Posts Tagged ‘Psych’

The Rolling Stones: Their Satanic Majesties Request

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

The Stones’ red-headed stepchild gets a lavish 50th birthday party

Released between Between the Buttons and Beggars Banquet, the Rolling Stones’ 1967 foray into psychedelia has often been heard as a divisive outlier. Recorded in sessions spread throughout a tumultuous year, and often relegated to also-ran status as a me-too derivation of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album hadn’t the conceptual grandiosity to create such a stir. Worse, the band’s own indifference, exemplified by quotes printed inside this lavish four-panel album-sized package, hasn’t redeemed the album’s image. But on this fiftieth anniversary, one can ask whether the album has been fairly assessed, and see if hindsight illuminates the work more clearly than the flashing, multicolored light shows of 1967.

First and foremost, Satanic Majesties was a clear break from the tough, R&B-driven music on which the Stones had minted their reputation. The overt use of mellotron, oscillators and studio manipulations gives this album textures unlike any of the band’s other releases. And while drugs certainly influence other Stones recordings, none are so entrenched in psychedelia as this album. 1967 was a year of band turmoil, with Mick and Keith having been arrested on drug charges in February, Brian Jones’ girlfriend leaving him for Richards in March, Jones being arrested on drug charges in May, and the band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, leaving the fold. And it was at an intersection of personal tribulation and acid-drenched communal ethos that the Stones recorded this album.

The sessions were chaotic and weighed-down by hangers-on, and with Oldham abandoning ship, the band was left to produce themselves. The results were uneven – with jeweled classics rubbing elbows with uneventful jams. The album’s release on December 8 was foreshadowed by the single “In Another Land,” written and sung by bassist Bill Wyman. The tremelo-processed vocal, harpsichord, mellotron and dream-within-a-dream lyrics fit the album’s mood. With the A-side credited to Wyman (and with the B-side, “The Lantern,” credited to the Stones), the single scraped into the Top 100, leaving the album to generate its own publicity.

The LP performed well commercially, reaching #2 on the U.S. chart with the help of a late December single of “She’s a Rainbow” backed by “2000 Light Years From Home.” Critics were mixed, and though the album earned a gold record in America, it seems to have been largely forgotten by the Stones the moment it was released. The studio recording of “2000 Light Years From Home” was used to introduce the group’s 1972 stage show, but it wasn’t until 1989 that they performed it live, and it was another eight years before they performed “She’s a Rainbow.” The rest of the material remained at rest on record, and the group’s return to rock ‘n’ roll with 1968’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the rock, blues and country of Beggars Banquet, rendered Satanic Majesties an anomaly.

Beyond the hit single, the album has many charms. “Sing This All Together,” while not of the caliber as the hit single, opens the album with group vocals that echo the feeling of communal opportunity that was in the 1967 air. The track’s middle jam is edged along by percussion and horns until the vocals return and lead into the memorable guitar-riff that opens “Citadel,” “In Another Land” and the terrific “2000 Man.” Side one closes with the return of “Sing This All Together (See What Happens),” which, unlike the taut reprise of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” is an unstructured eight-minute improvisational jam that returns to the album-opening mood before segueing into a theremin rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The indulgence that closes side one is redeemed by the perfection that opens side two. Introduced by a carnival barker, Nicky Hopkins’ music-box piano and John Paul Jones’ string arrangement key the brilliant and beautiful “She’s a Rainbow,” with bass and acoustic rhythm guitar reigniting the song each time it slows. The group’s blues roots shine through “The Lantern,” particularly in the blistering electric guitar riffs, but the tablas and flute jam of “Gomper” hasn’t aged well. The latter pales in particular comparison to the inspiration of “2000 Light Years From Home.” It’s this latter track, with discordant piano, mellotron, theremin, dulcimer, oscillator flourishes and a lyric of growing physical and emotional distance that will haunt your memory long after the record’s finished playing.

The music hall closer, “On With the Show,” seems to both mimic the frame of Sgt. Pepper’s and anticipate that of Magical Mystery Tour, and provides an entertaining coda to the album. The album’s psychedelic underpinnings glow on many tracks, including the band’s preceding hit, “Ruby Tuesday,” and singles recorded during the Satanic Majesties sessions, “We Love You” and “Dandelion.” Unfortunately, these period tracks aren’t included as bonuses – nor are the outtakes and demos that have been bootlegged elsewhere. But what’s here was freshly remastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering (2016-mono, 2017-stereo), and pressed onto both vinyl (from a lacquer cut by Sean Magee at Abbey Road) and hybrid SACDs.

The two vinyl LPs and two SACDs are housed in a heavyweight, four-panel fold-out cover, with the album’s original lenticular art restored to the front cover and the gatefold art to the inside. A 20-page booklet includes an essay by Rob Bowman, and candid photos from Michael Cooper’s original cover shoot photo session. The package is hand numbered, and the pressing is advertised as a limited edition. So what’s actually new here? The mono master is the same as was used for the 2016 box set (vinyl and CD), but it’s reproduced here with a new vinyl lacquer, and as a first-ever high resolution mono release on the hybrid SACD. The stereo remaster is new, as is its vinyl lacquer. The lenticular cover art isn’t new, but has been out of circulation for many years.

For those who’ve already collected the original mono and stereo vinyl, reissue stereo vinyl and SACD, and reissue mono vinyl and CD, the wholly new elements here are the high-resolution layer on the mono hybrid SACD and Bob Ludwig’s new stereo remaster. Are they worth the duplication? That depends on how much you value this album – particularly the punchier mono mix – or whether having mono, stereo, vinyl, redbook and high resolution digital in one three-pound package simply tickles your collector’s fancy. The absence of contemporaneously recorded singles, alternates and outtakes may disappoint some, but having the original dozen tracks, mono and stereo, with lenticular cover art intact will be a treat for the album’s faithful fans. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

The Rolling Stones’ Home Page

Tom Armstrong: The Sky is an Empty Eye

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Superb private press album of guitar instrumentals

When you can make a record with a USB microphone and cloud-based recording, it’s hard to remember the revolution that was home recording. TEAC’s 4-track reel-to-reel recorders (and TASCAM’s later cassette-based Portastudio) for the semi-pro market allowed home recordists to multi-track and overdub without the overbearing expense (and ticking clock) of studio time. Some of these sessions ended up in the commercial market, but many were unspooled only for friends and family, or circulated in local vinyl pressings. Tompkins Square sampled several of these small batch recordings on Imaginational Anthem, Vol. 8: The Private Press, and now expands on the theme with this first of several planned full album reissues.

Tom Armstrong had hung around the edges of the music business, playing bars and open mics, but when his engineering career took off, dreams of a professional music career were put aside. But a 4-track gifted to him by his wife kept his guitar playing alive, and provided a creative outlet into which he poured this original music. Though he kept recording for more than a decade, this is the one collection of songs he had mastered and pressed to vinyl, handing out copies mostly to friends and business associates. He favors meditative acoustic tracks, such as the harmonic-filled opener and the somnambulistic “Dream Waltz,” but he adds dripping neo-psych notes to “Keller,” picks electric slide on “The Thing,” and sings the title track.

The album’s variety might have driven a market-seeking record label crazy, but it’s exactly that free-spiritedness that gives the album its charm. The segue from the finger-picked electric “Mama’s Baby” to the echoed, nearly discordant “Bebop” suggests the evolution of blues into jazz, and the album continues to evolve as it closes with the driving spaciness of “Thunder Clouds.” Most of the arrangements appear to be two or maybe three guitars, sometimes rhythm and lead, often interleaving in original ways. Armstrong’s technique is good, but it’s his musical imagination and the freedom to follow his muse without commercial pressure that really gives these recordings their power. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Tompkins Square’s Home Page

The Creation: Action Painting

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

The Creation gets their due with deluxe box set

Many U.S. listeners were first introduced to the Creation via the inclusion of their debut single, “Making Time,” in the film Rushmore. It was a canny selection, harboring the angst of the early Kinks and Who, but without the familiarity that’s turned their viscerality into a nostalgic echo. Fans have been serviced by reissues and compilations, but never before a comprehensive box set of their mid-60s glory. Numero fills the void with this 2-CD, 46-track collection, served up with a hard-covered 80-page booklet of photographs, ephemera, label and sleeve reproductions, liner notes by Dean Rudland and detailed session notes by Alec Palao.

Like many bands of the beat era, a complete catalog of the Creation’s releases includes singles, albums, mono and stereo mixes, versions prepared for foreign markets, and sundry odds ‘n’ sods. Numero collects all of this, starting with the original mono masters on disc one and four (of the original eight) mono sides by the pre-Creation Mark Four kicking off disc two. The bulk of disc two is taken up by new stereo mixes created for this set by Alec Palao (and approved by original producer Shel Talmy), along with previously unissued backing tracks for “Making Time” and “How Does It Feel to Feel,” and an unedited cut of “Sylvette.”

The stereo mixes maintain a surprising amount of the original recordings’ punch. To be sure, there’s alchemy in the mono sides, but the guitar, bass, drums and vocals are each so individually driven that the stereo mixes don’t drain the records of their attack. And spreading out the guitar, lead and backing vocals adds welcome definition to many tracks. Even more interesting is that both in mono and stereo, producer Shel Talmy’s distinctive style – particularly in recording the drums and the presence of Nicky Hopkins on piano – puts these tracks in a sonic league with the early sides he made with the Who.

The earliest Mark Four singles (unfortunately not included here) featured cover songs, but by 1965 the group was recording original material that had the blues base of the Yardbirds with the garage attitude of Mouse & The Traps and the Shadows of Knight. The B-side “I’m Leaving” finds Eddie Phillips wringing truly original sounds from his guitar as the drums vamp a modified Bo Diddley beat for a then-generous 3:32 running time. It was a sign of what was to come, as the group’s 1966 debut as the Creation sported what many believe to be the first use of a bowed guitar.

Eddie Phillips departed in late 1967, but with vault material still being released, and tours still being offered, the band soldiered on into 1968. They added Ron Wood in between his time with the Birds and the Jeff Beck Group, and he played on a handful of singles that started with “Midway Down” and its flip, “The Girls Are Naked.” Some iteration of the group (exactly which is a subject of discussion in Palao’s session notes) recorded posthumously released covers of Larry Williams’ “Bony Moronie” and Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” and the group’s final single, “For All That I Am” garnered little attention in its Germany-only release.

At well over two hours of music, Numero’s set provides a definitive recitation of the Creation’s original mono run, a worth-hearing restatement in stereo, and the odds ‘n’ sods that mark a spelunking of the vault. The book is rendered in microscopic print, but it’s worth digging out a magnifying glass to read Palao’s meticulous recording and mixing notes. The reproduced photos, correspondence, labels, picture sleeves and tape boxes perfectly complement this salute to a band whose commercial fortunes never rose to the level of their musical and stage artistry. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Matt Costa: Music From the Motion Picture Orange Sunshine

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

mattcosta_orangesunshineSuperb evocation of late-60s psychedelic soundtracks

If you were making a documentary on a renegade 1960s LSD collective, Huntington Beach singer-songwriter Matt Costa might not be your first thought for a period-evoking soundtrack. But Costa’s roots in Orange County match those of the Brotherhood at the film’s center, and the seeds of his nostalgic musical constructions can be found in his catalog. The resulting soundtrack for the film Orange Sunshine is the sort of ersatz experience one gained from AIP’s exploitation films – music that is of the era, but doesn’t define it. Costa deftly evokes the ‘60s with fuzzed guitars, hallucinogenic flights, West Coast jazz odysseys, blue funk, folk fingerpicking, ragas and even a touch of strategically placed vinyl surface noise.

The compositions lean to mood-setting instrumentals, but the vocal tracks – particularly the Airplane-styled “Born in My Mind” – are spot-on. What rats this out as homage rather than artifact is the crisp fidelity – something that couldn’t easily be achieved on a shoestring budget in 1968. Most impressive is that Costa wrote, engineered, produced and performed the entire album – especially remarkable on “ensemble” jams like “The Fuzz.” Several of the cuts are under two minutes – often leaving you wanting more – but this works nicely as a standalone album of ‘60s-tinged psych, jazz, soul and rock, and provides a terrific complement to the film. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Matt Costa’s Home Page

The Royal Hangmen: Hanged, Drawn & Quartered

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

royalhangmen_hangeddrawnandquarteredPysch-edged garage rock from… Switzerland?

If you ever stopped to think about Swiss garages, you probably imagined super clean floors and tools neatly aligned on a pegboard. But The Royal Hangmen (who shouldn’t be confused with the plebeian UK and US Hangmen) have shoved all that aside and dialed up fuzzed-out guitars, thumping drums and VOX organ. Well, actually, they hightailed it to Hamburg where the atmosphere was no doubt more conducive to recording 60s-styled garage rock than Zurich. They’ve parlayed their beginnings as a cover band (which also spawned the fine EP Hell Yeah: An 80s Garage Tribute) into original material that recalls the Shadows of Knight, early Stones and the seemingly endless stream of one-off Pebbles bands.

The Royal Hangmen aren’t unprecedented in Alps-rock history, as period Swiss garage bands included The Sevens, Nightbirds and Bad Generation. There are also contemporaries like the Come n’ Go and at times The Animen, but none capture the sound of ‘65 and ‘66 (or perhaps even more so, the ‘80s revival sound of the Lyres and Fuzztones) as do the Royal Hangmen. Vocalist Vasco Saxer has the attitude to sell epithets like “you got no soul,” and the guitars and organ have just the right tone. The group dips into ‘60s beat with the instrumental “Groovadelic,” riffs on a Yardbirds bass line for “Go Away Baby,” and turns psychedelic on “Step Out of the Dark” and “Feed the Monkey.” Great stuff! [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Royal Hangmen’s Home Page

Feral Ohms: Love Damage

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

If you missed the MC5 and Stooges at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, Oakland, California’s Feral Ohms gives you a chance to tap a similar vein of unhinged rock ‘n’ roll. Their full-length debut, Live in San Francisco, drops October 21st, and the first single, “Love Damage,” streams below.

Feral Ohms’ Facebook Page

The Embrooks: Nightmare 7″

Friday, September 9th, 2016

It’s been more than a decade since the Embrooks dropped their second album, Yellow Glass Perspections, and parted ways. But they’re back with a terrific pair of freakbeat tunes that include the garage, mod and psych influences that made their earlier work so exciting. They’re as good as ever, if not better! Shades of early Who, Small Faces, the Creation and more.

The Embrooks Facebook Page
Buy the 7″

The Bangles: Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles!

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Bangles_LadiesAndGentlemenTheBangsThe Bangles’ Rosetta stone is their fans’ holy grail

For anyone who latched onto the Bangles before their major label makeover on Columbia, the first half of this CD remains the band’s Rosetta stone. Though hits and international fame would come later, the eight tracks released in 1981-2 remain the group’s purest statement of their 60s-tinged harmony rock. They never wrote, played or sang with more elan, and the youthful effervescence of this early work is as compelling today as it was thirty-five years ago. The group first appeared on vinyl as The Bangs with the fan club single “Getting Out of Hand” b/w “Call On Me.” Its local circulation left most listeners to meet the band, renamed as The Bangles, on the compilation Rodney on the ROQ, Vol. III, and then retroactively track down the single’s more widely circulated reissue.

In 1982, amid the the Salvation Army’s self-titled debut, Green on Red’s debut EP, the Dream Syndicate’s Days of Wine and Roses, the Three O’Clock’s Baroque Hoedown, and the Rain Parade’s first single, there was the Bangles’ self-titled five song EP on Faulty. The EP’s four original songs were the perfect lead-in to a scorching cover of the La De Da’s “How is the Air Up There?” Though reissued by IRS, the EP was mostly lost to fans the band picked up with their major label debut, All Over the Place, and even more so in the full rush of fame brought by Different Light. Bits and pieces of the EP reappeared as B-sides and on compilations, but the full EP remained unreissued until this collection was released as MP3s in 2014. Now on CD, the EP can be heard without compression.

Filling out this disc are four full-fidelity demos, a pair of 1984 live tracks, and a commercial for No Magazine. The demos include early takes of “Call On Me” and “The Real World,” a harmony-rich cover of the Turtles’ “Outside Chance” and a tough take on Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Steppin’ Out.” The live cuts are “Tell Me” (from All Over the Place), and a cover of Love’s “7 & 7 Is.” The disc closes with 1982’s “The Rock & Roll Alternative Program Theme Song,” a tune the group recorded for George Gimarc’s pioneering radio show. The only thing missing is the promo-only 12” remix of “The Real World,” but that’s a nit. This is the holy grail for Bangles fans, especially those who never completely cottoned to the commercial polish of their Columbia years. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Bangles’ Home Page

Queen of Jeans: EP

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

This Philadelphia quartet’s first two tracks (“Dance (Get Off Your Ass)” and “Rollerdyke“) are now expanded with four additions into a eponymous EP, streamable below, downloadable from Bandcamp, and buyable as a vinyl 12″ from Third Uncle. The new songs are just as mesmerizing in their nods to 1960s girl groups and lush 1990s alternatives run through a dreamy DIY psych aesthetic. Great stuff!

And while you’re here, check out their live set for WXPN:

Queen of Jeans: Rollerdyke

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

This Philadelphia quartet’s first single sounded like something you’d have heard on Girls in the Garage or perhaps from the Pussywillows, or the Bangs before they became the Bangles. The group’s second single moves from the garage to the ballroom with a flowing neo-psych sound and a driving beat. Their debut EP is slated for January 22!

Queen of Jeans’ Facebook Page