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Record Reviews File:

(from The Village and WAX, 1993-94.)


The Psychedelic Years - Revisited: Various Artists.

(Aug ’93, written for Village Magazine)


At last, a worthy task. This 3 CD box-set contains 50 tracks and just over 218 minutes of serious psychedelia from The Golden Years of 1966-69. Disc 1 is “Back In The USA” (nifty title stolen from MC5’s 2nd album and that’s as much recognition as they get.) Disc 2 is “Back In The British Isles” (repetitious title! What drugs are you compilers on or are you residents of techno-hell?) Disc 3 is “Far Out” (well, it was e-zy to rite and phar simpler that “Wow” which was the name of Moby Grape’s 2nd album).

Anyway, I’m gonna try and review (PASS THAT SPLIFF HERE NOW!) selected high(hee hee)lights of this remarkable tribute to the daze of yore. Disc 1 opens with The Electric Prunes remix of Squinty Backbone’s “Get Me To The World On Time”, flies through The Byrds’ “5D” (the follow-up to “8 Miles High”) and melds (THANKS. NOT ENOUGH COKE IN IT THOUGH!) the Love(ly) Amboy Dukes on ”Journey To The Centre Of (Your Mind And We)”. There’s an extended live mix of “What Goes On” from The Velvet Underground while Nico and John Cale keep it in the family with “Little Sister”. Other studio freakouts (HOW’S THE ACID PUNCH DOING?) include The Lemon Pipers who ring the cherries on “Through With You” and Eric Burden who out-Thrashes The Orb on the soundscape of “Sky Pilot”.

Disc 2 gets the green light with Traffic and “Paper Sun” and Moves into “I Can Hear The (COMING! ANOTHER JOINT?) Grass Grow”. The original Nirvana bliss-blend ethereal rock and baroque on “Rainbow Chaser”, while John Peel’s first fave/rave band The Misunderstood are out of this world on the tracks “Take You To The (Children Of The Sun”). Arthur Brown, soon to be the “god of hell-fire” sounds like Tom Jones after meeting Owsley on “Devil’s Grip” while the drums and keyboards are by the future Atomic Rooster. The Purple Gang turned red with embarrassment after Auntie Beeb banned “Granny Takes A Trip” for alleged naughtiness. (JOINT? AH, I’M HUNGRY. HOW ABOUT A MUSHROOM OMELETTE AND SOME BROWNIES?) The Incredible String Band and Dr. Strangely Strange are weird folks who play weird folk weirdly well while Eire Apparent decide “Yes, I Need Someone” on this song and rope in one James Marshall Hendrix on lead guitar and production duties. (NO MORE OMELETTE. BROWNIES?) Lastly, there’s Heavy Jelly who didn’t exist officially and made the longest single until “Blue Room” by The Orb. They’re a bit like Vanilla Fudge and oh sod it, suss it out yourself.

While the mind still works, let’s overview Disc 3. (YES. I’VE GOT THE MUNCHIES!) Spacy slabs of sound from The Fish (who outpsychedelicised everyone without knowing it) and H.P.Lovecraft pave the way for a live recording of “Voodoo Chile” (a posthumous U.K. no. 1 for Hendrix). There’s another “August” performance by Love and a haunting tune “He” from the afore-mentioned Moby Grape. (I’M COMING DOWN NOW) “Evening Of Light” from Nico’s 2nd LP is a star (ie a very high light) as is a rare, extended alternate take of “Trust Us” (AH REALITY!) by Captain Beefheart. Right, just enough time for a public appeal. If you know anything about a band called The Freudian Complex (late 60’s) let Sequel Records know because they don’t. You may win the holiday of your choice (at your own expense!). T.F.C. (Teenage Fan Club?) Torquay Football Club? Totally Fried and Clueless?) terminate this tremendous trip into tricky trividelia. (TIME FOR ANOTHER TOKE!) Taa Taa.

Big Lupu - 22-Piste Pirkko. (Feb. ’93)

I was informed that Big Lupu means Big Rabbit*. I didn’t want to confirm this because, if it’s not true, it will updoc the next sentence in this review. This lepine definition is wonder(land)ful because these Finns are as musically mad as March Hares. Or perhaps, that’s crazy like a fox because the mixture works on this 13-track CD with its tape-friendly running time of 40 minutes. ("Er, updoc?” “Yeah!” “What’s updoc?”)

Opening song “Bubblegum Couple” wouldn’t be out of place on a Buddha label sampler from 1967. Or on “World Shut Your Mouth” by Julian Cope. There’s the late-night slide guitar bluesy-boozy ambience of “Don’t Say I’m So Evil” and “Tired Of Being Drunk” which blends perfectly with the loping shuffle beat and birdsong chorus of “Birdy”. (I’m typing this to an ongoing duet-cum-jam between taped Finnish avians and their lively Chinese counterparts. Is it real or is it Memorex?) 22-PP have their darker, wilder side as well on songs like “Swamp Blues” and “Texacoson”. These 2 tunes weld the whibblewhibblewhibble electronics of early Hawkwind with corrosive saxes and a driving garage-punk sense of pace. There are shades of The Seeds and The Sonics, but overall it’s more like The Sugarcubes on sugarcubes.

The band line-up is Espe (drums, percussion and vocals), P-K (guitars and vocals), his brother Asko (bass, keyboards and tapes) and Riku (guitars and synths) who isn’t on the Hong Kong tour. Other absent friends help out effectively on horns and piano. While in HK, Espe told me the band are all mates who’ve mutated over many years and their mutual musical melodies meant they weren’t military material (but that’s another story). Espe also developed his unusual drumming style after a support tour with Bo Diddley (but that's another story too). Like a vintage vodka, this CD is seductively smooth… and raucously rough. Welcome to Planet Finland! Long may you stay.

(*The translation is apparently more lupine than lepine, according to Mari, my gorgeous Finnish raison d’etre).

Tim Hardin – Reason To Believe (The Best Of) 1992

It’s mid-December and I’m musing on the Christmas season now fast approaching. “Tis the season to be jolly” etc. Bollocks. It’s the suicide season where loneliness and despair lie barely concealed under masks of aggressive alcohol-induced amity and…(stop ranting, you’re writing a review here! O.K. just getting in the mood). Anyway, 12 years ago, John Lennon got shot dead by a “fan” and Tim Hardin died of a heroin overdose in some seedy garret. He was probably alone and at a low point in his 39-year old life. The liner notes for this LP/CD aren’t too informative, but the fact that these  15 songs date from the 60’s, indicate that his best years were behind him, although he was contemplating a new record deal with Polygram.

Tim Hardin was an under-appreciated musical prodigy whose world-weary, pain-filled voice evoked compassion and comprehension for the characters of his songs and ballads. The musical arrangements are spare and haunting; delicate gypsy violin, smoky blues, jazz crooning, all combining in frail, emotive gestalt. Given his unique voice and romantic vision, it must have been ironically irritating to see other singers take his words to the tops of the charts. His best songs include “Reason To Believe”, “If I Were A Carpenter”, “Misty Roses”, “Red Balloon”, “Lady Came From Baltimore” and “Hang On To A Dream” which were covered by artists as diverse as Johnny Mathis, Rod Stewart and The Nice.

So how did these songs come about? A brief career in the U.S. Marines (ending at the start of the 60’s) may have shaped his bitter-sweet outlaw look on life, the anti-authoritarian stance of “Smuggling Man”, “Black Sheep Boy” and “Tribute  to Hank Williams” (the original hard-drinking, drug-addicted bad boy who invented most of the genres in country music and died before he was 30). He made a name for himself on the New York folk circuit in the mid-60’s and played the Newport Folk Festival in 1966 before cutting his first LP. It was the first of 4 eponymous recordings that took him to 1970 – a three-year hiatus followed – culminating in 1973 with a brace of ambitious releases “Archetypes” and “Painted Head”. He moved to England for several years where he weathered a series of harsh personal experiences, including the drug addiction that was to kill him. Was this an inevitable result of maladjusting to early fame, an unwillingness to accept the genius that was so evident to others? Tim Hardin's muse was a brittle thing of beauty, often unable to rise above the earthy lifestyle that, in turn, sustained it. These songs represent the times he succeeded and leave us wanting more…much more. Buy this album. You will be saddened, elated, informed, entertained and never disappointed.

Bernie Krause and Human Remains – Gorillas In The Mix 

This is an unusual album to say the least. It’s more croc and owl than rock and roll, more hippo than hip-hop, more crickets than Beatles, more apes than Monkees, well, you get the idea. This is the musical interstice where you can tune a piano and you can tuna fish. It’s where the performers play in their own scales (well, some of them!) Human Remains are five musicians turned animal recordists/archivists who are dedicated to the concept of the Zoological Orchestra. And what a treat it is too. Aside from some keyboards, samplers and programming, all the sounds herein are the voices/noises of animals, birds and fish, blended with passion and precision into an exotic stew. You want rapping gorillas? Check out “Ape No Mountain High Enough” or “Jungle Shoes”. How about a shrimp samba(l)? Well, there’s always “Trout from Ipanema” or “Fish Wrap”. For the ambiently-inclined there’s “Gaia Dreams” with its ocean waves and dueting dolphins and coyotes. Some of the tracks do veer slightly into Sergio Mendes/cocktail hour/easy listening music, but have added bite when the natural performers enter. These sounds are taken in part from U.S. Navy recordings, and tapes made at the late Dian Fossey’s camp at Karisoke in Rwanda, the settling for “Gorillas in The Mist”. This record is dedicated to Chico Mendes, the murdered Brazilian rainforest eco-activist and part of the royalties go to environmental causes. It’s an offbeat album and the perfect choice for your mother’s next tupperware party.

Bobby Brown: Bobby (1992)

Halfway through the rather dry second "tune", “Humpin' Around”, the Bobster goes “yow, yow, yow” like he’s in real pain (broke a hair perhaps?). I know how he feels, but from a radically different perspective. This album puts the “c” into rap and the “s” into hit. By track 5 I’m having nightmares that all I’ll ever hear is this song “Till' The End Of Time”.  He’s a Crass Uninformed Nauseous Talentfree performer whose songs reflect no reality whatsoever. The only good thing about this album is the cover – you can’t see his face and the leather looks daring. Needs some rubber to offset it though. Like a tyre…round his neck…on fire. He’d sing “yow, yow, yow” with some passion then. I mean, if Michael Jackson is Bad, El Bobbo is worse. There’s even a duet with his wife (Hong Kong’s favourite rave/tantrum queen, Whitney Houston). Who’s saving whose career here?

(Uh oh, the Rev’s preaching tolerance now. Quick, write something nice). This record/tape/CD will sell squillions of copies throughout the multiverse. Elvis will come out of retirement to re-record it, South Africa will make him their next President, God will break the mold and Whitney Houston will lose her virginity to it (not!) Will this do Rev?  What, I forgot to write about the music? Sorry, we’re out of space…

Review: Your choice (like safe sex)

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