Category: psychedelic rock

Death Valley Girls “Darkness Rains” 2018. Limi…

Death Valley Girls “Darkness Rains” 2018. Limited edition yellow with red splatter, Suicide Squeeze Records. We picked up what I believe is DVG’s third LP this past weekend at Romanus Records Fest in Indianapolis where they headlined the jam-packed (15 bands!) evening lineup. Hard driving, punkish garage rock with nods to the darkness of goth and touches of neo-psychedelia via organ and lead guitarist Larry Schemel (who on stage was kinda relegated to the background, allowing the Girls to shine up front, mostly with huge smiles on their faces during the entire set). 

We were able to grab the set-list, excellently illustrated: 

DVG played several tracks from Darkness Rains, many of them my favorite on the album. They led off with “Abre Camino,” an intensely dark and throbbing scorcher that is the first track on Side B. From Darkness Rains also is the high octane rocker “Street Justice,”  the hypnotic “More Dead,” “Disaster (Is What We’re After)” which features Iggy Pop eating a hamburger while jamming out to the song’s beat in its video (spoiler: he clearly loves ketchup), and my top track, “Wear Black” upon which lead singer, guitarist and keyboardist Bonnie Bloomgarden pulls out some amazing psychedelic organ. 

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band “Trout …

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band “Trout Mask Replica” released 50 years ago today, June 16th, 1969. Limited edition reissue on “fruitcake fish-scale colored vinyl,” Third Man Records/Bizarre Records. Produced by Frank Zappa, Trout Mask Replica was Captain Beefheart’s (Don Van Vliet) third studio album and it’s a crazy psychedelic, experimental – really an undefinable collection of sounds influenced by garage rock, free jazz, blues and a dash (more than a dash) of insanity. Captain Beefheart is well out of my musical purview so to sum up this LP that is hailed by many as a masterpiece and one of the best records of all-time, I’ll quote today’s article in Rolling Stone by David Fricke. “[Trout Mask Replica] still sounds like a tomorrow that has not arrived, a music created at a crossroads of sound and language so far distant it continues to defy definitive summation and universal translation. Guitars jut out at improbably severe angles in ice-pick treble, like broken bones slicing through skin. The drumming comes in a rush of agendas, U-turn spasms of loose-limbed time and tempo under melodies which, in turn, feel like they are yet only partially born, still evolving in sense and structure. The singing is another primal logic altogether, an extreme in octaves and sustain that goes from hellhound bass to wracked falsetto, the pictorial cut-up frenzy of the lyrics run through archaic Delta-blues vernacular…On Trout Mask Replica, breaking through the limits of coherence and cohesion already reset in the wide-open liberty of rock in the late Sixties, Van Vliet and his greatest Magic Band — guitarists Bill Harkleroad and Jeff Cotton, bassist Mark Boston, clarinetist Victor Hayden and drummer John French — established new margins of personal, idiosyncratic expression, much as the Velvet Underground did for drone, minimalism and literary transgression….Everyone with a copy of Trout Mask Replica has a story of walking into it for the first time, typically in disbelief. ‘I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever heard,’ the cartoonist Matt Groening admitted in the 1997 BBC documentary, The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart. ‘It was just a sloppy cacophony,’ he went on, until the ‘sixth or seventh’ listen when ‘it clicked in, and I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever heard.’ In his original rave review of Trout Mask Replica in Rolling Stone, published in July, 1969, Lester Bangs initially admitted that “the rhythms and melodic textures jump all over the place … Given a superficial listening, they seem boring and repetitious.’ But as he reaffirmed a decade later, in a 1980 article in The Village Voice, Trout Mask Replica was ‘not even ‘ahead’ of its time in 1969. Then and now,” Bangs insisted, ‘it stands outside time, trends, fads, hypes … constituting a genre unto itself.’ That album ‘reinvented from the ground up rhythm, melody, harmonics, perhaps what our common narrow parameters have defined as music itself.’”

Bevis and Twink “Magic Eye” 1990. Woronzow Rec…

Bevis and Twink “Magic Eye” 1990. Woronzow Records. A prog-psych-garage collaboration by Twink (drummer for Pretty Things, Pink Fairies, Stars – with Syd Barrett – in the 60′ and 70′s and solo work since) and the Bevis Frond aka Nick Saloman (prolific songwriter and guitarist, head of Woronzow Records, active from the 80′s til present day). Magic Eye is a combo of trippy, spacey soundspaces (ie the brief instrumental “Eclipse” or the much longer jam “Gryke”) and hard rock, like my favorite track “Flying Igloos” as well as “Black Queen” (60′s garage meets Black Sabbath) and “Fractured Sky” where Twink lays down thundering beats over which Saloman wails and growls out weird-ass lyrics (“we’re sucking on our mutant fruit”) and throws in nuggets of heavy-metal though virtuosic tinged guitar solos. 

Regular

Hawkwind – Space Ritual. United Artists, 1973.

A live double album recorded in Liverpool and Brixton. It has a large foldout sleeve and the records came in these printed inner sleeves.

Lenny of Motorhead fame was with the band at this time.

Regular

Japanese psychedelic rock, gotta luv it! 😃

Ars Nova “Ars Nova” 1968. Psychedelic prog roc…

Ars Nova “Ars Nova” 1968. Psychedelic prog rock from the short-lived 60′s band (they opened for The Doors once), named for a musical style from 1300′s popular in France and Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg) or perhaps named for the more general musical style of polyphony (music consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of melody). Either way, super-extra music nerdy. Not surprisingly, the main guys of Are Nova met at a music conservatory and they flex their vast instrumentation muscle with a ridiculous amount of variety: trombone! guitar! organ! piano! trumpet! and layers upon layers of sound. This is my first listen to Ars Nova; I’ve never even heard of them but we have stacks upon stacks of should-it-stay-or-should-it-go? LP’s so I’m slowly wading through them. I like psychedelic rock and am OK with some prog rock but this album is way too extra. The blasting and orchestrated horns put much of the sound closer to straight-up classical music and tracks like the opener “Pavan For My Lady” are too Celtic-folk-lords-a-leapin’ for my tastes (though the guitar work is technically perfect). The song “General Clover Ends a War” isn’t too bad, some hints at actual rough 60′s rock-n-roll on this one (with a LOT of trumpet), but I kinda started tuning out the rest of Side A. Side B starts off with “Fields of People” which is a blend of 60′s flower power and English folk (and again a LOT of trumpet) – not too bad, actually. “Automatic Love” is a jaunty track, that starts off 60′s garage-psych but then promptly dissolves into a vaudevillian/Benny Hill meets the Beatles cacophony. I wholeheartedly agree with this from Allmusic, “The songs – often linked by brief interludes – are a mixed bag, though, that seem to indicate a confusion over direction, or a bit of a psychedelic throw-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach.” I think this one is going to go. 

Donovan “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” and “For …

Donovan “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” and “For Little Ones” 1967. Also released as the double-album box set (one of the first in rock) A Gift From a Flower to a Garden. For budgeting purposes, Donovan also released the double album as two single records in the US, which is what is pictured here. (These are originals from my Aunt Jeanie; we were visiting my folks recently and they tasked us with helping to clean out their vinyl collection and these came home with us.) Wear Your Love Like Heaven is electrified psychedelic folk while For Little Ones is acoustic, geared toward “the dawning generation.” Until now, I wasn’t familiar with either record, not even the single “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” which went to #23 in the US. The single’s B-side “Oh, Gosh!” is pretty decent and “The Land of Doesn’t Have to Be” isn’t too bad, but the rest of Wear Your Love Like Heaven isn’t great (sorry Aunt Jeanie); “Little Boy in Corduroy” is especially cringe-inducing and while the lyrics to “Under the Greenwood Tree” are amazing (written by Shakespeare), the musical treatment Donovan gives the bard is too childlike for my tastes (I usually like 60′s psychedelic organ but it’s way too plink-plunky). For Little Ones is super-English-folky starting off with  “Song of the Naturalist’s Wife” when I almost stopped listening at the start of the record because that track begins with an infant crying which is unbearable (I don’t think it would have bothered me as much pre-motherhood but that particular frequency now aggravates my nervous system at a cellular level) but then the next track “Voyage Into the Golden Screen” is all Maypole medieval faery castles, not my favorite but better than sobbing babies. The rest of the album is mellow acoustic strumming with some occasional flute and harmonica, OK but kinda boring (again, sorry Jeanie!). 

The Doors “Greatest Hits” 1980. Today, Februar…

The Doors “Greatest Hits” 1980. Today, February 12th, would have been Doors’ co-founder and keyboardist Ray Manzarek’s 80th birthday (b. 1939, d. 2013). Greatest Hits came out well after the demise of The Doors, of course; it was released not long after the film Apocalypse Now (its soundtrack included “The End” which does not appear on this comp LP) and both served to reinvigorate The Doors’ catalog. It was probably around that time that The Doors entered my consciousness (the first song I distinctly remember is “Hello, I Love You” which The Doors kinda ripped off from The Kinks) since I was born less than month after Jim Morrison died. Greatest Hits really does have most of The Doors best and most popular tracks (missing though is one of my faves, “Peace Frog” which is a bummer but fortunately it does not have “Land Ho” which I can’t stand). Besides “Hello, I Love You,” Side A of Greatest Hits includes “Light My Fire” – so epic and the perfect showcase for Manzarek’s psych keys, “People Are Strange” (which I was obsessed with in the later 80′s as a result of Echo and Bunnymen’s version for The Lost Boys) and “Riders on the Storm.” Side B has “Break on Through,” “Roadhouse Blues” (I have bemoaned Morrison’s poetry in the past but the line “I woke this morning and I got myself a beer” is perfection), “Not To Touch the Earth” (this is one track that I don’t know that well), “Touch Me” (which I’m not overly fond of) and “L.A. Woman” (that song will always remind me of playing endless games of pool during college when I really should have been studying – I think it was on repeat on the student union jukebox because it’s a rocker that clocks in at just under 8 minutes making it a bargain for poor college kids). 

The Litter “Emerge” 1969. The third album from…

The Litter “Emerge” 1969. The third album from Minneapolis-based psych-garage rockers The Litter, who are probably best known for their 1967 single “Action Woman” which was included on the Lenny Kaye curated comp Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era. Emerge was the band’s first major label release (on ABC Records) and it hit #175 on the US album charts. The Litter broke up the following year, though reunited – with varying lineups – a few times during the 90′s. 

Emerge is a mix of psychedelia and hard-rocking proto-punk garage rock. The opening track, “Journeys,” reminds me a lot of fellow Midwesterners (from Detroit) The Amboy Dukes’ 1968 one-hit wonder “Journey to the Center of the Mind” (I will add this is the only Ted Nugent anything I will willingly listen to). “Feeling” has another Detroit flavor, this time reminiscent of the MC5 sound. “Blue Ice” is a little bit of both sounds (psych and hard rock) and “For What It’s Worth” is a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 Top 10 hit that goes psych and slow on the verses and punkishly hard rocking on the chorus. They also cover the Burt Bacharach-composed “My Little Red Book” (they drop the “My” for the title) which became a hit for Love in 1966, keeping Love’s garage rock style. “Breakfast at Gardenson’s” is not my favorite, it’s a bit sappy and formulaic in its psychedelia and the closing track, “Future of the Past,” mashes up all the trends in 60′s harder rock into one epic 12+ minute musical trip. (It’s too long for my tastes but I’m listening to this at midday on a Monday and its better suited to a very late Saturday night.) 

This album was in the “should it stay or should it go” pile and from what I’ve heard on this first ever listen, I think it should stay: I like psych and garage rock and it’s got a solid Midwestern pedigree. 

The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Electric Ladyland…

The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Electric Ladyland” released 50 years ago today (in the US), October 16th, 1968. Considered one of the best rock albums of all-time, Hendrix’s third and final studio LP is a masterpiece, a mix of psychedelic rock, blues and funk with virtuosic guitar. It hit #1 on the US album chart and went to #6 in the UK. Hendrix released three singles from Electric Ladyland: the cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” (#20 US, #5 UK), “Crosstown Traffic” (#52 US, #37 UK) and “Voodoo Chile” (UK-only after Hendrix’s death when it went to #1; it is the same track that is listed as “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” on Electric Ladyland). I love those songs (particularly “Crosstown Traffic” as it reminds of me of my college roommate, especially the lyric “tire tracks all across your back/I can see you had your fun” – it’s an inside joke) but I love the Noel Redding penned and led “Little Miss Strange,” the epically psychedelic and melancholy “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” that features Chris Wood from Traffic on flute, the rockin’ rhythm and blues on “Come On (Part 1)” and the funked blues of “Gypsy Eyes.” 

From Allmusic: “Jimi Hendrix’s third and final album with the original Experience found him taking his funk and psychedelic sounds to the absolute limit. The result was not only one of the best rock albums of the era, but also Hendrix’s original musical vision at its absolute apex. When revisionist rock critics refer to him as the maker of a generation’s mightiest dope music, this is the album they’re referring to. But Electric Ladyland is so much more than just background music for chemical intake. Kudos to engineer Eddie Kramer (who supervised the remastering of the original two-track stereo masters for this 1997 reissue on MCA) for taking Hendrix’s visions of a soundscape behind his music and giving it all context, experimenting with odd mic techniques, echo, backward tape, flanging, and chorusing, all new techniques at the time, at least the way they’re used here. What Hendrix sonically achieved on this record expanded the concept of what could be gotten out of a modern recording studio in much the same manner as Phil Spector had done a decade before with his Wall of Sound. As an album this influential (and as far as influencing a generation of players and beyond, this was his ultimate statement for many), the highlights speak for themselves: “Crosstown Traffic,” his reinterpretation of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” “Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” the spacy “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be),” and “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return),” a landmark in Hendrix’s playing. With this double set, Hendrix once again pushed the concept album to new horizons.”