Quality: 3 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5
Despite the fantastic psychedelic cover, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's Part One is a pretty average piece of psychedelia. The core of the band consisted of some competent L.A. musicians locked in a faustian deal with rich boy, Bob Markley. Bob had the practice space, equipment, and some strings to pull, but he unfortunately didn't have a whole lot of talent. With the chips in hand, he pushed himself to the forefront of this band, and the tracks featuring Markley do have an Ed Wood sort of charm.
Although the band claims to be experiental, most of this adheres pretty closely to basic rock and pop templates circa 1967. They do try some strange interludes and studio effects here and there, but often seem to be screaming "Look! We're being experimental!" at the same time. This is most apparent on their cover of Frank Zappa's "Help, I'm A Rock." It's just not very convincing.
The songwriting chops here aren't particularly impressive, but at least the lyrics get some points in the "incredibly strange music" department. "1906" is a story of the San Francisco earthquake through the eyes of a dog, while "Will You Walk With Me" practically sounds like a recruitment song for the Manson family. Otherwise we're stuck with somewhat amusing psychedelic cliches such as on the still-enjoyable "Transparent Day." I don't think these guys hit on any innovative original melodies. Alas, "Leiyla" is an uninspired psych take on the Bo Diddley beat (with Markley pointlessly growling), and they manage to make "Shifting Sands" sound a little too much like "House Of The Rising Sun."
To the band's credit, they do make some smart cover choices. Even if "Help, I'm A Rock" isn't particularly successful, a Zappa cover is still a relatively rare event. They serve up a nice sparkling version of P.F. Sloan's "Here's Where You Belong" with some great electric 12-string is is the high point of the album. Plus, they tackle a Van Dyke Parks song before the release of Song Cycle, which shows some precient thought.
The bonus tracks inclede mono single mixes of "Help, I'm A Dog" and "Transparent Day." The former is annoyingly edited, but the latter sparkles a lot more in it's compressed mix and sounds much more immediate than the album version.
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - 1967 - Part One