Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5
This is what happens when you get four hippies back in San Francisco after a four year layover in India. Sounding strangely burnt out yet happy, the songsters of Saddhu Brand stick exclusively to traditional Indian instruments and vocals. The vocals come in two variety: the strangely unemotional sounding female chorale vocals and the voice of one addled guru sort of fellow by the name of Peter Van Gelder (from Great Society).
In many ways, this disc makes me think of a weird transmutation of the British freak-folk scene. There's a kind of Incredible String Band vibe here, although this band has a different set of acoustic instruments and they're nowhere near as talented as the ISB. I have trouble giving this one too high of a quality score, but I do find this album highly entertaining. They pretty much show their entire sonic hand on the opening title track and proceed to plumb it for all it's worth.
The whole affair reeks of patchouli (or may let's say Nag Champa, I hate patchouli), but what we have here is for the most part is a typical San Fran band thrown through a Hindu blender. "People Brittle" would easily translate to a later period Jefferson Airplane song with electric Western instruments, and "I Give You Johnee The Truth" is only one step removed from sounding like West Coast "cowboy" music like New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Just get a different singer and ditch the flute and sitar. Of course the charm of this albums is that it does have the aforementioned flute and sitar.
On the longer tracks "Babu Shoda" and "Dabi Das' Song" the band tries their hand at more authentic Indian style compositions. It's not going to stand in my way if I'm reaching for a Ravi Shankar record, but it's enjoyable enough. While they do whip up a wild dervish sort of sound on the later track, it's far muddier and less precise than something similar that the Indian masters would concoct.
Whole Earth Rhythm threatens to confirm more than one cliche concerning the late 60's. If you can stomach that and enjoy Indian instrumentation, you'll probably find something to enjoy. I apologize for the low bit rate (@128). Usually I can't stand that rate, but this one still sounds pretty good. I found this one on the Lost-In-Tyme blog.