Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5
I used to think that F minor was the psychedelic key, kind of like how A minor is often cited as the best key for depressing songs. Anyway, I'm sure that I made the connection out of strange recollections of this album. It's one of the best examples of pre-fab production psych out there
Realistically, this isn't really an Electric Prunes. It's more of a studio based wacked out concept album along the lines of the Zodiac's Cosmic Sounds. The Prunes became tenuously attached as producer Dave Hassinger wanted to find a more commercial vehicle for the band and somehow came upon the concept of psychedelic Catholic chants. It seems that the Prunes ended up a bit used and abused, but the word is that they went along for the ride anyway.
Holding the creative tiller was none other than cult jazz/psych guru, David Axelrod. Axelrod is responsible for all of the arranging duties on this album (I think we'll keep the basic composition credits with some long dead Catholic monks), and he did a very groovy job. The trouble was that his arrangements were a little over the heads of the talented, but not musically schooled fellows making up the garage rocking Electric Prunes. Thus, the band ended up as little more than session musicians on their own album accompanying even more session musicians. There's an urban legend that the Prunes don't even show up on the record. The rhythm section of bassist Mark Tulin and drummer Quint do play on every track, and singer James Lowe remains as the lead voice of the monastic vocal, but it's still clearly Axelrod in the creative driver's seat.
Once you get the bad taste out of your mouth of the band being sidelined, you'll find that this is a damn fine album. In fact, it's more consistent than any of the band's proper releases, although the awesome pop punch of "I Had To Much To Dream Last Night" or "A Long Day's Flight" is notably absent. You will find the psychedelic religious strains of "Kyrie Eleison," which is very recognizable from its use in the film Easy Rider. It's also the most basic psych rock style track on the album, especially with the nails-on-glass noise explosion of the instrumental mid section.
For the rest of this short album (26 minutes!) Axelrod adopts an M.O. that renders the tracks a little formulaic. We get short passages of the Latin-language church chants bridged together by instrumental sections mostly alternating between blasts of acid fried guitar leads and amusingly pompous fanfares from the orchestra. "Benedictus" includes a notable keyboard and bass guitar break as well. Fortunately, Axelrod's arranging skills are top notch and keep things interesting throughout.
This disc is really more of an Axelrod album than an Electric Prunes album, and if you approach it as such I think you'll find plenty to like. Listen and enter the psychedelic gothic cathedral.
The Electric Prunes - 1968 - Mass In F Minor