31 July 2009

Bill Plummer - 1967 - Bill Plummer and the Cosmic Brotherhood

Quality: 4.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

You might not be aware of it yet, but you've come to the Psychedelic Garage today to become a fan of Bill Plummer and the Cosmic Brotherhood. I'm willing to say this obscure sitar-infused psychedelic jazz album is one of the absolute best I've heard from the legendary Impulse! jazz imprint. Why they haven't reissued it yet is beyond me. Bill Plummer's primary trade is in the string bass, which does provide the awesome backbone for all of these songs. But someone must have tossed Mr. Plummer in a vat of acid (almost like Jack Nicholson in the 1989 "Batman") before the making of this album. With it's layers of Eastern gauze, occasional blasts of spoken word and free jazz, and oddball covers, this is the most ear pleasingly far-out legitimate jazz album I've come across (the wild fury of John Coltrane's Om, also on Impuse!, is probably the most far out, but it's not easy to listen to).

The first track, "Journey to the East," is far beyond awesome and deserves a place on every psych compilation. It's got a rock-solid groove, crazy chanting, a wall of sitar, and a totally entertaining spoken word rambling. Practically every 60's cliche is packed into the spoken word, but it's all convincingly sold by the dispassionate reading and the phenomenal music backing it up. I think I've listened to it about 600 times in the past week; I can't think of a better complement than that. For your own mind journey to the East, you need go no farther than "Arc 294," which plays as Indo-psychedelic free jazz for about ten minutes. The covers here are of note as well. Seeing "The Look of Love" on a track listing typically makes me groan, but with sitar drones and a groovy beat accompanying the tune, it works out just fine. Even better is the similar treatment to the Byrds great, yet-neglected "Lady Friend." I didn't know that that song required a transcendental Indo-jazz reading, but apparently it did. To hear Mr. Plummer score at making more conventional jazz, head for "Pars Fortuna" and "Song Plum"

This album manages to fuse jazz, Indian music, and wacky psychedelia, while still ending up as more than the sum of its parts. You need to become part of the Cosmic Brotherhood as soon as possible. In fact, I've renamed the 'followers' tab on the side of this page as such so you can (kind of).

30 July 2009

Nino Nardini and Roger Roger - 1971 - Jungle Obsession

Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.25 out of 5

Before the advent of proper psychedelia, the lounge strain of exotica was arguably one of the better places to look for proto-psych sorts of sounds. Brian Wilson certainly understood this as he tried in vain to put together his psychedelic opus Smile in the mid 60's (obviously the modern finished product reflects this as well). This album is pretty late period exotica, and manages to incorporate a touch of later psychedelia and rock among its generally straight ahead exotica. Note that you'll probably need a love of lounge coming in, but with that in mind this is a pretty enjoyable album.

Many of the tracks here do have a distinct air of familiarity. I'm not sure if that's more from soundtracking use of this material or just from ripping off Martin Denny, but you probably won't have your mind blown. With a rum in juice in hand (well hopefully in a glass first), the groove of this album should become apparent. There's definitely a consistency of jungle-lounge sounds emanating from these French fellows, so I'll simply note that I tend to dig most the wah-wah guitar tracks of "The White Snake" and "Shere Khan," and the light funk of "Bali Girl" and "Tropical." "Mowgli" does a fine job of bouncing back some of the Smile-like sounds. I want to like some of the more mysterious tracks like "Murmuring Leaves" and "Creeping Danger," but I just keep waiting for the damn things to completely morph into "Quiet Village."

I've read a few articles branding this as a classic. I wouldn't go that far, but you're unlikely to find many 70's albums that nail the exotica vibe better than this one. Once again, I must stress that you'll be best off with a rum drink in hand for Jungle Obsession.

Stringsonics - 1972 - Mindbender

Quality: 2.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: only fake trips

This is a bit of a depressing album, although well-constructed in a easy listening sort of way. You see, not only are these guys trading in psychedelic exploitation, but they're pretty late to the party. We must note that by 'Stringsonics,' these guys mean syrupy 101 Strings sort of orchestral gloss. There are a few guitars lurking about as well, but much of the album is devoted to the less inventive side of string arrangement. Even with this is mind, we'll give them a couple props for the wonderfully trippy, if ill-fitting, cover art.

"Mindbender" opens the album without doing anything of the sort. Still, this music is generally pretty non-offensive, never stretching into the truly saccharine except on the easily skipped "Freedom Road." At this point, you may wonder why I'm even bothering with the album (barring the cover art). While never plowing any new ground, there are a few hidden surprises on side two. "Dawn Mists," which actually closes side one manages an interestingly ominous vibe with its oddly delayed guitar harmonics. Then for the dumpster diving crowd, the stretch of "Afro-Samba," "Tropicola," and "Safari Park" actually manage some entertainingly funky sounds. The last two even make their way into David Axelrod territory, especially with their rhythm sections. That's a somewhat impressive feat.

So, this is no lost treasure. It will probably entertain those of you hip to the lounge scene, and there are a few surprises hiding in the deeper recesses of this album that may properly catch your attention.

19 July 2009

Flute and Voice - 1971 - Imaginations of Light

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Flute and Voice seems to be a bit of a misnomer for this band, but we'll give them a pass as the music is pretty enjoyable. Yes, there are some flutes and voices to be had, but the focus seems to be more on stringed instruments such as sitar and geetar (er, I mean guitar). Although not particularly flashy, the musicians here create a fine flow that brings to mind the pastoral vibe of Popol Vuh's Hosianna Mantra for me.

The opening title track has a strong Indian influence, with the main melody coming from sitar but finding some great space for the namesake flute and voice as well. I still get an image of a bunch of vacationing hippies trying to go Indian, but the result here comes across as classier than the stereotype suggests (check out the still enjoyable Saddhu Brand for contrast). We're then treated to some guitar meanderings which I suppose are striving for some transcendental enlightenment. I don't think they make it there (that would be a five star album), but the attempt is still worth your attention. There's a practically disembodied-sounding vocal helping "Resting Thinking of Time" along its way. "Notturno" aims for a twilight folk sound, and is probably my least favorite as the 'voice' makes it's way a little too far above the surface and doesn't really fit the chill vibe that permeates the rest of the album. There's a bonus track here that manages to nail the Hosianna Mantra sound not just in vibe, but in actual sound as well.

Imaginations of Light is a deeply introspective album that probably is not the first thing that you're going to play for your friends or make it onto a mixtape. Still, I've found myself returning to it constantly as it is very visual and relaxing music. This will definitely make the musical payload when I take my space capsule to Neptune. It's also worth mentioning that the above is only half the cover art as this has a gatefold sleeve. You can stare at the full version for, like, weeks (No, I'm completely sober right now. Why do you ask?).

Buddy Rich and Alla Rakha - 1968 - Rich ala Rakha

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

For those of us living in the West, jazz drumming legend Buddy Rich is the marquee name here, although it's not particularly representative of what you're going to get with this recording. Neither is the trendy, 68' vintage psychedelic exploitation lettering gracing the cover. No, this is in fact a collaboration with the sterling Indian percussionist Alla Rakha, and it's his musical DNA that is most apparent here. Fortunately, the end result is a quite good album of classically-minded Indian music with a few jazz flourishes (although for the most part it seems that Mr. Rich is joining in with hand percussion or just a tom drum).

The first side of this album consists of a few short, percussive pieces. They are uniformly good, but the side opener and closer ("Khanda Kafi" and "Nagma E Raksh" respectively) probably deserve the most attention. It's on these tracks where Rich blasts through as a distinct jazz counterpoint. It's invigorating when his trap kit appears and is one of the more successful renditions of East/West fusion that I've heard. His entry on "Khanda Kafi" never fails to send a chill down my spine. Rakha is far from a slouch himself, providing an amazing tabla pulse for Rich to riff off of, and impressing well with his own solo moments. "Tal Sawari" takes up side two, and includes only Rakha doing impossible things with his tabla, a dim drone, and a touch of chanting. I suppose that the idea was to better introduce Rakha to a western audience, and an impressive introduction it is. As a side note, it seems that Ravi Shankar had a hand in composing and arranging a few of these tracks.

Basically a classicist Indian album with a western twist, Rich ala Rakha will never find a place alongside your typical psychedelic obscurities from the 60's, but that would probably be slumming anyway. This is first-rate music that will transport and perhaps better the mind. It more than deserves your ear and is highly recommended.

The Doctor's Blogging Prescription

I don't make it too far around the bloggosphere these days, with the exception of my regular haunts. The first two of these fellows don't seem to get nearly as much traffic as they deserve judging by the comments. Go there and leave them a comment or three. The third has a strong following, but you should get there forthwith if you haven't already.

Drawing Mountains

This blog manages to dredge up some of the most obscure, yet interesting modern music that I've seen anywhere. There is a bounty of neo-psychedelia, electronica, and wild noise waiting for you here. Pitchfork and Tiny Mix Tapes do not hold a candle to exposing music as interesting as that which appears at Drawing Mountains.

Homemade Lofi Psych

Mike Floyd has been doing a phenomenal job over the past year-and-a-half finding music that fits the bill that his blog name suggests. I've found several of my new favorite bands trawling through his posts, and I bet you will too.

Red Telephone 66

I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of obscure 60's psych, but I have to admit that Leonard has me beat. There's so much appealing 60's finds here, that it's kind of difficult to keep up. In fact, Leonard's is the only blog where I'm not disappointed when there's a break because it gives me time to catch up on the grooviness.

17 July 2009

Cheech 'n' Chong in Tron

A fellow by the name of Casey Basichis is responsible for the (non Cheech and Chong) insanity of this one. It's definitely tripped-out. For some behind the scenes ramblings, go to this link. Here's what the stoned-out duo themselves had to say:

"I don't think you should watch anything like that straight. It'll have lasting, traumatic effects on you." - Tommy Chong

"When I first saw it, I was shocked because I thought we were doing soft porn. And then, 'Oh, it's about finances; that's kind of hard-core porn" - Cheech Marin

Sorry the video spills over into the links. A few more posts should fix that problem.

The guilty parties can be found here (http://www.colorstampede.com/) with some more oddball videos.

13 July 2009

Bob Smith - 1970 - The Visit

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

This album is a very ghostly visit from Bob Smith. On much of the album the music seems to draw together the various strains of west coast psych and folk rock, and then slathers it with reverb and hay production. Mr. Smith's voice also helps with his fine, expressive baritone. He often comes across as a far more chilled out Jim Morrison, complete with metaphysical hippy 'poetry.' The music itself manages quite a bit of variation, with some first rate guitar, fun touches such as vibraphones, and a truly groovy rhythm section. There must be a few samples lurking about in Maury Alexander's and Smith's production for those who have already cashed-out on David Axelrod's albums.

This albums starts of strong, with the first three tracks all making a positive impression. "Please's" bittersweet vibe and distant harmonies are custom for a documentary soundtrack where they cover one of those San Fran festivals with headbands and hippy moms breastfeeding. "Constructive Criticism" does the same before launching into a fun, full throttle acid-guitar and cheese organ groove. I'm sure at the time this music seemed about two years or so behind the times, but I'm willing to say that doesn't matter 40 years after the fact. I find that "Mobeda Dandelions" is a particular standout. It starts sounding much like a "Morrison Hotel" outtake before launching into a wild, almost krautrock-sounding rave-up. "Can't You Jump Rope" also catches my attention through some great interweaving guitar parts. The primary flaw here is really just another example of the double-album curse. The atonal plodding of "India Slumber" really disrupts the flow, and if you also cut the somewhat dull blues of "Source You Blues," you'd have an even better single album.

While there is some mild experimentation, "The Visit" doesn't do a whole lot that you haven't heard before. It is, however, a top rate encapsulation of some late 60's (especially West Coast) styles. With it's distinctively late 60's production and find performances throughtout, I find it's mostly a joy to listen to and a great, poppy psychedelic obscuritiy.

Shawn Phillips - 1970 - Contribution

Quality: 3.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5

This album is a powerful signifier of the 70's 'singer-songwriter' tradition. The problem for me is that I tend to be bored by that particular strain of music. Still, this is a transition album, with strains of the late Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash also affecting the work. If discovering the missing link between those guys and Jackson Browne sounds appealing to you, then you'll find much to love on this album. For the rest of us, there are a few tracks that might perk up your ears.

The opening "Man Hole Covered Wagon" has a nice groovin' beat and a fine bridge. but it does annoy me that Mr. Phillips has to find every word that he can to rhyme with nation, including constipation. I find little fault with the mostly instrumental eight minute title track, which whips up a nice percussive, acoustic windstorm complete with some phasing effects (actually most of the trippiness on this album comes from phasing effects). The closing two tracks are ok, but still nothing I'd write home about; although it seems I'm willing to write to you about them. "For J.F.K, R.F.K., and M.L.K." is an obviously politically oriented track that makes me think a bit of late-period Jefferson Airplane (early period would be a stronger compliment of course, but I don't dig it that much). Y'know maybe I'll give the early Jefferson Airplane comment to "No Question on the first half of the album. The final track, "Screamer for Phlysis," manages a few fun acid guitar leads, but the rest of the song is still relatively inoffensive folk rock. I guess it ends up sounding like the early Allman Brothers trying to rip-off "Hey Jude."

The rest of the albums breaks various rules concerning what I enjoy listening to. Although "L Ballad" barely registers a pulse, "Not Quite Nonsense" and "Withered Roses" goes for that fake 'old-timey' sound that artists from the late 60's and early 70's almost always managed to bungle.

Plato's Ion has Socrates suggesting that music itself is divine and likens it to a magnetic rock. The artist directly communes with the rock as a bit of metal and listeners can magnetically become part of a chain. This album doesn't really manage to make me a link in the chain, so I have trouble truly appreciating this music (except for the title track). Yet, I can see where this music will appeal to some of you. If you're a fan of that rootsy, late 60's hippy vibe, then by all means give this one a try. It's certainly not bad music, it just doesn't really draw me into its groove. It is a dang awesome album cover, though.

09 July 2009

A Quick Update

This little gal showed up on our doorstep at 5:56pm on July 4th at 8 pounds and 8 ounces. We decided to call her Hana. The first sound is more of a laughing "ha" than the American pronunciation and means "flower" in Japanese. Be back soon with uglier people like Bob Smith and Shawn Phillips