=  July 2009  =

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Written by:

Leaves of Life


Steve Hillage

Phil McMullen

Deeply Vale & Bickershaw Festivals

Simon Lewis

Dandelion Records
Jeff Penczak Glastonbury Festival
Nigel Cross Cold Sun
  Lamp of the Universe
  The Steals
  Hollow Ox
  Blossom Toes
  Galactic Ramble
  We All Love the Human Race
  Electric Asylum 2
  Wolf People



(CD from Borne! Recordings www.bornmusic.org )


‘Leaves of Life’ has been masterminded and curated with the laudable aim of helping to fight hunger and disease and support human rights efforts in Africa. The vision is that of Arborea’s Buck Curran, and it’s a measure of the esteem he is held in by his contemporaries that not only are the nineteen songs donated by the artists concerned all exclusive to this compilation, but all of exceptional quality – in several cases written and recorded especially with this project in mind.


Stand-out numbers for me are Starless and Bible Black’s effortlessly brilliant tribute to Davey Graham, the self-penned ‘All The Finest Beams’ with haunting, sensual vocals from Helene Gautier and superb guitar from Peter Philipson; Fern Knight’s complex, vaguely jazz-flecked folk song ‘Our Mountain The Mother’, with some particularly gorgeous cello and harmonium from Margaret Wienk, harp from Jesse Sparhawk and rolling thunder drumming from Jim Ayre, who also handles the lead guitar which gives the song its cutting edge;  Arborea’s ‘Son of the Moon, Daughter of the Sun’ with Shanti Curran taking the lead on banjo and hammer dulcimer as well as vocals on a song dedicated to her lovely children; Marissa Nadler and Black Hole Infinity’s ‘Dead Wives Club’, a truly lovely song with guitar/Hammond highlights painted deftly in by Myles Baer; Micah Blue Smaldone’s plaintive vocals set against a snatched acoustic guitar on ‘The Clearing’ and Josh Bruner’s Magic Leaves performing the instrumental ‘Lasso Reason’ set against the sound of the ocean. Plaudits too for Citay’s ‘Little Kingdom’, although I have a suspicion they might owe a writing credit to Messrs. Waters & Gilmour for the intro, which sounds rather like ‘Fearless’ (from the little-played Side 1 of ‘Meddle’). Great song though for all that.


Other contributors include Larkin Grimm, David Garland, Mi and L’au, Devendra Banhart and Mica Jones, and cover art from Hanna Tuulikki. All in all a totally worthwhile compilation which is well worth seeking out. Apparently the download version includes extra songs, so hopefully there will be a double LP version to follow.


Buck maintains that a secondary hope he has for this compilation is that it will inspire others to follow, to “join in artistic and social efforts to make a better life for all of us”. I couldn’t agree more. (Phil McMullen)








(above releases from www.ozitmorpheusrecords.com )


(from www.odeonent.co.uk )


I think it was around 2004 that Steve Hillage’s ‘Deeply Vale’ double album set was first officially released on CD by the ever industrious Chris Hewitt at OzIt-Morpheus Records, who has made something of a cottage industry out of repackaging, re-releasing and reissuing material from the late 70s Deeply Vale scene. There’s something about an economic recession which drives the British out into the countryside to stage and attend music festivals, as a consequence of which the mid to late 1970s were peppered with such events. The festival scene was neutered by the conscienceless Thatcher government (the notorious “Isle of Wight Act”), and then all but killed off altogether by the rampant consumerism and red tape of Blair era, and only in the past few years has the counter-culture started to gather pace again with the economy heading ever further into the doldrums – just about every weekend now there’s a festival happening in an English park, wood or a field somewhere, which can only be a good thing for live music generally.


Deeply Vale was one of the smaller festivals (nowadays termed “boutique” events) to spring up during the last recession, four of them taking place annually from 1976 onwards, set in a wooded valley that lies between Bury and Rochdale in the North West of England. One of the high-spots of the July 1978 event was a headline set by none other than Steve Hillage, the high priest of bobble hats and guru of the glissando guitar. Hillage’s ‘Live Herald’ double album, collated from various concerts played during 1977-78 (along with some new studio recordings) and released in early 1979, has long been acclaimed as one of the touchstone live LPs of the era; but the Deeply Vale set, which didn’t see the light of day until 25 years later, makes a far better job of transporting the listener to a place filled with hippies, sunshine, teepees and exotic aromas; a place where Hillage’s music fills the air and eternally belongs. The set is made up as you’d expect of songs from ‘Fish Rising’, ‘L’, ‘Motivation Radio’ and (my personal favourite,) ‘Green’, which was recorded during the previous April using primarily American session musicians, the only permanent fixtures being synth player Miquette Giraudy and Steve himself. The group which toured the U.K. and Europe in the Spring and summer of 1978 and which features on this album is significantly different, with Steve and Miquette accompanied by amongst others the late Christian Boulé (guitar), drummer Andy Anderson (who later went on to play with The Cure), and the Global Village Trucking Company’s John McKenzie on bass (John later went on to join the Man band).


So, a beautifully produced live album featuring some of the ‘70s greatest at the peak of their stoned prowess, pressed on 180 gram psychedelic vinyl and housed in a thick card sleeve – what is there not to like?


Also available from the same label (and similarly highly recommended) are repackaged deluxe vinyl represses of albums by Tractor and The Way We Live, both albums which I know for sure the Terrascope has reviewed and featured in the past, so we'll move swiftly on to a couple of related DVD releases.


Hillage’s ‘Searching for the Spark’ from the above set also appears on a DVD released by OzIt-Morpheus entitled ‘Deeply Vale Festivals’, available from the same source. Overall it’s a bit heavy on the documentary and light on performance for my tastes, but Gong completists will no doubt want to snaffle it. The same label has compiled a collection of films of Dandelion Records recording artists, particularly watchable for the footage of the irrepressible Stackwaddy, but also including Kevin Coyne, Siren, Principle Edwards Magic Theatre, Medicine Head, Bridget St John and of course Tractor. Hewitt tells a familiar tale of woe in compiling this: "When I first put on the concert where I filmed Siren/ Kevin Coyne, Medicine head and Tractor I lost £3000 owing to poor attendance figures, despite John Peel plugging it every night for 10 days on late night Radio One. I took the footage to Cherry red who had just licensed the Dandelion tractor stuff off me for a Dandelion Records boxed set, and they said [there was] no demand for a Dandelion DVD. There were not prepared to put up the money to put Stackwaddy back together for a few days or interview Bridget [they could have used the Terrascope's interview with Bridget!] so I soldiered on and worked on it as a labour of love over five years and it cost in total about £11,000 to get it to where it is..."

To my mind a more watchable DVD (also from OzIt-Morpheus) is a celebration of the legendary 1972 Bickershaw festival, organised on what turned out to be wet may bank holiday weekend in a bleak mining village of the same name, a suburb of Wigan in the Northwest of England by future TV presenter Jeremy Beadle (with a young Chris Hewitt helping out by distributing leaflets). The location may have been less than inspirational but the music is never less than captivating, with live performances from the Incredible String Band, Grateful Dead, Donovan, Kinks, Family and Captain Beefheart amongst others.


Interestingly, what today is seen as the pinnacle of the rampantly commercial megafestivals, Glastonbury,  was originally planned as a model of the alternative society, a serious attempt to put the counter-culture ideal into practice. The September 1970 Glastonbury Festival, staged 24 hours after Jimi Hendrix’s death, saw Pilton dairy farmer Michael Eavis charging people just a pound each to see Tyrannosaurus Rex, Al Stewart, Steamhammer, Stackridge and Keith Christmas. The June 1971 summer solstice festival on the same site was not only intended to be a free festival but also had far loftier ideals: a medieval fair encompassing music, dance, poetry, theatre, a pyramid stage and lights, principally organised by two fallen scions of the landed gentry – Andrew Kerr and Arabella Churchill (grand-daughter of the wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill. Sadly she died in 2007, having acted as an adviser to Michael Eavis at all the subsequent Glastonbury Festivals to date).


There was little advertising beyond hand-bills given out at gigs. No names of the artists appearing were pre-released to the press, the organisers trusting that people would come to Pilton having heard about the event by word of mouth alone. Much as I’d love to do the same at Terrastock, I’m not brave enough to do that even today with the internet spanning the globe – so this was a considerable leap of faith for 1971! Nevertheless, between seven and ten thousand people turned up, and were treated to performances by amongst others Bronco, Terry Reid, David Bowie, Gong, Traffic, Magic Michael, Help Yourself, Mighty Baby, Skin Alley, Brinsley Schwarz, Quintessence, Quiver, Henry Cow, Linda Lewis, Fairport Convention, Edgar Broughton, Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies. Inevitably rumours of the Grateful Dead appearing were unfounded (apparently the band themselves wanted to play, but Andrew Kerr had a disagreement with Warner Brothers over the spelling of the word Fayre/Fair, so Warners prevented them... I have to say, the more and see and hear about Andrew Kerr, the more I like this guy!)


As well as the subsequent release of a triple gatefold sleeve LP celebrating the event, with live recordings from the gig itself plus contributions from many of the names listed above – including a whole live side donated by the Grateful Dead to make up for their non-appearance - the festival was filmed, primarily by Si Litvinoff, Peter Neal and Nic Roeg (whose debut feature film ‘Performance’ had just been released). The footage wasn’t edited and assembled until a year or two later, and rather pleasingly majors on the people attending the event, on the festival as an entity of itself, on the mystique of Glastonbury and the social aspects rather than purely on musical performances, though there are plenty of these as well – notably Traffic, Terry Reid (with Kaleidoscope’s David Lindley on guitar), Pink Fairies, Magic Michael, Quintessence, Arthur Brown, Fairport Convention, Melanie, Linda Lewis and Family (with Roger Chapman’s legendary ‘electric goat’ vocals proving too much for the microphones in places – a perennial problem for the film-makers, the soundtrack to the movie was later overdubbed by some of the bands involved).


The movie received a short theatrical run in 1973, but aside from the occasional festival and late night TV screening it’s been unseen ever since. (Phil McMullen)




 CD   (www.worldinsound.com)


 CD  (www.myspace.com/lampoftheuniversenz)


     Originally recorded in 1970, “Dark Shadows” is a stone cold Texas psych classic, up there with The Elevators, The Moving Sidewalks, and any other band you care to name. As Terrascope readers I imagine that list is long and that most of you have already heard a bootleg version of this album or maybe even own a copy of the Rockadelic release of 1991. That it was never released at the time of its recording is a minor tradegy and you should all rejoice that World In sound has finally put together a quality CD version, complete with introductory notes from Jello Biafra, as well as a potted history of the band written by Autoharp/Guitarist Bill Miller. Indeed, it is the sound of the autoharp that gives the band a distinctive and very lysergic sheen, whilst the liquid lead guitar of Tom McGarrigle , adds a sparkle that recalls the best work of Barry Melton, all of this lid over riffs that are introspective and fragile, exploring the darker corners of a psychedelic mind.


     Launching straight in, opening track “South Texas” is a killer blend of guitar playing, rumbling bass and drifting ambience that will whisk back in time quicker than an evening with Timothy Leary. Next up, “Twisted Flowers” recalls to mind the work of Ultimate Spinach, especially in the “of the moment” lyrics that perfectly suit the music they walks upon.  Starting off with a sunny Californian smile, guitars dancing like sunshine, “Here in the Year” suddenly explodes into a dense psychedelic fog becoming a different slice of sound entirely. As the album continues the songs become more twisted, exhibiting a bleak narrative that is complimented by the sound, until you reach the final track “Ra-Ma”, a ten minute classic that has the shadow of Beefheart looming overhead, a tune that sums up the failings of the 60’s, optimism overshadowed by the weight of expectation and the pressures of those in power. Mind you, having said that, there is a ragged beauty that runs throughout the album, an inner light that keeps us going in our hour of need.


   Also included are two live tracks recorded in 1972, with both “Mind Aura” and “Live Again” proving, again, what fine musicians the band were; that members later became part of Rocky Erickson’s backing band only cements their reputation as psychedelic legends , a group of players that deserve your support and admiration.


     Moving on from a lost psychedelic classic, we turn our attention to a future classic that could well be in danger of becoming lost if not supported by people like us. Hailing from New Zealand, Craig Williamson has released eight albums under the name Lamp of the Universe, with “Acid Mantra” being possibly the finest yet, although I haven’t heard them all and I love all the ones I have heard. Filled with joyous eastern sounding psych, this album is a bliss-filled trip that will soothe you after a long day as well as filling your spirit with peace and inner light. Featuring a host of instruments including Sitar, Tablas, Flute, Guitar, Percussion, Synths and keys, it is clear right from the start that this is a journey of high magic, the cosmic finery of “Love Eternal” shaking of the shackles and flying high into unknown realms. Elsewhere, “Astral Planes of Knowing” floats like a lost Quintessence classic, an incense curling classic that traverses time, mixing the senses into a heady brew and leaving a shit eating grin on your face.


    Whilst previous albums,” Heru”, for instance, have concentrated on the search for truth, here we seem to have found it, the music living in the present moment, fully alive and dancing for joy, The sublime guitar playing wringing every ounce of emotion from the songs as the droning undercurrent carries us ever onwards. Of course, being a Lamp of the Universe album, drone is never far away, with the beautiful “Into Dhyanna” really hitting the spot, a piece that needs to be listened to, a gentle river of sound that cleanses and sparkles.


    Finally, Universe Within” is a gentle flicker of light, mesmerising and hypnotic, sounding like a mellow Sundial, timeless and with deep purpose.


      Readers with deep pockets should buy both these albums, as choosing between is an almost impossible task, suffice to say my end of year list is filling up at an alarming rate and it is only June. (Simon Lewis)




CD from www.faunrecords.com )


There’s a wealth of female vocalists currently working in the psych-folk field, not a few of them regular favourites amongst the Terrascope’s staff, festival attendees and readers alike (I won’t list them here for fear of unintentionally overlooking one, though an obvious first point of reference would be Ellen Mary McGee). Most have excellent voices which can carry a song; some are also suberb instrumentalists in their own right, and some work with backing bands. Sometimes, not often, I stumble across someone who is all three, whose music transports the listener to other places without ever sounding affected or overwhelming. Mysterious, haunting, heart-breaking and life-affirming, listening to northern English band The Steals is like hearing something for the first time which you just know, instinctively, is going to become a part of your life for years to come.


Their sound is hushed, dark and ethereal, but pinning it to the door of the fridge marked “psychedelic folk” is not just lazy journalism but doing them a huge disservice. Singer Jayn Hanna has a breathy presence which echoes such luminaries as Kendra Smith; indeed the massive layers of echoing guitars (courtesy of The Engineers’ Mark Peters) and the way songs build to a plodding crescendo bears favourable comparisons with the work of post-paisley underground folk-rockers Clay Allison, Opal and Mazzy Star – indeed Jayn Hanna’s voice is uncannily similar to Kendra Smith’s replacement in Opal, Hope Sandoval, at times, both sensuous and hypnotic.


Indeed, the opening song is called ‘Hope’, and while I strongly suspect that’s a coincidence, the song undoubtedly bears a resemblance, with Hanna’s dusky vocals peaking and plummeting against a graceful backdrop of minimal guitars and reverb which gradually builds to a crescendo. ‘Stay in Silence’ follows a similar path, edging ever upwards from hushed and echoing beauty towards an avalanche of sound, while ‘Golden’ shimmers its icy way along to a spine-tingling close which closely resembles the afore-mentioned Ellen McGee’s work with Saint Joan a few years ago.


This is a breathtakingly brilliant album, one which I implore you to investigate. You can hear samples via the band’s MySpace site at http://www.myspace.com/thestealsmusic but that really doesn’t do it justice: it simply begs to be heard on big speakers. I’m just hoping someone somewhere will see fit to release it on vinyl sometime. (Phil McMullen)




(CD and LP from www.hollowox.com )


The attentive amongst you will recognise the name Hollow Ox, a four-piece band from Nashville, Tennessee USA comprising Cole Street, Mike Crouch, Matthew Mckeever and Jeremy McCall who we have previously described as “hauntingly effective, instrumentally astute and creatively inventive” – a statement I stand by to this day. I first stumbled across them when my good friend Tim Carey, from Nashville, recommended them for the Terrastock Tea Party held at the Springwater there in May 2008, along with 84001, Magick Plants and Heathern Haints, who apparently have subsequently renamed themselves the TTotals.


I picked up a CD-EP with a silk-screened cover by Hollow Ox dating from 2007 a month or so later at Terrastock 7 in Louisville, Kentucky – and it’s taken until now for the follow-up ‘Pleiades’ to be released. It’s been well worth the wait though. Opening number (ha!) ‘2012’ is powered along like a psychedelic hovercraft by waves of cresting guitars, with vocals which attain an almost Hawkwind like droning intensity in places. ‘Face the Stone’ and ‘Know It’ both feature a mesmerising electric guitar strum set against hushed percussion – if you dig Windy and Carl you’ll certainly enjoy these. ‘The Fields are Cold’, arguably my favourite on here, has that classic post-rock darkness then shade effect nailed down perfectly, with the vocals this time echoing the Bunnymen and the guitars building to a crescendo which I can imagine being truly awe-inspiring in the live environment, when the band have a chance to really stretch out.


The closing ‘Find Away’ finds them once again dabbling in the molten pool of post-rock, although as mentioned before Hollow Ox are much, much more than sonic whispers irregularly broken by plangent guitar and percussion; the band’s stunningly crafted soundscapes play to all of the genre’s strengths whilst simultaneously avoiding its perceived overindulgence. Well worth checking out. (Phil McMullen)




(Sunbeam Records)


This double disc set completes Sunbeam’s series of Blossom Toes releases, which includes both original albums, over a dozen bonus tracks, and now, according to leader, Brian Godding’s funny-yet-informative liner notes, “all that appears to remain of us live.” The first disk was recorded in August, 1967 at the Philipes Club in Stockholm, several months before their We Are Ever So Clean debut was released. That luxury (the audience didn’t know any of the songs) allowed the band to dabble outside the wonderful pop/psych material that Georgio Gomelsky had produced and, indeed, only one track from that debut, the hyper-surreal ‘Remarkable Saga of The Frozen Dog’ is included in their set. Perhaps it is fitting to note that the band kick things off with a track that would later appear on their sophomore effort, If Only For A Moment nearly two years later (‘Listen To The Silence’) before launching into a Beefheart cover (‘Electricity’), and that the set is titled after another “Moment” track. Obviously, the lads were having none of that easy listening stuff off the debut and, to make matters worse (or better, depending on which side of their discographical fence you fall on), Godding had accidentally snapped the top E tuning head off his guitar (apparently whilst using it as a cricket bat!) immediately before the Sweden trip, which made for some strange sounds emanating from his five string(!) – indeed, “LSD and one-chord West Coast jamming would be our bread and butter for this trip,” he confesses, and refers to the gig as “Captain Blossomheart.” You’ve been warned!


            The set opens with the aforementioned ‘Listen To The Silence,’ propelled by Kevin Westlake’s ferocious skinpounding and Brian Belshaw’s wall-rattling bass rumblings, which continue on the maniacal trawl through Beefheart’s ‘Electricity’ that sounds like our participants are on the run from the men in the white coats, dragging their instruments behind them. The dual guitar interplay between Godding and Jim Cregan that would be the band’s trademark starts to develop itself here and while Godding’s attempts to outgrowl Mr. Van Vliet occasionally verge on the absurd, the track does set the framework for the rest of the evening, starting with another tribute to Vliet, ‘Captain Trips’! The recording quality is acceptable, if not a little rough around the edges (the show must have been incredibly loud, as you can feel Belshaw’s bass in your bowels), occasionally leaving Godding’s vocals buried in the mix, run over by Westlake’s aggressive thumping. (The disk was sourced from the original master tapes provided by the show’s engineer, Anders Lind.)


            ‘Love Us Like We Love You’ is another unrecorded track (fans and completists will love the set list, comprised almost exclusively of tracks that were never committed to vinyl), this one with a Bo Diddley beat and minimal lyrics (essentially the title repeated ad infinitum) that provide another opportunity for the band to stretch out and head in improvisational (and not necessarily the same) directions. Westlake’s Soft Machine-ish ‘Saga of The Frozen Dog’ stalks the stage like a ravenous, rabid death march, it’s nearly 10-minute length providing Godding the perfect opportunity to test his sanity with howling stage pronouncements that ultimately morph into an improvisational shaggy (frozen) dog story, complete with barking effects! The show ends with a jazzy jam, ‘First Love Song’ that unfortunately fades off midsong, but what’s here is, perhaps, the most “West Coast”-styled track in the set, ending the evening with a pleasant Quicksilver Messenger Service aroma. “Have another hit,” indeed! An unusual recording in light of what the band had just recorded in the studio, Godding may have written the best review of the show (as well as one of the best descriptions of mentor, Captain Beefheart’s music in general) when he says, “they sounded like backwoods hillbillies meeting Howlin’ Wolf [whose ‘Smokestack Lightning’ is covered]…on the road to nowhere in the middle of a thunderstorm, getting pissed and…terrorising the neighbourhood!”


            The second disk offers excerpts from several European festivals, as well as a UK radio session, including a more manageable, three-minute version of “Frozen Dog” that, when compared to the Swedish version, amply illustrates how insane the band’s live shows could be! But the highlight is surely the visit by one Frank Zappa, who joined them onstage at the Amougies Festival in Belgium on October 26, 1969. Godding describes the shenanigans in gory detail in his liners, referring to the proceedings as “an onstage hootenanny of lick-swapping and general mayhem,” wherein Frank wandered onstage midset and attempted to teach that frozen dog new tricks. The crowd’s impatience over this “five minutes of getting nowhere” is rewarded with a 20-minute jam built around Ben E. King’s ‘Grooving’ that sends everyone home a little more confused than when they came in, but satisfied that they just witnessed something special, even if they’re not exactly sure what it was. (Jeff Penczak)



Galactic Ramble – Richard Morton Jack (editor)

(Foxcote Books)


            While comparisons will inevitably be drawn to its forebears like ‘The Tapestry of Delights’ and ‘The Mojo Collection’ (which Jack contributed to), ‘Galactic Ramble’ is unique in its presentation of contemporary reviews combined with retrospective analysis. Editor Jack and his crack panel of nine reviewers varying in qualifications from “fan” and “record collector” to esteemed authorities, David Wells and Patrick Lundborg (whose ‘Acid Archives’ was the direct inspiration for GR) offer over 500 pages of down-to-earth analyses of over 3,000 British albums. Living up to its haughty billing as “the fullest study of the 60s and 70s UK music scene ever published,” the reviewers venture beyond your standard “rock and roll” album reviews to cover entries in the pop, psych, prog, folk, blues, and jazz genres. Literally bursting with period adverts that are almost worth the price of admission alone, this is as close to an encyclopedia of British rock from the 60s and 70s as you are likely to find.


            The reviews are more didactic than dogmatic and many albums have multiple reviews, thus allowing readers to draw their own conclusions from occasionally widely varying opinions of the same release (e.g., check out the reviews for The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society!) Of course, no collection of 60s and 70s album reviews would be complete without the glorious artwork that adorned the album covers, and GR offers 16 pages of full-colour reproductions of nearly 400 albums. Another selling point is that these are not mere retreads from those Roger Dean/Hipgnosis’ ‘Album Cover Album’ books that made the rounds back in the 70s/80s. No siree, the spotlight here is on obscurities that have been overlooked by all those collections. Some of my eye-watering favourites include Marc Brierley’s Welcome To The Citadel, Brainchild’s eerie Healing Of The Lunatic Owl, Comus’ equally nightmarish First Utterance, the dizzy eponymous effort from Five Day Week Straw People, the surreal releases from Johnny Harris (Movements) and David Parker (self-titled), the amazing technicolour dreamworld of High Tide’s eponymous debut and their incredible Sea Shanties, both mouthwatering efforts from Kaleidoscope: Tangerine Dream and Faintly Blowing, and equally mind-blowing oddities from Thomas Yates (Second City Spiritual), Skip Bifferty (self-titled), Rainbow Ffolly (Sallies Fforth), and Second Hand (Death May Be Your Santa Claus).


            You will also appreciate the wonderful mix of the obvious and the obscure artists that are featured throughout, as well as each album’s precise release date and label/catalogue number. (You can check out the complete list of albums covered here.) For a book full of opinions, factual errors appear to be minimal from my extensive perusal of the reviews (I believe Poet and The One Man Band were named after a lyric in ‘Homeward Bound,’ not ‘Sound of Silence’), but with over 3,000 albums and nearly twice as many reviews, a few glitches are bound to work their way into the text. On the other hand, there are a few interesting faux pas’s in some of the original reviews, the classic perhaps being NME’s praise of Pink Floyd’s debut, with its reference to Muddy Waters’ [sic!] ‘Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk.’ I nearly wet meself over that one! While the remit covers releases from 1963-73, there are a few that slip past the deadline (the Stone’s reviews go up to Black and Blue, the Pink Floyd entry includes 1974’s Wish You Were Here, and Man’s 1977 All’s Well That Ends Well may be the most recent entry), but these work because they conveniently stop at the point by which these artists had, arguably, reached their sell-by date instead of leaving a classic album in the lurch simply because of its release date.


            I was also impressed with the variety of opinions offered for the “name” artists such as The Beatles, Kinks, Stones, Led Zeppelin, et. al. and found that the analyses of their initial releases put these works into a welcome historical perspective. (In that respect, kudos to Jack & Co. for not electing to simply include the artists’ discographical highlights at the expense of important developmental efforts.) Take the time to check out the thoughts on those initial Beatles, Stones, and Who releases while you’re comparing notes on the “classics” and you will find a veritable “history of rock and roll” at your fingertips. [Although deep praise indeed should be heaped upon Aaron Milenski’s revelatory opinions of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul/Revolver/Sgt Pepper’s triumvirate, and the collective reviews of The Kinks catalogue will probably have you rushing their seminal ‘65-’71 period back onto your turntables.] Also, the conversational tones of most of the reviews sound like someone transcribed a conversation down the local pub that rivals the arguments you’ve had with your mates over the relative merits of these offerings.


            It’s also fun to compare the contemporary reviews with the retrospective look-backs to see how differently critics “heard” an album back in the day. Melody Maker’s hyperbolic praise of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke’s The Worst Of as “one of the most enjoyable records of the year” is in stark contrast with Giles Hamilton’s assessment of the “dull, brassy AOR,” as is Record Mirror’s prediction that Donovan’s debut (What’s Been Did and What’s Been Hid) “should be at the top of the lists ere long,” while Jack suggests that it “isn’t a particularly original or interesting album.” And how about comparing Melody Maker’s original observation that Lennon’s Imagine is “the best album of the year and the best album he’s ever done with anyone at any time” (!) with Aaron Milenski’s more “honest assessment” that questions the “forgettable” songs and concludes it is, ultimately, “rather forgettable” and “critically overrated.” The book is full of such great conversation starters!


            True confessions dictate that I mention in passing that Jack is also the co-owner of the essential British reissue imprint, Sunbeam, and that almost (if not) all of their reissues are included, but they are welcome additions alongside all the expected entries for The Hollies, Van Morrison, Yes, Man, and Incredible String band reviews. Another unexpected treat is the various appendices featuring a collection of the editors’ favourite non-LPs and EPs (try finding that in any comparable compendium!), some fun lists to relieve the inherent academics (’10 Cool LPs from [Scotland]/[Wales]/[Ireland],’ ’10 Great Private Pressings,’ ‘Ten Great LPs by Teenagers,’ ’10 of the Best [Vertigo]/[deram]/[Decca]/[Harvest] Rarities,’ and, to wet the collector’s appetite, ’20 Major Label LPs That have Broken the £1000 Barrier on ebay,’ ’10 of the Hardest US LPs To Find as UK Pressings,’ and, simply, ’20 Genuinely Rare Major Label LPs.’ Toss in each editor’s personal recommendations of the top ten well known and lesser known entries in the book, along with ‘Top Ten Albums Beyond The Book’s Scope’ (i..e., punk, krautrock, US psychedelia and garage), and you have a veritable shopping list for building the perfect music library. There’s even a suggestion of “ten essential volumes for every music fan’s bookshelf,” to which I would add number 11, as this is truly something any fan of British music should add to their library. The clincher is the absolutely eye-opening collection of introductory essays from David Hitchock explaining everything from “How records got made” and “How bands got signed” to “How bands worked with producers” and “How demos got made.”


            Any musical analysis should start arguments, ruffle feathers, and ultimately generate re-evaluation of your own opinions and ‘Galactic Ramble’ will do just that, which is the ultimate sign of its success. (Jeff Penczak)



Various Artists – We All Love The Human Race

(Psychic Circle)


            Nick Saloman’s Fairytales Can Come True series of “uncomped tracks of a popsike nature” is so popular that he returns with the fourth volume, making this one of the most successful series from the Psychic Circle label that he curates. As with other volumes in the set, Saloman includes rare photos and detailed artist backgrounds in the liner notes accompanying the 8-page booklet. Saloman also has a wonderful habit of unearthing rarities from artists who went on to (or just came from) more successful (or at least, more well-known) acts, and early on we get the solo single from The End’s Colin Giffin, ‘Changes In Our Time’ that will be welcome by all fans of their cult, Bill Wyman-produced album, Introspection. The Projection are one of many British bands who were more successful on the continent, and ‘The Maze of Yesterday’ is, as Saloman writes, “a great slice of popsychness.” Los Iberos were one of Spain’s top acts and ‘Hiding Behind My Smile’ is an infectious Hollies-styled winner, with swirling brass backing and great harmonies.


            Sasha Caro was a Cat Stevens protégé, with the Cat appearing on (and producing) both singles he cut for Decca in 1967. ‘Little Maid’s Song’ is an intriguing story-song with flickering flute and organ embellishments that remind one favourably of early Moody Blues. Tim Andrews is the former lead singer of cult psychsters Fleur De Lys and Rupert’s People and his collaboration with Paul Korda, ‘Makin’ Love To Him’ verges on bubblegum, which is never a bad thing in my book! John Carter and Ken Lewis (The Ivy League) were a prolific pair of producers/performers/songwriters who penned a number of hits for The Flowerpot Men, First Class, Herman’s Hermits, The Music Explosion, et. al. The Haystack was another of their projects and ‘Letter To Josephine’ amply demonstrates their penchant for harmony-filled bursts of fluffy pop.


            The Eyes of Blue are another archival find that were one of the first bands for future Man rhythm section, John Weathers and Phil Ryan. ‘Heart Trouble’ is one of their catchy soul-inflected Deram singles before their move in a more progressive direction for Mercury. Cherry Smash’s ‘Movie Star’ is an unusual arrangement that mixes fuzz guitars with Beach Boys harmonies and melancholic, Scott Walker interludes! Sweden’s Ola & The Janglers may be familiar to fans of the Incredible Sound Show Stories series – they were one of Scandinavia’s most popular bands and their fuzzy romp through Paul Simon’s ‘We’ve Got A Groovy Thing Going’ is a fine example of their excellent interpretive skills. Dave Berry was another prolific performer who often benefitted from the guitar skills of one James Patrick Page, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t Jimmy pulling off the amazing solos and stringbending on  the 1968 Decca B-side, ‘Latisha.’ (Also, trainspotters may note that Saloman apparently missed this track’s appearance on Jagged Time Lapse Volume 5, so this is not a “previously uncomped” treasure like the rest of the tracks, but it’s a good ‘un, nevertheless.)


            The set wraps up with the same high quality that it began with via a few F-trumpet winners from Chris Andrews (‘Maker of Mistakes’ has a groovy instrumental track, but Andrews’ vocals leave a lot to be desired) and the Belgian quartet, Modus Vivendi, whose ‘Six Angels & Three Girls’ sounds like it was based on Jean-Joseph Mouret’s ‘Rondeau,’ which is most recogniseable as the theme from Masterpiece Theatre. The vocals are heavily accented, so I may be mishearing the lyrics when the singer talks of losing his virginity! Wayne Fontana may be the most popular name in the set, which may explain why Nick chose the track which gives the compilation its title. It’s a short blast of fluffy pop goodness that starts out like The Beatles’ ‘Michelle’ and then floats off into cumulous clouds of delight, with an infectious melody that remains long after Wayne’s vocals dissipate into the ionosphere. Plastic Penny was the original stomping ground of guitarist Mick Grabham (Cochise, Procol Harum), organist Paul Raymond (Chicken Shack) and Elton John’s future rhythm section, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson. Too bad Nick’s selection, ‘She Does’ is such a weak offering that verges on the painful end of prog rock. Supposedly, their other singles and albums were much better examples of the skills that went on to bigger and better things.


            (Note: It should be pointed out that this collection contains some of Psychic Circle’s weakest transfers and many of the 45s reveal the surface snap, crackle, and pop of the original vinyl they were copied from. But that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying them nevertheless.) (Jeff Penczak)



VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Electric Asylum Volume 2

(Past & Present)


            Twenty more British psychedelic, freakbeak rockers from the late 60s and early 70s (we reviewed Volume 1 in April] kicks off with Cats Eyes, whose hard-driving ‘The Wizard’ sounds like our dearly beloved Ethereal Counterbalance (“Rustic” Rod Goodway’s solo project) crossed with Ian Anderson’s swirling flutework! The enigmatic Buster Jangle’s Flying Mattress is a band lost to the ravages of time and even compiler, “Psychomania” (which may or not be s Nick Saloman pseudonym) admits he can find no info on the perpetrators behind the fine slice of insanity called ‘Love Has Taken Over My Brain.” A memorable band name and song title deserves to be resurrected from obscurity – maybe a member or two will read this and contact us? Both sides of J.C. Heavy’s ‘Mr. Deal’ single previously appeared on the obscure Pop In compilation (Bellaphon, 1970), but that’s so far out of print that it’s about time they were resurrected. The A-side is a particularly rough, punky screamer that highlights the generous pipes of Josephine Levine. There’s even a heavy (couldn’t resist that one!) organ solo, a la Deep Purple’s ‘Hush.’ The flip side (‘That Woman’s Mind’) wraps up the set, but is less memorable. [The band only released two singles and you can find both sides of their other release on Volume 1, which also features another track from Anglo-French rockers, Choc, whose ‘Time’ appears here.]


            Eastwood is another obscure gem of a band, whose ‘I Am Free’ features some excellent, swirling guitar solos, a fine, Stevie Winwood-styled vocal, and an instrumental coda that should keep punters busy for a few minutes trying to figure out which Led Zeppelin tune is trying to get out! Irish beat rockers, The Deep Set pull off an amazing version of Neil Young’ ‘Cinnamon Girl,’ featuring some amazing, finger-bleeding solos ol’ Neil would certainly be proud of. Occasional flute flourishes and some searing guitar solos highlight ‘Windmill,’ the lone psychedelic offering from the predominantly blues-based Steamhammer, while another Irish band (this comp includes more Irish bands than any other I’ve come across!), Magnet offers the original version of the epic, theatrical ‘Mr. Guy Fawkes,’ that you may recognise from Eire Apparent’s lone album – the author, Mick Cox was briefly deputised to substitute for the latter’s guitarist, Henry McCullough after he was arrested for drug offences during their Canadian tour supporting Hendrix.


            Now’s ‘People Are Standing’ is a late entry in the freakbeat catalogue, its 1973 release offering a political diatribe that describes “the bitterness of the times which would result in the three day week.” I also liked the folky psych (with some dreamy, ‘Riders on the Storm’-styled keyboard flourishes and Moody Blues-inspired harmonies) of The Treetops’ ‘Gypsy.’ Overall, the sound focuses on the “heavy” end of psychedelia (Cream, Hendrix, Deep Purple, Steppenwolf), so the ties to pure “freakbeat” are a tad tenuous (just as Volume 1 veered towards the “glammy” end of things) and I was a bit disappointed at the obvious use of the original singles as source material, but chances are most of the master tapes are probably long gone and this is about the only way to hear these long forgotten rarities. So listen past the occasional snap, crackle, and pop and enjoy some excellent examples of the (heavy) Freakbeat scene! (Jeff Penczak)




(45 from Battered Ornaments records)


Originally scheduled for a March release, but put back when work on the sleeve design by Luke Insect was delayed, in the immortal words of the Croz, this single ‘has been a long time comin’!

But it’s surely been worth the wait. Since the release of that 5-track CD EP late last year, which gathered up the band’s best recordings thus far, it’s been a pleasure to witness Wolf People’s subsequent progress as a live act. All the promise of that EP has found full bloom on this magnificent single.

As band leader Jack Sharp says: ‘the rhythm tracks we actually recorded in North London in the studio of a friend of ours, both tracks recorded in one day then overdubbed with guitars, flutes, vocals and harmonica at my house in Bedford and Joe’s place in Yorkshire. As normal the approach was to record everything we could think of, then whittle it down until we have something coherent. We’re very critical, there’s a lot of editing’.

A recent entry on their myspace site suggests this is the first Wolf People proper record, as Sharp explains: ‘what I mean by the first proper ‘Wolf People’ release is that it’s the first record where the whole band have worked together on every stage of the thing. It’s naturally evolved away from being a band that plays their version of my studio recordings into a band that writes and records together, a real band in the traditional sense, and I think we’re running out of these’.

With its insistent heavy guitar/flute riff ‘Tiny Circle’ will immediately transport you back a few decades and put some of you in mind of vintage Black Widow or those Mancunian sons of Tull, Gravy Train during their Vertigo period. It draws you instantly in. You can see why this is the top side – it has a certain catchy appeal, and in amongst all the Ross Harris’s tootie flootering there’s some fine toothsome guitar blasts from Jack Sharp, and Joe Holick whose playing particularly on slide just seems to get better and better.

However, it’s the flip, ‘Mercy II’ that carries the real lupine bite here – a dirty blues rave up with stuttering Magic Band rhythms (handled as ever with aplomb by Tom Watt, the group ‘s octopus-limbed drummer) and that tight driving beat that the band has made so much a part of its sound, this is a cracker – mysterious arcane lyrics, powerful bass guitar runs from Dan Davies and after the bridge, Sharp’s vocals get positively soulful especially when he repeatedly hollers ‘on this day’ as if his life depended upon it.

All in all this is pure dark, lycanthropic magic! Yet as was written in the annals of yore, this was how wolf people were playing then – but things change – don’t they? Flautist Harris is no longer a member of the band and as a four piece they’ve been coming along in leaps and bounds. I’ve staggered home from their shows more than once recently thinking we’ve finally found the true heirs to the early Man legacy! In September the band returns to Wales to the Dolwilym mansion grounds in Camarthenshire to record its first album –on this evidence, I’ve a feeling the best is yet to come.  (Nigel Cross)