lots of care and judgment. A recent compilation titled BIOLUMINESCENCE essentially succeeds, making for a nice hour or so of gentle floating into clouds of sensimilla. On the other hand, I found Interchill's DISSOLVING CLOUDS somewhat disappointing, as the typical dub elements took over and harshed my mellow, dude.
Looking back a few years, a downbeat classic can be found with "Hallucinogen In Dub" from England's OTT, who deconstructs several classic 90s goa-trance tracks from our old friend Simon Posford. The tracks are remodelled beyond recognition, but after a few plays the whole thing makes sense in a really cool way. More excellent and hip chillout trips from England -- not necessarily dubby -- can be found with the acclaimed album from TRIPSWITCH, which is classy and fun like Shpongle and Slack Baba.
I took another round with the sombre contintental dudes at Ultimae, and was not disappointed with either AES DANA or ASURA; the first could be the most cinematic ambient album I've heard, while Asura is a little more in yer face and even dancefloor-friendly in parts. Vol 4 in the same label's FAHRENHEIT PROJECT compilation series turned out to be excellent too, just a notch below Vol 6, reviewed here earlier.
If you're really hip to this stuff, you will wonder why there hasn't been any mention of ENTHEOGENIC yet. Well, this duo -- an Austrian and a Brit, living in France -- probably rank at the top of the Psybient heap, along with Shpongle, it's just that their early albums are so damn hard to find. I finally located the 2nd album "Spontaneous Illumination", which is a very elegant and refined psychedelic electronic trip, full of flowing bass-lines, exquisite drum patterns and TERENCE McKENNA samples. It dances near the edge of blandness, but wins out on class, especially after a few spins... like ayahuasca, it keeps beckoning you to return. The band's self-titled debut album is supposed to be even better, anyone have a copy to spare?
Captain's Log, Star-date: December 2007
It is the time to be merry as only a few days remain before the dim-witted earth globe starts tipping over in a new direction that allows us Nordic folks to slowly but surely pull out of our long twilight towards a brighter future on the other side of Winter Solstice. Edgar Allen Poe whined about "the dark time of the year" yet was never exposed to 18 hours of black night followed by 6 hours of dusk, after which night falls again. You know that recent sci-fi movie "Sunshine", about how the sun is dying? The final scene was shot just a couple of miles from where I live, then they added the Sydney opera house digitally to hammer their point home. No joke.
And so there's been plenty of time for psychedelic work lately. I've added a bunch of scans from the old British 1970s music zine DARK STAR, some of which should be of interest for anyone into westcoast psych and acid rock. See it all here. Our "Feed Your Head" website is being continuously updated with new book and magazine presentations. We're slowly moving towards contemporary matters, since the archaic revival continues to expand & shamanistic entheogen usage is spreading. Be sure to check in there regularly.
Music-wise the PETER GRUDZIEN 2-LP reissue just arrived, the first vinyl repro ever of this classic 1970s underground folk album. Unlike the Parallel World CD from the 1990s this recreates the exact contents of the 1974 "Unicorn" LP, and adds 1 whole disc's worth of previously unreleased material. A neat & important release from our friends at Subliminal Sounds... get the 500 ltd ed vinyl version before it disappears.
As exciting as the Grudz is the long-awaited return of 1990s psych wizard S T MIKAEL, who delights us with a double LP of new recordings that are as good as anything he's ever done. Any fan of Mikael will instantly recognize the soaring voice, the quality songwriting, and the LSD-flavored lyrics. Recorded with members of DUNGEN, this has a full-blown psych-rock sound, much like his 4th LP "Psychocosmic Songs" (my personal STM fave). Mikael is not a record collector... he is D R HOOKER's lost son! "Mind Of Fire" is the album title. Get it.
A rare shot of S T Mikael with his clothes on =>
Few heads are likely to have missed the Summer Of Love 40th anniversary the past Summer, but another and even more significant jubilee went largely unnoticed back in 2006. I'm talking about the TRIPS FESTIVAL, which kicked off the true Summer Of Love (1966) by bringing together the colorful freak multitudes prowling around SF for the first time, making everyone realize they were not alone, but in fact numbered 1000s. The Trips Festival also marked the apex of the MERRY PRANKSTERS' series of Acid Tests, whose momentum had been building through late '65. Why am I telling you these things, which you already know? Well, for all its underground legend, the Trips Festival has been somewhat poorly documented... until now. A brand new DVD release should add needed fuel to the saga about an event from which a lot of important stuff sprang.
Another hippie era legend with a westcoast mindset is Canada's BOB BRYDEN. His early work with REIGN GHOST and CHRISTMAS produced some of the best albums from the time and place, and Bryden has kept the cauldron boiling over the years. Check out this very classy and informative website, which also presents Bryden's new album, "Polaroid Verite".
One interesting bit of info is that the first, super-rare & expensive 1969 Christmas album was never intended for release, it was just some throwaway jams recorded while Bryden & co were working on one of those exploitation LPs the Canadians excelled at. And for this people pay $1500 (ho-ho)? I've also been told the Christmas "Live" LP is a good one, but still haven't heard it. Anyone able to help out here, drop me a line.
Speaking of Canada, I just finished a column on good and unknown Maple Leaf albums for the next issue of SHINDIG, which should be out early 2008. Feature articles include Gary Walker of "Francis" fame, garage fashion (should be a gas), the Sonics revived, early San Francisco scene, continued Moby Grape coverage, and more.
Before looking ahead, I'd like to look back on a piece I wrote for UGLY THINGS magazine some years back. Titled "There's Still Gold In Them Hills", the article presented 20 obscure albums that I felt were long overdue for reissue, on the slim hope that some reissue label executives may read the rant and have a 100 watt ligh-bulb epiphany on what to do next. Since this piece doesn't really fit anywhere else at Lysergia.com, I'm printing the whole thing (minus an intro) here, including a current status update. This is part 1, to be followed by part 2 (#11-20) in a future blog entry.
1. RATIONALS - "Fan Club LP" (1966)
At the end of a great year which had seen the "Rats" break out of their Ann Arbor/Detroit homebase via a major label semi-hit 45, as well as being voted the most popular band in Motor City by WKNR, manager Jeep Holland got the idea to put something tangible together as a sign of gratitude to the band's sizable following. This fan club album never went beyond a few test pressings, but captures a very different sound than the soul-rock they would deliver on their only official (1970) LP. If the "Fan Club LP" had been released properly as their debut 12-incher in late 1966, the Rationals' posthumous standing would have been like that of the Remains or the Blue Things, and we wouldn't have to hunt down rare A-Square 45s and fanzine articles to understand their importance as avatars of classic American r'n'r & garage. The "Fan-Club LP" contains a couple of pre-Beatle instros from the band's earliest days, alternate takes of the band's great first two 45s, a number of good, unreleased originals in a British Invasion style and, best of all, a 6-minute feedback rave-up medley on "Smokestack Lightning"/"Inside Looking Out" which points towards the band's devastating guitar-psych 45 on Genesis, as well as giving the Litter a run for the money. Only two copies have been found of the LP, which never had a cover made and came with blank labels and "Rationals" scratched into the dead wax. Scott Morgan recently stated that he was trying to track the masters down, which hopefully will lead to a release of this significant piece of 1960s music history.
Status: an exhaustive Rationals retrospective, including all the "Fan Club LP" material, is being planned by Ace/Big Beat.
2. EASY CHAIR (1968)
Consisting of just three tracks and less than 20 minutes of music, the Easy Chair's one-sided demo LP has been a legendary westcoast artefact for as long as I can remember. Few people have actually heard it, but among those some have expressed surprise at how good it is, apart from the collector wet-dream perspective. Recorded as early as April 1968, the sound is surprisingly mature and selfconfident, pointing towards the epic-psychedelic style found on 1970s classics such as Bob Smith, D R Hooker and Garrett Lund. The short fuzzrocker "My Own Life" has gone around on a CD-R compilation, but it's the extended "Slender Woman" and "Easy Chair" (which named the band) that give the demo its moody ahead-of-time character, reminiscent of the "Sardonicus" Spirit at times. Easy Chair are often mistakenly referred to as a Bay Area outfit, but the band was from Seattle and recorded the demo with the local Vanco label, whose LP catalog seems to have been a custom/vanity operation. Each of the few hundred copies pressed came with one of four different promo photos. None of this did much to break the Easy Chair, but after opening for the Mothers Of Invention, Frank Zappa liked the band enough that he invited them down to LA for his Straight label. However, the band fell apart in the interim, leaving band leader Jeff Simmons to cut a solo LP for Straight and later join Zappa's band. Now that its' hallowed 1-sided demo cousin Country Weather has been reissued (see UT #23), the time is certainly ripe for this westcoast milestone to become available.
Status: the World In Sound label is cooperating with Jeff Simmons on a number of releases, which should include Easy Chair. Simmons' solo LP has recently been reissued by W.I.S.
3. WILSON McKINLEY - "Spirit Of Elijah" (1971)
The gradual discovery of great Christian rock albums from the 1970s is one of the more remarkable exploits within local music archeology. Ranging from the powerful Old Testament guitar-psychedelia of Fraction to the wide-open marijuana jams of Kristyl, a whole field of outstanding rock music was rescued from a quiet death in "religious/new age" bins by curious collectors during the 1980s-90s. These obscure LPs spring mainly from the "Jesus Movement", a reflection of renewed interest in Christ among young Americans in the fallout from the psychedelic era. The born-again kids, often ex-hippies and ex-dopers, didn't see the point of squeaky clean gospel and Sunday School folk-pop to celebrate their faith, as secular rock music had progressed far beyond such lameness. One of the first and most important bands in the Jesus Rock scene was Wilson McKinley. Originally a band of non-religious musicians from Spokane WA, they experienced a joint conversion to Christianity in 1970. As other fine "X-ian" bands like Last Call Of Shiloh and Rainbow Promise, they looked to the West - meaning the San Francisco ballrooms - for a new sound to match their new faith. McKinley's second album and acclaimed masterpiece "Spirit Of Elijah" shows a strong Moby Grape influence, including a cover of "He". The open, flowing nature of the SF acidrock makes for a perfect marriage with the peaceful, non-sermonizing message of the words. The album is strong all through with a peak in the epic title track, a spine-chilling apocalyptic vision made even more powerful by its low-key, introvert folkrock presentation. "Elijah" has never been reissued, although about half of it can be found on a retrospective CD put together by the band.
Status: nothing new here, but the inferior CD samplers are still floating around.
4. THE CONTENTS ARE - "Through You" (1967)
One of the best things about diving into the local/private press album scene is that it seems to have no bottom. Even after 25 years of bargain bin and warehouse scrutiny, previously unknown, vintage titles rise to the surface. Rumors of a limited demo LP pressing from this renowned Iowa garage/folkrock band had circulated but remained unconfirmed until an actual copy popped up at a recent Austin Record Show. Curiosity grew into excitement as the album turned out to feature 13 band originals in a terrific melodic Beatles '65-66 style with a sprinkling of Byrds on top. In other words, an ideal sound for a "lost" 60s album, reminiscent of the Beauregard Ajax recordings from LA (reviewed in this issue). Drawing inspiration from the Beatles is usually an indication of both taste and cojones, and the Contents Are deliver a string of well-crafted and skillfully arranged 3-minute gems from the point where beat and folkrock turn into melodic psychedelia. There's also hints of an early rural sound a la Buffalo Springfield. Coming out of the Midwest in '67, this is as advanced as H P Lovecraft, and thus of substantial historical value, in addition to the sheer listening pleasure. The gentleman in possession of the album has made contact with band members and a reissue will hopefully come down the line. Prepare yourself for a treat.
Status: now out as a deluxe vinyl reissue from Shadoks.
5. THE FUGITIVES - "At Dave's Hideout" (1965)
The Fugitives "live" LP is significant not only as a pre-SRC item, but also as the very first local Detroit album from a honkie r'n'r act. Several intriguing releases would follow in '66-67, usually related to Hideout, the Cage-A-Go-Go, A-Square or other legendary teen nexi of mid-60s motor city, before hard drugs and kitchen sink revolutions killed the fun. And good clean teenage fun can be found all across this irresistible LP, which captures perfectly the exciting but brief post-Invasion, pre-garage era, when bands would freely mix frat, instros, soul and "the new sound from England", and getting kudos for it. Recorded in the Quackenbush parents' basement in 1965, the tapes were played back at Dave Leone's Hideout club, where applause and teenage ambience were ingeniously recorded on the second track. Leone says only 300 copies were pressed, which were immediately sold out at the club. Obviously patterned on the Kingsmen's first LP, from which not less than four tracks were covered to great effect, it's interesting to note that "Louie Louie" is met with greater crowd enthusiasm than "A Hard Days Night". There's also a couple of originals, including alternate versions of scene staples like "Friday at the Hideout" and "You're Gonna Be Mine". Who cares if a "live" album is fake, as long as it's great? The early Detroit scene has met with substantial interest from compilers and writers in recent years, but this granddaddy of the whole party remains unreissued.
Status: nothing new here, but this one is likely to be reissued in some way or other. Norton should go for it!
6. HENDRICKSON ROAD HOUSE (1970)
I'm the first to admit that a lot of obscure album finds these days belong to musical styles that are so off-the-wall that the average 60s fan is likely to pull a big "?" if confronted with them. Which is why it's so surprising to discover a previously unknown LP with a sound that pretty much anyone with ears would fall for; a completely professional, obviously talented melodic folkpsych LP with superb female vocals, sophisticated playing and an overall major league feel. Hendrickson Road House were pretty far from major league however, appearing as they did on the tiny Two:Dot label from rural CA, a custom plant whose only other claim to fame is the release of two supremely rare LPs by Arthur (recently reissued by RD Records) and the Mystic Zephyr 4, a bizarre "outsider" cross between the Brady Bunch and those infamous big gurls, the Shaggs. At the opposite end of the musical spectrum we find Hendrickson Road House, which despite the bar-band sounding name is the work of one Sue Akins, who wrote the songs, sings and plays most instruments. The music has been compared to side 1 of Serpent Power, but is clearly better and more sophisticated; fans of These Trails and Linda Perhacs are also likely to find much to enjoy in this exquisite album, with a melancholic late-night mood that remains enchanting and never becomes depressive. The second to last track is a non-descript jazz instrumental, probably at the session musicians' demand, which could simply be removed when this gets reissued. The rest ranges from good to brilliant.
Status: interest in reissuing this has been expressed, and a possible contact has been made with a band member.
7. YAYS & NAYS (1968)
I don't know any LP even remotely like the Yays & Nays, yet it's highly listenable, even commercial in parts, rooted in a lively Grassroots folkrock sound and branching off into tough garage and soft femme-vox pop. The member line-up of three guys and three girls is unusual, but a logical cause and effect of its theme. You see, this is a concept LP dealing with gender oppositions, a "war between the sexes". Some of the tunes are sung by the guys, from a guy perspective, others are sung by the gals from a gal perspective, and on the incredible "If" we are treated to an Aristophanic dialogue between the two camps. The male members typically sing solo in a mock-manly Johnny Cash/Lee Hazlewood style that works as an ironic deflation of the macho content of their lyrics. The women in turn sing ensemble, like the chorus of a Greek play, their high-pitched feminine voices aggregating power when heard together .The lyrics follow a similar pattern, the guys delivering sentiments and desires from a by-gone 1950s world, while the ladies usually express a 1960s sense of freedom and independence. The whole thing plays like an inspired fratty college musical sendup of the Lee & Nancy and Sonny & Cher duets. Us retro music lovers often lament the lack of success for artists that were in the wrong place or on the wrong label, but that line doesn't really work for the Yays & Nays, because even on Vanguard or Elektra I think this would have flopped at the time -- it's such a multilayered, double-edged trip that requires many plays to grasp, and thus probably better fit for 2006 than the fast and flashy 1960s. Not much is known about the band, except that they came from the Southeast somewhere and were shown posing in a swamp dressed in hip mod gear on the cover.
Status: nothing new, except that a lot of people like this album.
8. CONSTANT SOUND (1967)
I drew an almost complete blank when trying to dredge up info on this album. Released as a sleeveless demo pressing c1967, the band was most likely from the westcoast, and there is a certain probability that it was a studio-only project. Constant Sound is a rare bird among no-label artefacts, a fullgrown specimen of what is referred to as California Sunshine Harmony Pop. All 12 songs fall smoothly into this bag, and there are no ambitions pointing elsewhere. As such, it's also very good, with rich male/female vocal harmonies, upbeat major key songs with a reasonable number of hooks, and the rich panoramic production style that fans of the genre request. The lyrics show obvious psychedelic aspirations, and the vibe is "aware" despite the light fare packaging and occasional orchestrations. Perhaps the most interesting track is "The Avalon", which upon close scrutiny is a tribute to the famous San Francisco ballroom, with concrete details from inside Chet Helms' old acidrock palace. The sunny LA studio vibe of Constant Sound is hardly the type of music Helms enjoyed, and the background for this tune is a substantial mystery. Other tracks embellish the Love Exchange/Birmingham Sunday vocal pop with a Curt Boettcher sophistication, and there are also appealing moves into the cocktail lounge sounds of the third Strawberry Alarmclock LP. In light of the huge interest in this genre in recent years, Constant Sound is definitely ripe for discovery.
Status: although there is definite commercial potential here, the lack of background info and utter rarity of the disc means this one may remain unreissued.
9. CAMBRIDGE - "Share A Song" (1977)
The little-known Cambridge band from rural Pennsylvania recorded what is simply the best local country-rock album from anywhere. Rooted in an upbeat Marin County style popularized by New Riders Of The Purple Sage, the band sounds like the genre was invited for them and them alone, combining snappy songs with a relaxed mood, like a sparkling day in June. For Nashville tearjerkers or slick urban LA cowboyisms you have to look elsewhere. The Cambridge sound is equal doses modern country and westcoast rock, seamlessly merging honky-tonk piano with Buffalo Springfield-like tunes and psychedelic guitar solos, or conversely, mixing steel guitar with atmospheric mellotron backdrops. The field of "rural rock" produced a number of fine local albums such as Afton, Modlin & Scott, the Dallas County Green et al, but ultimately Cambridge's superb grip on who they were and what they wanted takes home first prize honors, and had "Share A Song" been released on a major label it would have made the band famous. Ex-member Dan Vogan is currently active in Vogan & Deuble, who are still working with the Green Dolphin label that saw this LP released several decades ago.
Status: nothing to report; the genre isn't among the hotter styles for recycling, although the album is better than almost all the mediocre lyte-psych and whatever that does get reissued.
10. BOB DESPER - "New Sounds" (1974)
Perhaps no other genre has been so misrepresented by hype as that of acoustic 1970s solo LPs, a k a "loner" or "downer" folk. There were literally thousands of such local albums released in the wake of Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, CSN and John Lennon's post-Beatle work. With no arrangements or production tricks to hide behind, the genre allows us a naked, warts-and-all glimpse of the artist in question, which is undoubtedly its greatest appeal. Often, however, closeness is about the best thing these albums can offer, while the lack of useful songwriting or even a working voice indicates precisely why they had to be released as vanity jobs. You need to go through many stacks of bad 1970s folk and singer/songwriter albums to find a few excellent LPs like Perry Leopold, William Beeley or Dave Bixby. So, unless you're a Japanese completist collector of "loner privates", particular caution must be applied when walking among these sorry-ass troubadors. With his darkly lyrical voice, swift steelstring picking and a pro-sounding recording, Oregon's Bob Desper is one of the definite needles in the haystack. Blind since his birth, the darkness and loneliness Desper sings of becomes overwhelmingly real, yet his artistic abilities creates respect rather than pity. The lyrics refer to eyes, blindness, lights and glows, sounds and smells, drawing you into a non-seeing man's world in a way only music can. If released on a national label, Desper would have been a legend today, and maybe it's not too late.
Status: a bootleg CD from Korea or Japan has been advertised, not sure if it's actually out. A legit deluxe vinyl repro would be most welcome.
And finally, some excellent news to round off the year: Ron Matelic's studio recordings from the 1990s have now been commercially released by the pay-to-download website Anthology Recordings. I highlighted these back in my ANONYMOUS / J RIDER interview with Ron, suggesting that some of the tracks are as great as his awe-inspiring 1970s work. Any fans of the aforementioned bands must check these out, and while you're at it, read my recent appreciation of Ron's career at the same website.
So, 2007 is about to slide into the past, especially for us who live in the Eternal Now. Workwise for me it's been mostly about the ACID ARCHIVES book, which has been a steady seller throughout the year. The fourth printing is currently in circulation, and there may be another run in 2008. The response to our work has been terrific, with very few of the expected nay-sayers and sceptics rearing their heads. Some constructive criticism has been logged for future brooding, but all over I must say it's been smooth sailing through friendly waters. Music-wise I've been getting -- in case anyone missed it -- into contemporary psychedelia of the electronic kind, a rather exciting discovery process which is still happening right now. The quality of contemporary psy-chill music is remarkable, and I'm rounding up as much as I can before these limited underground CD releases sink into never-never oblivion. I have a third and final instalment in my psybient review series coming up next month, as I needed time to digest a stack of recent purchases. Related to this quest I've been pleasantly surprised to see how very much alive the modern psychotropic scene is, with Terence McKenna acolytes in every chillout room on the western hemisphere. Ayahuasca, DMT and psilocybin... it all keeps happening.
Beyond current affairs, a bunch of interesting reissues from various Euro vinyl purveyors have graced our home during 2007, of which special mention must me made of the PAT KILROY & NEW AGE album from RD Records. We've also seen two remarkable books come out, both of them closing arcs that (for me) began way back in the 1980s, finally unravelling the seemingly infinite mysteries of the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS and FATHER YOD & YAHOWHA 13, respectively. With glossy bios on these ancient weird longhair drug troops available over the counter from a big publisher & even reviewed in the New York Times, our current astral plane known as baseline reality must be a pretty good place. Let's hope so. 2008 should prove it.
Captain's Log, Star-date: November 2007
Unless you too live within shouting distance from the Arctic Circle, you have no idea exactly how dark, cold and grim the late Fall can be up here. There's still 6 weeks left to Winter Solstice and I'm seeing frost on the grass outside my window! So, what to do except pour a stiff Bowmore Mariner, lay back in the recliner, and spin some deranged drug music? Ah yes. Here's some recent additions to the Lama library, all originals needless to say (and yet I had to say it):
Another timekill during the dark season is checking out funny-looking 60s bands on YouTube. Seeing all this great stuff available for free makes the care I took over the years to preserve a small stack of VHS tapes with supposedly "ultra-rare" clips of the Seeds and Blues Magoos now seem a bit goofy, but on the other hand I can toss out those clunky old cassettes without having to bother with digitizing them... since it's all up for free on the internet! Some seriously cool stuff is out there man, things that never even circulated on those cherished video tapes back in the 1980s, like New Colony Six "I Lie Awake", Strawberry Alarmclock "Tomorrow", Music Machine "The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly", Sons Of Adam, Electric Prunes "You Never Had It Better" live, the Sorrows 4 tracks live, and much more.
Elsewhere, the fine folks at SHINDIG! are keeping us busy with their revamped magazine and tight (bi-monthly) publishing schedule. The first issue of the re-launch just landed here, looking extremely nice (a bit like the old Strange Things zine) with color print throughout and juicy pieces on various hip subjects like the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream (the event, not the tune), the full band story and photos of FOREVER AMBER, and even a couple of Lama contributions on the Laguna Beach Christmas Happening and related 100% UNKNOWN FIBRES album, as well as a recurring column called "Esoteric Trips". The current issue is barely out and the next one is already announced, making me having to put in actual work to meet the deadline. Speaking of, I've now added my lengthy interview & article on DENISE KAUFMAN & THE ACE OF CUPS to the Lama Workshop, check it out... one of my more ambitious undertakings, and well worth doing too. And related to all this, I should mention (in case anyone missed it) that the recent reissues of MOBY GRAPE from Sundazed have now been withdrawn, after the Evil Guy who holds the band's souls locked up once again found a way to make everyone unhappy.
More reading material -- after last month's major tome on the 13th Floor Elevators, the folks at Process publishing strike again with a big, juicy and very nicely designed book on FATHER YOD & YAHOWA 13 & THE SOURCE FAMILY. Authored by the Family's record-keeper Isis, it seems very promising so far, even better than I had hoped for, with a surprisingly straight-forward and open-hearted coverage of the old man's great and occasionally dubious deeds.
As the Source documentary DVD from 2005 also demonstrated, these people are neither fools nor brainwashed, but regular folks from all walks of life who just happened upon a different trip, and one that for once didn't rip them off or lead them over a cliff -- except for Yod himself, of course. It was cool to see some of the wild stories Michael Bowen told me about the early days of Jim Baker/Father Yod appear in this book, like the time when the big guy became notorious as the Judo Killer in the LA tabloids. Oh yeah, there's lots of previously unseen photos and documentation of the family's acid rock music activities, for those who care only about that bit.
Father Yod seals a Source Family marriage with his cosmic bear hug =>
Looking over the rants below, I discovered that I've forgotten to mention two cool CD reissues that have been on rotation here in recent months -- the quite attractive and surprisingly good sampler of THE LIGHT, a San Berdoo band covered in detail in Ugly Things that mustered only one official 45 release, but left behind a bunch of cool stuff, ranging from typical SoCal Yardbird teen garage, to creative and cutting edge westcoast rock with a NEW TWEEDY BROTHERS feel. The preceding CD with The Bush was real good, but this Light thing may be even better. You keep 'em coming Mr Stax! While in the LA area and watching teenagers' hair grow, there are worse soundtracks to blast than the recent double CD from World In Sound featuring JEFF SIMMONS, ex-Easy Chair and pre-Mothers. Simmons solo LP on Straight was better than I expected, with some really cutting guitar-work and nice Sunset Strip '69 sleaze & dope vibe. The "Naked Angels" biker flick soundtrack Simmons most appropriately recorded is featured on the second CD.
On an unrelated and less exhilarating note, the notoriously liberal Netherlands have decided to make PSILOCYBIN MUSHROOMS illegal. Over the recent years, shamanic-tribal usage of stropharia cubensis & its cousins has mushroomed around Europe, thanks in no small part to the easy and legit availability of high quality products from various Dutch head shops. Unfortunately, some dumbass tourists who hadn't done their homework decided to trip out in a bad set & setting, with the usual pathetic consequences, and since this made for bad tabloid press, the government powers decided to put their foot down into the fertile cow-pie where mushroom culture has been revived. As of this writing, the law has not yet gone into effect, and there's still time to place an order for a bag of psychedelic mushrooms -- 10 hours of organic insight is just some Googling and a few mouse-clicks away.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself
What happens next? Well, in recent years 1000s upon 1000s of hip young men and women have been allowed a peek inside the ancient mystery, and I very much doubt that they're going to change their ways just because some politicians chickened out to avoid bullshit newspaper headlines. In other words, there is no -- in fact has never been any -- cause for alarm: psychedelia continues to grow among friends behind closed doors, which has always been the best way to do it anyway.
Here's what I want for Winter Solstice:
Until then it's not fare well, but fare forward, voyagers!
pSYcHedEliC cHilLoUt rEvIeW sPecIaL (pARt 2)
Some of this stuff is called psybient, meaning psychedelic ambient, and if this sub-genre really exists, a few of its key players can be found in Britain. I've mentioned Simon Posford's SHPONGLE earlier, and can now add that the third album from this torch-carrying outfit is about as good as the first two. Some might say even better. Titled "Nothing Lasts... But Nothing Is Lost" (a Terence McKenna quote combining Ken Kesey with William Blake), it plays essentially like one long suite (or trip), although the track list shows a whole bunch of different tunes. The creativity and influx of ideas is as impressive as the perfect realization, and there's even a good pop song or two in there, like the droning "When Will I Be Free", a dazzling 4-minute snip to play for conservative psych fans who wonder what this futuristic tripping is all about. A seeming disciple of Shpongle is SLACK BABA, whose debut album "And The Beat Goes Om" gathered rave reviews and enthusiastic fans in the chillout sector, even though (again like Shpongle) the energy level and restless flow of inspiration is so high that it's not really something to chill to, but rather play loud as fuck as the mushrooms start hitting. Very good, and like most Brit electronica acts, with an undercurrent of unpredictable trickster fun.
Down on the Continent things tend to be more sombre within electronica, and it's also where what some people call "real" ambient is alive and very well, for all its nocturnal brooding. The French ULTIMAE label is a sort of nexus for the more serious-minded ambient music, showcasing impressive works by the likes of Aes Dana, Asura, Solar Fields and Carbon Based Lifeforms. The latter two actually come from Sweden, and I'm proud to observe the outstanding quality of what I've heard of them so far. A good place to catch a top-level sample of the Ultimae label magic is the FAHRENHEIT PROJECT series, where the most recent volume (#6) sends you into a melancholic, cerebral, yet unmistakably human aural space, like watching the dark side of the earth from a slowly orbiting spaceship. The future is here, and this is what it sounds like. The remorse-filled "Erasing Pluto" by Cell (see last month's review) and the hypnotic 10-minute "Levitation" by the aforementioned Solar Fields are possible high points to me... stunning music, though quite serious in tone.
An almost perfectly inverted image of the Fahrenheit meditations is offered by a popular sampler from another of the leading chillout labels, Canada's INTERCHILL. The label has put out a whole bunch of compilations, as well as artist releases by the likes of Adham Shaikh and Kaya Project (both discussed last month), most of which have been very well received, and they pulled a beautifully multicolored rabbit out of the hat with last year's GATHERING THE TRIBE. This is as upbeat and joyously neo-tribal music as you can find, and some of it isn't even electronica but just marvy ethnic trips from many parts of the world, including a hit-bound reggae-nyabinghi track by Abassi All Stars, and Adham Shaikh's playful "Marmalade Sun", which I think is better than anything on his Interchill album. Although not loaded with classics, "Gathering The Tribe" is memorable on the strength of its superbly upbeat mood.
Another skillfully compiled sampler is NOVA NATURA VOL 2 from Cosmicleaf records. Dominated by artists from the label's native Greece (such as the very classy Side Liner) with some stray Australians mixed in, the comp plays through beautifully, arresting and dramatic without aspiring to the dark cerebral depths of the Ultimae disc discussed above. Apparently vol 1 and vol 3 in the series are not as good, so be sure to read the label carefully before purchase.
Continuing our eastward travel we come upon the NATURAL BORN CHILLERS sampler from Israel's Aleph Zero label, which is what I'm listening to right now -- a little friendlier and groovier than Nova Natura vol 2, this reminded me of the popular ambient club sounds of the smilingly stoned 1990s, which should be considered high praise. Accessible and well-engineered, this is a good sampler to start with if you're a newbie. I was somewhat less delighted by the same label's artist release SHULMAN, where the title "Random Thoughts" seemed a little too appropriate -- covering a wide field of modern electronica from glitch to house, the diversity obstructs the coherent listener experience in an unfortunate way. There's still a couple of great ambient chill tunes on it, and other tracks I've heard from Shulman (this is their 3rd album) have been solid. Still floating around in the Mediterranean, we close this month's psy-chill session with Italy's MASTER MARGHARITA, whose debut succeeds where Shulman mostly fails. A mosaic of various modern downbeat styles, it wins out on class, and although there's no signature anthem-like tune aboard, it plays through so beautifully that it may be the album I've heard most times of all these. Like the Aleph Zero comp above, this is a good place to start if you want to dip your toes before diving into the swirling electronic rainbow lake.
Captain's Log, Star-date: October 2007
Here we are again, after a hiatus caused by influenza, autumnal spleen, extracurricular obligations, and general mayhem. Some catching up is definitely in order, and let's begin with one of the most buzzingest trips around -- the new 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS biography, "Eye Mind" by Paul Drummond. Originally scheduled for November it is in fact out already, and a lot of people are eager to pick it up. Formal reviews and discussions will come down the line, but the graphic material alone makes this a must for anyone even moderately interested in the Elevators, with a lot of photos and posters in much better print quality than seen before. The best parts to me were the opening chapters in Kerrville, and also the period in 1967 after the two Dannys (Galindo & Thomas) joined, including the "Easter Everywhere" sessions. I got really involved with the reading here, forgetting my geek/collector approach and simply enjoying it as a reader. A less hardcore fan will probably get even more milage from the sheer bizarreness, drama, and tragedy of the storyline, since a lot of it hasn't been formally documented before. Along with the Misunderstood and the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, I think the Elevators are the great band story of the 60s. Anyone trying to write something about the band in the future will have to read this book, and since the level of research and general accuracy of "Eye Mind" is way beyond anything done before, this book will up-level the public knowledge of the Elevators. Maybe not up to the 13th floor, but certainly up from where it is today.
The master tapes for all three studio albums by the 13th Floor Elevators have been located, along with a bunch of other I A reels. The Elevators material is either in the form of mixdown master reels, or safety dubs from mixdowns. Reportedly this was all sitting in Charly's vault while they were churning out vinyl-sourced, crap-sounding reissues. Weird, huh? In any event, the 30-year Quest is over. Not to say that this means they will be released next month, or even next year... but the master recordings are in existence, and people can stop asking.
Seems the FATHER YOD & SOURCE FAMILY book is also out, more on that once I've picked up a copy. Isis & the Yahowha gang have seen the interest around the world, interpreted the signs, and once more opened the door to Father's teachings. That's right -- the Family is active again, spreading the gospel! Sign up to learn more about cosmic energy and beards on the revamped website here.
As you know, I've been getting into TERENCE McKENNA of late, and I've also been getting into contemporary Psybient music (see side-bar). I was surprised to find that the voice most frequently sampled on Psybient recordings is Terence McKenna; he's like their Moses. It all connects, man. I figured I had to get real with my McKenna collection, beyond the few books and the lo-fi MP3 samples floating around. So I went out hunting for his "TRUE HALLUCINATIONS" work, a quite ambitious 1984 "talking book" of 8 cassettes with spoken raps & some music that sold for $80 then (a lot of money at the time), and is somewhat hard to find nowadays, especially as an original. I had a line on an expensive copy with a cool provenance, but decided to wait. Just a few days later I found another copy on eBay, won it fairly cheap, and after some twists & turns had it delivered here.
It's an outstanding work, reflecting McKenna's writer-poet ambitions in a way unlike his other works, as it spins a 9-hour tale of explorations into Amazonian shroom revelations, ayahuasca tribes, UFO:s, and esoteric science. Terence's brother Dennis is given plenty of space in the story, being described as a "genius" and the actual source of many of St Terence's controversial theories, all culminating in that extraordinary field trip to the Amazon 1971. So you can imagine my surprise, when I opened my "True Hallucinations" box set and spotted this ==>
That's provenance, and synchronicity too. What does it signify? Beats me, but nowadays I choose to believe.
Um, let's get back to Planet Earth, shall we? Not that the unreleased album from PAT KILROY & NEW AGE is likely to keep you grounded for long, seeing how it soars off into nocturnal spiritual excursions like a disembodied spirit roaming the Indus valley looking for peace of mind. My upcoming Ugly Things review calls it "the Rolls Royce of early acoustic Eastern trance recordings" or something like that, and it's an essential, groundbreaking release from RD Records. Perhaps not groundbreaking but certainly groundshaking sounds come from GROUNDSHAKER, a "lost" Los Angeles hardrock band from the early 1970s, who spice up their Rockadelic style teenage hardrock with credible moves into Stones/Faces/Free style bourbon rock, and should gain plenty of fans. From the same label (Red Lounge) we also have a retrospective vinyl collection of the DUKES, a German 60s band who cut an all-time Lama fave with the cool "Unskilled Worker". Although they were really from the late 60s, the attitude and sound is pre-hippie, tough & talented. Other enjoyable reissues that have flown in here include JEFF SIMMONS from World In Sound (2-CD set with his solo LP + the biker movie soundtrack), the weird but fun JEM TARGAL (CD with nice custom packaging) and, back with RD Records again, PRUFROCK, which is an acetate-only 1967 album from a California garage/psych band with lots of personality and some great tracks... kind of like how the Tormentors might have sounded if they had been any good.
Although prices on eBay have taken a jump into the stratosphere recently -- Lord knows why -- interesting obscurities and actual bargains can still be found, if you have the time and energy. Some purchases of mine from the last few months seemed interesting enough to present at the esteemed Waxidermy website, such as an early, almost unknown spoken word comedy album from Hugh Romney aka WAVY GRAVY. Even more odd was "ART OF THE GIFTED", a mid-1980s music therapy project featuring mental patients doing weird music under the tutelage of a shrink who, like everything else in the world, turned out to have a connection to the 13th Floor Elevators. Staying on the fringe of things, I picked up RICHARD VALE & THE GEMS, a fine incarnation of local 60s lounge band atmosphere, crooner tunes, and even a cover of "Acapulco Gold". I'll be looking to explore this style more, unless it gets too trendy, at which I will bow out. Some more regular psych & folk records have flown in here too, including a couple of heavies I managed to snatch, but I'll save those for the next instalment.
Just in are two very vital reissues, namely the long awaited legit repro jobs of BOBB TRIMBLE's classic and amazingly good melodic psych albums from the early 1980s, "Iron Curtain Innocence" and "Harvest Of Dreams". The Secretly Canadian label have dug up and reinstated the original color photos that for cost reasons became black & white on the original releases, which is a trip in its own right for long-time Bobb fans. The CD versions have bonus tracks, and there's liner notes with Bobb comments, photos, newspaper clippings. Listening to the "Iron" CD now, and it sounds good, with definite clarity and isolation added visavi the original on several tracks -- and as I pointed out in Ugly Things, this legendary album has never been reissued, not even as a bootleg CD. Like Bobb himself once said, you waited so long and now you find it was well worth the wait... news-flash: stay clear of the vinyl version of "Harvest", as the sound was screwed up in the mastering. The "Iron" reissue sounds OK on both CD and vinyl.
Our hero with a "unicorn", now in full color !
pSYcHedEliC cHilLoUt rEvIeW sPecIaL (pARt 1)
Although you may not have heard much about it, psychedelic electronica is very much alive and well. In fact, there may have been more quality music produced within that field in the last 5-6 years than during the entire 1990s. The two basic styles of uptempo psychedelic trance (aka psy-trance or Goa) and downtempo ambient continue to flourish, although I must admit that the recent psy-trance stuff I've been checking out spells "more of the same" to me, which is why I tuned out of that field about 10 years ago, after some very exciting encounters in the mid-90s. But the 140 BPM Goa-heads are still around and apparently enjoy their drugs and crazy dance music, and why not.
To my ears, however, the most interesting development has been on the ambient/chillout/downbeat side, where there's not only vast amounts of excellent psychedelic music in the (more or less) classic style produced, but new mutations and derivations have grown up, much like ayahuasca vines round an Amazonian tree trunk. One sub-genre that's been around for many years (witness classic 1990s works by Trance Global Underground, Banco De Gaia and Loop Guru) and seems to be very healthy, is Global Ambient. Several of the best albums from my recent survey fall into this (approximate) bag, such as the DESERT DWELLERS' "Down-temple Dub: Flames". These guys are from the US westcoast and give off a neo-hippie communal kind of vibe, which is fine with me. Their music is in line with their monicker -- floating desert soundscapes with an Arabian-Asian backbone. It's fairly serious stuff (no funny sci-fi movie samples), not blatantly druggy or playful like the British acts, but also not as melancholic or dark as many of the Continental European counterparts. Beyond the Katmandu backpacker vibes, it retains an American character... high California desert mystique, beautifully realized in terms of structure and listener communication. They have another album also. Almost as good, and not that dissimilar, is CELL's "Phonic Peace" with its slow trancey Middle Eastern rhythms, hindu vocal samples, evocative late-night moods, psychedelic journey-like structures, and just plain old talent. Cell is a Parisian named Alex Scheffer with many appearances on genre compilations, but "Phonic Peace" is his only album.
I was slightly less impressed by "Journey To The Sun" by ADHAM SHAIKH from Canada. Originally recorded and released in 1996, this was reissued for contemporary ambient/chillout appreciation. Unlike other albums reviewed here, this is essentially beat-less music, and as any old kraut head will tell you, no beats means massive demands on the musical creativity. The record still works as a pleasant experience of sweeping synth textures and Far Eastern field samples, but doesn't really grab me until the extended "Liquid Evolution" track, where drum structures and hypnotic moods slowly arise out of the ambience. Adham Shaikh's more recent recordings should be worth checking out. I've seen mixed opinions on "Elixir", the second album from England's KAYA PROJECT, but it sounded pretty good to my ears. The opening "From Mumbai" is a delight for the acid 20-something Eastern backpacker, and like many British acts it moves effortlessly into other ambient fields with an occasional playful vibe. The "Salaam" remix is another high-point, moving you out from the chillout room and on to the dance floor.
Closing this first instalment of chillout reviews on a high note, the "World Fusion" album by German artist TARUNA is a delight to my ears. In fact, hearing Taruna's "Shamballa" track on internet radio is one of the things that set me off on the current quest. It is not easy to create sensual, warm music with only electronic instruments and samples, but these 11 minutes are an utterly seductive ascent into buddhist astral realms; it was experiences like this that ambient music was invented for. Do not miss. The rest of the album is very good too, with several high points, adding samples of ayahuascan medicine men as well as Uncle Tim & Saint Terence to the mix. Taruna has two earlier albums.
This first batch of reviews focused on the ethnic/global-ambient side of contemporary psy & downbeat. Next time it'll be crazy British psybients, some excellent compilations, a look at leading labels, and more.
Captain's Log, Star-date: August 2007
First of all, I encourage you to admire the bright color cartoon label design of the LEMON FOG 45. Not only does it look great, but it's one of my fave Summer tunes ever. Did you know that the Lemon Fog entry in "Fuzz Acid & Flowers" is a complete fabrication, submitted by a former band member as a prank? The main butt-end of that joke was presumed leader Ted Eubanks, who popped up a couple of years ago, after having been confronted with the hilarious rant in the Joynson book, and explained in no uncertain terms that it was all wrong. Last time I checked, this long bogus entry for the Lemon Fog was still in "Fuzz".
Despite reports of biblical floods in Britain and desert heat on the Balkan, the Summer up here has been much the same as always. My birthday just came and went and relatives generously equipped me with tools for enjoying music, inside when it's raining (a VPI 16.5 record cleaner), and outdoors when sister sun pays a visit (my first ever MP3 player). Right now it's Country & Western day in the Lama cave -- god bless Bill Haley for his r'n'r contributions, but it's his early country sides that really grab me.
On the psychedelic front, I've been getting into TERENCE McKENNA. You probably know a few things about him, yet a near-decade after his passing, I'm not getting as many Google hits as I would like to. There is plenty of material to learn from, but most of it is kind of scattered about. Here's one place to start the journey into DMT elf-space. Understanding the advantages of recorded sound and images, and recognizing his hypnotic effect on listeners, McKenna left a massive body of lectures and interviews behind, some of which can be found on the net. There's also a couple of classic books which will be featured at our Feed Your Head website in a near future. Tim Leary once introduced McKenna as "the real Timothy Leary", a gesture both generous and accurate.
Summer vacation means buying less records, since buying records constitutes a type of work task. Before taking a hiatus from the eBay sniper alley I did go on a frantic buying and trading spree, which netted me the following display items... all originals!
It's looking like a good Summer for reissues, as both CONTENTS ARE and INSTANT ORANGE are recycled out of New Orleans by way of Shadoks, and Raymond at RD Records has the previously unreleased album from PAT KILROY & NEW AGE coming up this month. Check out recent writings in Ugly Things on both Contents Are and Pat Kilroy, while Instant Orange will be reviewed by me in the next UT issue. There's also some coverage of these rarities in the Acid Archives book, needless to say. And... in case you haven't heard... one of the most anticipated reissues of the past decade is finally due in from World In Sound later this year. I'm talking, of course, of the eyes of the Gecko peering out at you from behind the magic peyote veil of COLD SUN! Both vinyl and CD versions are planned, which is good since the original Rockadelic release was last seen at $400.
Speaking of the Acid Archives, we were delighted to find a review of our book in the current issue of MOJO Magazine (July issue #164/Bob Marley cover): "...Insightful, witty, and descriptive reviews of more than 4.000 almost universally obscure North American albums that have rarely been written about anywhere. Skip Spence's legendarily low-selling cult classic 'Oar' is one of the most 'famous' LPs discussed in the entire book, to give you some idea of how rare these items are. Naturally, many of the albums are of a psychedelic nature, but acid folk, garage and numerous other manifestations of non-mainstream sounds - often privately pressed in miniscule quantities - receive their full due too" (Richie Unterberger). There's been talk of landing reviews in some other publications, such as Record Collector (which never happened), but Mojo... now that's Major League for a self-published, underground tome! Along with the Mojo mag came a freebie CD of classic reggae, which I'm listening to right now, excellent roots sounds & some dub... and my hearing loss finally cleared up... alrightee.
Some favorite trips from the first half of 2007:
Best Reissue: The ROCKIN' BONES 4-CD box-set from Rhino. As far as I can tell they got everything right for this one, from the ultra-cool (and quite ambitious) packaging and non-geeky liner notes to the deadly line-up of 101 rockabilly killers from the 1950s. This is the box you wished you had on hand while being hypnotized by KICKS magazine rants back in the 1980s... indeed "Rockin' Bones" seems quite inspired by the Kicks world-view, both in terms of contents and attitude. Doug Sheppard says this might be Rhino's best box-set ever, and I agree. It's wild, it's jaw-dropping (like the multiple female orgasms on John & Jackie), it's crazy (Hasil Adkins is on board), and it's just plain necessary.
Best Rare LP: it doesn't happen too often nowadays, but "Deep Night" by THE SIXTH STATION managed to grab me like music did back when I was a teenager, playing it over and over while staring blankly into space. This is IT, and it's from the unholy year of 1982! To my ears a very sincere 60s basement folkrock LP, like Mystery Meat or Holy Ghost Reception Committee #9, moved via papal intervention to the early 1980s, and picking up "Helpless"-era Neil Young along the way.
Among Christian LPs, the Catholics tend to be the deepest and darkest, and The Sixth Station offers canonical evidence of this stigma... nocturnal sorrow and introspection, with absolutely zero happy gospel folk picnic singalongs. Check out the awesome cover -- that's how the album sounds.
Best modern album: SHPONGLE "Tales Of The Inexpressible". I tuned out of the Goa/PsyTrance scene around 1997, as it seemed the genre stopped progressing, and it was just more of the same, except not as good, and I figured the people involved went on to designing sound for computer games or whatever. Well, I was wrong on several counts there, as I tend to be -- like this 2001 second album from British act SHPONGLE proves. The main musical engine behind the outfit is Simon Posford, whose name you might remember from Goa legends HALLUCINOGEN, and who is, for want of a better term, a kind of genius. He seems to put in twice as much work as his colleagues, and the outcome is a series of soundscapes that have become instant classics. The percussion work and manipulation of vocals are particularly striking. Shpongle is a collaboration with Raja Ram from the great INFINITY PROJECT (once upon a time in UK spiritual prog-rockers Quintessence!), and together they explore another path than the uptempo sine wave acid visuals of the Goa scene. Shpongle has been called "Psybient", and means basically taking the best bits from ambient (creative & evocative moods, global music samples) and psy-trance (a driving beat, a strong drug orientation, and lots of fun noises). Shpongle have made several albums and a new one is currently in progress. While waiting for that one, check out this great Youtube clip of their track "D.M.T", which features samples of none other than Terence McKenna. All this stuff connects man! There's been lots of other great music in the psybient/down-beat/chill-out sector happening the last few years, and more on this will follow.
Time for a another capsule look at some obscure albums not previously reviewed. LIVING SACRIFICE BAND "Call To Brokeness" is a powerful, completely modern-sounding Jesus rock LP from the early 1980s, with some dynamite tracks where female vocals, fat production and strong guitar-leads combine just right... at times it's a little too close to Heart or Starship domains, but the good stuff is must-hear. ROHRBACKER HENDREN & KINGEN is another X-ian trip, in the typical CSN-inspired mid-1970s bag... as most of their middle-tier religious colleagues, some tracks go into spaces you won't enjoy, but there's a couple of dreamy flowing winners on-board, and it's certainly not inferior to Chenaniah or Harvest Flight. KOINONOIA "Latter Rain" was omitted from the Acid Archives book for reasons unknown (= we simply missed it); nothing earth-shattering but a friendly 70s hippie folk sound with female vocals, should appeal to fans of Logos, though not as good as that one. I've also been looking into a small pile of British Jesus freak albums, but I'll save the details for an upcoming piece in the coming re-launch of SHINDIG! magazine due later this year. Finally, I must throw in a word for WIDSITH, which is simply one of the best non-major releases out there in the rural/Americana bag... it just reeks of class and commitment, and better yet: it's not particularly expensive (I got mine for $35). Get it before it takes off a la Gary Higgins. Hear me now and believe me later! And see you in September.
Captain's Log, Star-date: Mid-Summer 2007
Summer time is here kiddies, and it's time to take a trip... to take a trip... into a world so fine... of Crawdad scans... and Pokora 5001... and new Ugly Things... and classic films... and swinging cats... and emerald rats... it's groovy now... just put your head back.
Putting my head back is what I've been doing a lot of late, due to an Ear Infection which makes all music sound even more weird and distorted than usual. The doctor says it may be my brain matter leaking out into the skull. Yeah!
Geriatric complaints aside, all things are well as we head into the lazy, stoned days of June & July. I'd like to say that I'm not going to do anything of value, but some intriguing writing assignments will keep me reasonably occupied. More on this later; it's obscure and oddball as always. Don't forget to check out the excellent (even better than usual) new UGLY THINGS, where among other things the Steve Kacorowski aka STEVE DRAKE case is finally exposed in all its glory. On the Bizarre Context scale, the Kacz-man ranks second only to PALMER ROCKEY. The new UT also has an extraordinary and historically significant exposé of the mysterious acid folk avatar PAT KILROY, whose story is everything you hoped for and more. Also great pieces on the ATTACK, FREEDOM'S CHILDREN, various SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MOPTOP NO-COUNTS, and much more.
Hey, the Acid Archives book can now be ordered via Amazon.com. Our tome currently holds the #347,756 spot in Amazon' sales ranking, so I guess the swimmingpool I planned on building will have to wait until next year, especially since we live in a condo. Some new reviews of the book are in, including Round & Round, TeeBeeDee, and Beverly Paterson's Twist & Shake.
A bunch of new and old records have been beamed into the Lama house-hold, as usual. I snatched a cheap copy of Shadoks' terrific and soon-to-go-out-of-print TIME "Before There Was" LP; these are previously unreleased 1968 upstate New York recordings in a refined, slightly UK-flavored psych/artrock style. My most recent hallucination suggests that it may appeal to FREEBORNE fans. Also on Shadoks and a more recent release is the outstanding "Lazy Bones" by WITCH from Zambia. One of the rarest and perhaps the very best of the various African psych-rock-funk albums being touted, this one would have been highly rated even if it had been from Podunk, NJ... it has qualities and vibes that transcend any accusations of retro trendiness. A lot of people dig WITCH, so get it before it disappears.
Time for a more sombre note in the Eternal Now. I have just been informed of the passing of one of my heroes, Doug Walden of CHRISTOPHER (Metromedia) and other bands. I first ran into Doug when researching some 13th Floor Elevators arcana, and we kept in touch over the years. Originally from Houston, Doug was fortunate enough to see the Elevators several times in the early days, and 35 years later still spoke with awe of the experience.
In the late 60s Doug (a bass player) formed a band that ultimately wound up in Los Angeles with a Metromedia record deal, and out of this came the somewhat legendary Christopher LP, which currently trades hands for $600 or more. Rather than trying to explain why Doug was such a cool guy, read this interview I did with him some years back. God bless & enjoy the trip, Doug !
New record releases of note include two Nor-Cal CD garage trips from the Frantic Sacto trickster known as Joey D. "SO COLD !!!" is a surprisingly good round-up of mainly unreleased Sacramento & inland vicinity 60s teenbeat. In theory this is a "completist" sampler to file between the earlier "Ikon Records Story" and Big Beat's "Sound Of Young Sacramento", but in practice it's just good old teenage slop, snot and jangle, with a strong batting average... rather than "completist" I would say mandatory, for any garage fan. The retrospective NEW BREED CD contains some fine music too, although those familiar with the band's regional hits "Green Eyed Woman" and "Want Ad Reader" have already heard the strongest moments. Their CD does feature a booklet in Frantic's frantic DIY style with one of the greatest round-ups of memorabilia I've seen in a long time... a true feast for the eyes. Four bonus tracks by post-Breed band GLAD have been added, for those curious about that album. As with the Ikon 2-CD set, the sound on these two discs is warm and organic, proving that it is possible to make CDs from old tapes sound good, although almost no other reissue label manages to pull this off.
ROKY ERICKSON is on his first ever European tour, and recently drew an ecstatic crowd and very favorable reviews with an appearance at Sweden's Hultsfred Festival. I didn't make it as it's way out in the sticks, but those in attendance confirm that it was a success; one of the high points of the whole 3-day festival of mud and no sleep. As of this writing, Roky is in England where he's likely to blow them away too.
Roky Erickson fans at the Hultsfred Rock Festival
And after a decade or so of diligent research and interviews, Paul Drummond in England is ready to unveil his 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS biography, a massive tome of facts and stories that will finally give the Elevators their proper spot in the 60s music pantheon. Out with a US publisher that fits the subject well, the Elevators "Eye Mind" bio is scheduled for year-end. And if that isn't enough, the same house has one more book coming up on the subject of psychedelic lifestyles, intense rock music, wayout people, and the figure "13"; the untold story of Father Yod, the Source Family & Yahowa 13 ! 2007 is looking to be a heavy year for people suffering from Triskaidekaphobia.
It's all part of a Mid-Summer Night's Scene.
(for older rants, visit "The Eternal Then" and enter the Akashic Library)
Patrick The Lama 2001-2011
The Lama Workshop