25 February 2011

Dr. Schluss - 2011 - Reprograms Your Mind

This is the music that I tend to listen to while hanging around on my balcony, waiting for inspiration. Quite a bit of it is sort of ambient and drone filled, but it's the kind of stuff that I really dig. I often hang around listening to the sounds around me and looking for glimmers of light while listening to this stuff, predicting the chance that a train will soon pass by. I don't live quite as close to the train tracks as Elwood Blues, but I'm plenty close. Since I'm lazy, I never got around to making a compilation of my favorite albums from 2010, but if you read into this tracklist, you'll get a good idea about what I got into. For the record, Tame Impala's "Innerspeaker" was my number one album last year. There's plenty of other tunes milling about here as well - most of it can qualify as psychedelic, but I've got to give space for musical dieties like Charlie Parker as well. Give it a listen - I hope you'll find it as groovy as I do.

Track List:
1. Desire Be Desire Go - Tame Impala
2. Double Helix - Emeralds
3. Divergent Paths - Panabrite
4. One With the Sun - Santana
5. In Motion - Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
6. Please Take - Wire
7. Counting Sevens - White Hills
8. Synesthesia - The Electric Flag
9. Fireflies on the Water - Arp
10. Wasting Time - This Love is Deadly
11. Same Dream China - Gold Panda
12. Bongo Bop - Charlie Parker
13. The Game Has Changed - Daft Punk
14. Chariot of the God - Deodato
15. We Got the System to Fight the System - Maserati
16. Alice et Simon - Sonic Youth
17. Sun Demon - Stereolab

24 February 2011

The Electric Flag - 1968 - A Long Time Comin'

Quality: 3.5 out 0f 5
Trip-O-Meter: 1.5 out of 5

With the name 'The Electric Flag,' a great psychedelic album cover, and the fact that the band's previous work was the soundtrack to "The Trip," you'd be forgiven for assuming that this album was a prime psychedelic work. For better of for worse, that's not the case. This is very much an album of horn-driven blues rock, although I certainly dig it more than what Chicago or Blood, Sweat, and Tears ended up doing with their horn sections. We've also got the phenomenal guitar of Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Miles' awesome drumming to tide us over, but it's not really a psychedelic affair. It's really more of a legitimate take on what the Blues Brothers were humorously aiming for.

There is a pretty groovy version of "Killing Floor" on display here - it's not quite up to the level of Hendrix's cover or Howlin' Wolf's original, but it's pretty groovy. For you psych spotters, the extended "Another Country" is your best bet, although it eventually does settle into blues jam territory - but again, the musicianship makes it worth your time. "Over Lovin' You" also hits a few trippier spots with its harpsichord passages.

Yeah, this is very much a blues rock sort of affair. I'd wager that it's the least psychedelic thing I've covered here at the garage, but if you're in the right mood, it can certainly find a few musical sweet spots.

17 February 2011

The Electric Flag - 1967 - The Trip

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5 (but varies greatly by track)

Way back in days of legend gone past (aka 2007), I did a review of the awesome psych-sploitation film "The Trip," which you'll find by clicking "The Trip." I tried to be as objective as possible, and I don't disagree with my old review. Yet despite (or maybe because of) its flaws, it ranks as one of my all-time favorite films and one of the few that I watch at least once a year. This soundtrack, by the Electric Flag, mirrors the film in terms of quality. It has moments of pure, yet manufactured psychedelic brilliance along with a few charmingly dumb sounds. The credits that I tracked down say that blues guitar god Mike Bloomfield wrote all of the music here, which I have trouble believing (and drumming deity Buddy Miles didn't write anything?). Maybe he just did a lot of tripping while working on this one - I guess the whole band did - this sounds absolutely nothing like their proper albums. While there very little horn driven blues rock, there are plenty of great psychedelic tapestries on display, goofy vaudeville inspired tunes, and aimless jamming. Fortunately, when Bloomfield is playing on top of the aimless jams, it remains pretty entertaining. It's even more entertaining in the movie when Bloomfield is wailing away on the soundtrack, yet we see Gram Parsons (who had absolutely nothing to do with the Electric Flag) playing something entirely different on screen. There's also a little bit of early Moog usage scattered about for all of you synth geeks out there.

The real 'money' on this disc musically are the phenomenal Hollywood psych instrumentals. Since we all live in the future, and can program albums however we want now, stick "Peter's Trip," "Joint Passing," "M-23," "Synesthesia," "A Little Head," "Inner Pocket," "Fewghh," and "Flash, Bang, Pow" all together and you'll get one of my personal favorite 15 minute blocks of music. Feel free to add the more traditional jams that actually sound like the Electric Flag from the latter half of the album - you can basically start at "Home Room" and go until the end of the album - but take out the goofy, fake dixieland of "Senior Citizen." You can program that with the equally ridiculous "Psych Soap," "Hobbit," and "The Other Ed Norton," play it in an endless loop, and drive yourself insane. "Green and Gold" is sort of an outlier. It's a pretty groovy fake Tex Mex track. Realistically it probably fits in with the "Senior Citizen" camp, but I like to program it along with the "Peter's Trip" clutch of tracks.

If you're already a fan of this movie, there's no way that you won't absolutely dig this soundtrack - warts and all. For those of you coming in from the outside, there are some treacherous waters, but you'll likely find some psychedelia or blues jamming to your liking. And for that guy out there who considers Harper's Bizarre his number one favorite band - you'll fall in love with the other tracks.

10 February 2011

The Electric Banana - 1967-ish - Blows Your Mind

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

Unfortunately for the Pretty Things, they weren't quite in the top tier of moneymaking British rock bands and had to moonlight recording film soundtrack music under the psuedonym The Electric Banana. Fortunately for us, this means that there are a bunch of other songs recorded by the band around their S.F. Sorrow prime. If S.F. Sorrow is the Pretty Things' Sgt. Pepper, then this is their Magical Mystery Tour. This collection doesn't hold together as an album the way S.F. Sorrow does, nor does the production sparkle quite as much, but it doesn't really need to. You can take these on a song-by-song basis, and on that criteria you'll find quite a few gold sonic nuggets.

I love the tribal pounding "Alexander," which repurposes a short bass riff from "Defecting Grey," and build onto that to make a first rate psychedelic rocker. "Blow Your Mind" and "Rave Up" do just what they promise to do, with the band a full tilt and giving the Yardbirds a run for their money. Elsewhere, "Eagle's Son" is a great anthemic sounding track which the band probably could of used as a single. "If I Needed Someone" is not a Beatles cover, but a horn-laced ballad that shows off the band's softer side (which is good, but admittedly not as awesome as their balls-out rocking side). "I See You" is a rerecording of the S.F. Sorrow track - it's not as good, but it's still an interesting take of a great song. They do drift a little too close for comfort into pop cheesiness on the twee "What's Good For the Goose," while "Danger Signs" goes for the Motown sound and misses the mark. But since there's not really much flow to this collection to start with, they are easily ignored.

You'll hear some of the Pretty Things at their best and worst as the Electric Banana, but the balance definitely tilts to the positive side and this serves well as a companion disc to S.F. Sorrow. I only recently became aware of this set recently, and it was certainly a very groovy surprise.

The Pretty Things - 1968 - S.F. Sorrow

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

A full-length rock opera that predates the Who's Tommy, S.F. Sorrow is also a prime slice of British psychedelia that works just as well as the best of the early Pink Floyd, or psychedelic-era Beatles or Stones. In fact, this album is a third sibling to the better known Sgt. Pepper's and Pink Floyd's debut. These tracks were recorded at Abbey Road studios around the same time, with Beatles engineer Norman Smith serving as producer. The Pretty Things were a grungier, R&B sweating group, however, and this is by far the crunchiest of the three albums. Fortunately for you psychonauts out there, this is not at the expense of great songwriting and psychedelic flourishes. The lyric aren't quite as transcendent as the best of Bob Dylan and John Lennon, but they are good enough to be a reference copy for tripped out 60's psychedelic lyrics. As far as the rock opera story goes, I have no idea what the hell is supposed to be going on, but just as on Tommy, it doesn't really mater when the songs are this good.

There is no lack of phenomenal songs on this recording. While the opening track is very good, the creepy chanting vibe of "Bracelet of Fingers" is the first sign of perfection. It like the ghosts of the 1967 Beach Boys alternating with a whimsical Syd Barrett punch. I'm also a big fan of the insistent beat and sound effects of "Balloon Burning." My favorite thing here, though, is "Baron Saturday," which somehow sounds like a mid-70's Bowie track on the verses, while vocalist Phil May does a dead-on Lennon impression on the majestically psychedelic chorus. We also get a wall of delayed, Sun Ra-like percussion and short trip into an acid-fried happy land before blasting back into the chorus. Great stuff! For the big finally, there's a bit of full-blown, proto heavy metal on "Old Man Going." An amazing thing about this album is how often the Pretty Things managed to anticipate future styles of music. And before we move on, let me give a quick shout out to the criminally underrated guitarist Dick Taylor, who rattles off one awesome lead after another throughout the album.

We have a few fine bonus tracks here, but I'd be remiss not to address "Defecting Grey." This was a single, presented here in an unedited, five minute version. It's one of the best 60's psychedelic singles, period. It juxtaposes wildly demented psychedelic music hall sounds with wild acid rock rave-ups and pop bridge sections and ties it all together with noise and entertainingly jarring shifts. It's sort of like scanning through the 1967 radio dial from beyond the psychedelic curtain.

Like the other psychedelic Abbey Road albums, the mono mix is by far the superior mix. The stereo suffers from ridiculous stereo panning that dilutes the power of the band and a lack of skill in creating a proper psychedelic soundfield. Chances are a fair amount of you reading this are already perfectly familiar with this album, but it always a nice disc to revisit. If you haven't heard this, you're in for quite a treat - this could be your new favorite album.