Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pärson Sound (1968)

Inspired by minimalist composer Terry Riley, Pärson Sound was a 10-piece Swedish band who experimented with droning, repetitive jams. Their music is exceptionally dense, with huge guitar sound, bass, organ, flute, piano, saxophone, sparse vocals and drums by three different members. They also made use of tape manipulation, sometimes during live performances letting a tape pass two tape recorders, one tape recording and the other playing back with distortion, creating progressively layered noises and tones. Pärson Sound is not for those lacking patience for extended jamming, with two songs clocking in over 20 minutes—"Skrubba" nearly approaches half an hour—and no song under five minutes, besides the short intro. Although largely chaotic, repetitive and loud, Pärson Sound was also very capable of creating melodic pastorales. This becomes evident towards the end of "10 Minutes," as noisy jamming gradually segues—seemingly through the use of tape manipulation—into a pleasant baseline with airy vocals and nice chord changes. This lighter side of the band doesn't resurface again until the final two tracks of the album. The understated "On How to Live" consists of strummed acoustic guitar, flute and singing birds, while "Blaslaten" layers beautiful wind instruments and saxophone. One highlight of the album is the menacingly sparse "A Glimpse Inside The Glyptotec -66," which also makes use of tape manipulation. Ambient sounds dominate the track, but towards the end, haunting, breathy vocals close the song out on an eerie note. Pärson Sound would eventually change their name to International Harvester, releasing two albums, Sov Gott Rose-Marie—named for a song also included on Pärson Sound—in 1968 and Hemat in 1969. The more accessible and famous Träd, Gräs och Stenar would later form from the remaining members of International Harvester.

"10 Minutes"

Download Pärson Sound

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Amon Düül II - Yeti (1970)

Even though my familiarity with krautrock is vague at best, that won't stop me from proclaiming this to be one of the most innovative and genre-defining albums of the movement. Due to more ambitious musical aspirations, Amon Düül II grew out of Amon Düül, which was a radical, political and artistic commune founded in Munich. Yeti is their second album, which was originally released as a double album consisting of composed studio recordings on one record and improvisations on the other. The opening track "Soap Box Rock" sets the tone, first sounding like some standard garage rock but quickly transforming into dark, progressive rock with both far-out and melodic instrumental passages. The first half continues with some interesting instrumental pieces, the closest thing to typical rock music in "Archangels Thunderbird," and the intense "Eye-Shaking King." The second half improvisations are impressively tight, setting the standard for experimental music to come. Much of the improvisations—specifically "Sandoz in the Rain"—seem extremely influential to the modern day Japanese experimental commune,
Acid Mothers Temple. Male and female vocals are featured throughout the album, both of which are satisfyingly peculiar and distinct. Amon Düül II also make use of strings, which add another level of interest to their complex sounds. This release features two bonus tracks, "Rattlesnakeplumcake" and "Between the Eyes," but unfortunately the song "Pale Gallery" is missing three minutes of the original song. I guess it was cut short on most CD releases to keep it to one disc. Apparently the Captain Trips release features the full five minute version.

Fun fact: Apparently the chick on the cover brandishing that scythe was one of their groupies.

I just couldn't narrow it down to one song.

Check out this mind-altering performance of "Eye-Shaking King."

Download Yeti

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Laughing Soup Dish - We Are the Dish (1987) & "Teenage Lima Bean" single (1985)

As far as I know, this is the quintessential lo-fi psychedelic band of the 80s. With an abundance of catchy hooks, ridiculous psychedelic lead guitar, way far-out overdubs, self-consciously trippy lyrics, and a DIY garage rock grittiness, never has poorly recorded neo-psychedelia sounded so good. The Laughing Soup Dish formed in West Long Branch, NJ in 1981 as a three-piece headed by guitarist and vocalist, Wayne Larsen. The band was plagued with frequent inner turmoil, completing their debut album We Are the Dish after undergoing three lineup changes. The album was recorded on a four track reel to reel, which was then layered with two more tracks of sound effects. From 1987 to 1989, LSD (get the name now?) toured, which included shows in New York City with lights by Captain Wizzo, known for his lighting of Big Brother and the Holding Company shows and other San Francisco groups from the original psychedelic era. In 1989, they recorded their second album Overthrow the Underground, (if anyone can hook this up, please let me know!) which proceeded with even more internal conflict. The Laughing Soup Dish called it quits in 1992. This download contains We Are the Dish as well as the "Teenage Lima Bean" single, which includes the B-side "Rainy Day Sponge." Both of these tracks are on point and as good, if not better than the best tracks from We Are the Dish.

Listen to "Seven Seas" and "Teenage Lima Bean"

Watch the Laughing Soup Dish mime "Acidland" and make fun of Uncle Floyd's dumb hair (at 9:20) on the Uncle Floyd Show circa 1987:

The Laughing Soup Dish's myspace page

Download We Are the Dish & "Teenage Lima Bean" single

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nirvana- The Story of Simon Simopath (1967)

Generally speaking, I don't have a ton of patience for concept albums. I've found that, more often than not, they're overly self-indulgent, meandering messes. Either that or the concept gets totally lost on me. Or both. Likewise, I have a personal aversion to the term "twee", partly because it's gotten so worn-out but mostly because I don't like the way it sounds. Anyway, here's a twee concept album.

Nirvana was formed in 1967 by Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos who hail from Ireland and Greece respectively. Originally a six-piece, the band was eventually pared down to the two principal members along with assists from various session musicians. The Story of Simon Simopath was their first LP. The aforementioned concept of the album has to do with Simon Simopath wanting to fly and so he tries to get various things to give him their wings (angels, airplanes, etc.) and he ends up in outer space. Oh yeah, also love. Anyway, who really cares. The point is this album is pretty great from start to finish. Catchy tunes, solid melodies, lush instrumentation, and quasi-baroque arrangements more than make up for the occasionally quaint lyrical content. I'm not going to go into detail about each song or anything, the album's less than 25 minutes long, you should just listen to it.

1. Wings of Love
2. Lonely Boy
3. We Can Help You
4. Satellite Jockey
5. In the Courtyard of the Stars
6. You're Just the One
7. Pentecost Hotel
8. I Never Found a Love Like This
9. Take This Hand
10. 1999

Listen to "Pentecost Hotel"

Also, here's a video.

Download The Story of Simon Simopath

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Troyka (1970)

Troyka is a band which justifies our perilous questing across used record stores and spooky abandoned blogs. Although given a major label release (via Atlantic's then new Cotillion branch) Troyka's self-titled 1970 album remains obscure to say the least. Which is pity, because it's truly magnificent. Consisting of Mike Richards (percussion & lead vocals), Robert Edwards (guitar & mandolin) and Ron "Rumor" Lukawietsky (bass) and hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, these fine Canadian gents crafted this album out of a series of jam sessions overseen by Velvet Underground producer Shel Kagan.

This kind of record building can easily result in a schizophrenic end product, each song differing too greatly to give any semblance of cohesion. Though each song is different, ranging from growling biker stomp to lysergic pastorale, fortune favored the bold and the album holds together as a single solid entity. Singer Mike Richards has a "unique" voice but even if you don't warm to him, you'll still find plenty to enjoy, over half the tracks are instrumental.

This is from the 2000 CD reissue put out by Black Rose Records, and there's a bit of noticeable static and hiss in some of the silent sections, perhaps indicating a remastering from vinyl. But don't let that stop you! This is a lost classic.

1. Introduction
2. Natural
3. Early Morning
4. Life's OK
5. Burning of the Witch
6. Rub-A-Dub-Dub Troyka in a Tub
7. Troyka Lament
8. Troyka Solo
9. Rolling Down The Back Road
10. Berry Picking
11. Dear Margaret
12. Go East Young Man Beautiful Pink Eyes
13. Troyka Finale

Listen to Early Morning:

Troyka (1970) mp3 320 kbps

Monday, September 8, 2008

Crocheted Doughnut Ring/Doughnut Ring Singles

Thanks again to the It's Psych Forum, I give you a collection of singles from a band known as the Crocheted Doughnut Ring and apparently just the Doughnut Ring at some other point. I'm having trouble finding much information on them, so drop a comment if you can fill me in. A range of sounds can be heard throughout these eight tracks, including some perfectly crafted psych-pop, minimal-far-out-sound-
collage-type-shit, good old rock 'n' roll, a tune with some hispanic flavor and a "cool island song" (to melt your icy heart). The collection starts off with "Havana Anna" which is the cool island song I speak of. It's a catchy tune that has yet to grow old for me... definitely one of my favorites. Another stand out song is the ballad "Maxine's Parlour," although the highlight of the collection is the Crocheted Doughnut Ring's last two tracks. "Nice" is the sound collage, which is a pretty shocking listen considering it was created by a late 60s band with obvious ambitions to write pop songs. Although I'm pretty unfamiliar with musique concrète, I suspect it was heavily influenced by it as well as early electronic music. Modern lo-fi indie bands that get off on occasional experimental sound wish they could make this shit. Just when you think this band couldn't get any sweeter, "Nice" segues into "Two Little Ladies (Azalea & Rhododendron)." Packed with catchy melodies, tinkering harpsichord, swirling psychedelic effects, and frequent shifts in tempo, "Two Little Ladies (Azalea & Rhododendron)" epitomizes 60s psych-pop. I find the song very reminiscent of the Idle Race's debut album Birthday Party, which is no small compliment. The two Doughnut Ring tracks don't excite me quite as much, but I still get dibs on sampling the first eight seconds of "Dance Around Julie." In case you were wondering, that's not the real artwork.

Update: Check the comments of this post for some detailed information about the Crocheted Doughnut Ring/Dougnut Ring.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gilberto Gil - Gilberto Gil (Frevo Rasgado) 1968

Former political exile and current Brazilian Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil was also — in the interest of this blog — one of the original tropicalistas. Along with Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé and Gal Costa, Gil was a pioneer of the short-lived, albeit highly influential, Tropicália movement. Gil's second album (subtitled Frevo Rasgado), recorded in 1968 during the height of the protest movement against the recently installed military government, is deceptively upbeat. And while my understanding of Portuguese is very limited, songs like "Marginália II" reference the end of the world and I'm pretty sure "Domingo no Parque" is about someone getting murdered in a park. Anyway, politics and pessimism aside, this album is extremely enjoyable. Gil pulls from all types of sources including, but not limited to, native styles such as bossa nova and samba, as well as ideas gleaned from British psychedelia and good old fashioned American rock'n'roll (check the "Hang on Sloopy" reference in "Pega a Voga, Cabeludo"). The product is ultimately something altogether unique. Os Mutantes also make an appearance on the album, as they often did live (see: "Domingou"). Full of upbeat numbers, there are some slow burners like "Pé da Roseria," as well as the obligatory (yet totally dope) freak out "Questão de Ordem " which foreshadows some of Gil's more experimental work to come. Polyrhythmic percussion— see: "Marginália II", "Ele Falava Nisso Todo Dia" "Procissão" — and some deftly arranged strings (reportedly courtesy of Tropicália's resident composer/arranger Rogério Duprat) are the highlight of this album. Long story short, this joint has become one of my favorite albums if for no other reason than the fact that it's so fun to listen to (see: novel idea). While Gil's next album, Gilberto Gil (Cérebro Eletrônico), may be considered more "psychedelic", it's not (in my opinion) as consistently entertaining as this release.

For those of you interested in the Tropicalismo movement and the conditions that produced it, check out Caetano Veloso's Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil

For those of you interested in YouTube, check out:

Listen to "Domingou":

Download Gilberto Gil (Frevo Rasgado)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Always Blue Society Compilation Vol. 4

My fourth and possibly last compilation. I'll be bringing in two new contributors soon, so I'm considering doing away with compilations for now... maybe not. Anyhow, this compilation alternates between British and American psychedelia from the late 60s. I think it's pretty enjoyable.

1. Tomorrow - "Real Life Permanent Dream"
2. Strawberry Alarm Clock - "Birds in My Tree"
3. The Tremeloes - "Suddenly Winter"
4. The Electric Prunes - "The Great Banana Hoax"
5. Les Fleur De Lys - "Circles"
6. T.I.M.E. - "Tripping Into Sunshine"
7. The Smoke - "My Friend Jack" (Demo Version)
8. The Smoke [US] - "Gold Is The Colour Of Thought"
9. Forever Amber - "The Dreamer Flies Back"
10. The Millennium - "It's You"
11. The End - "Cardboard Watch"
12. Moon - "I Should Be Dreaming"
13. Idle Race - "Hurry Up John"
14. Love - "! Que Vida !"

Download The Always Blue Society Compilation Vol. 4

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Electric Prunes - Underground (1967)

This is the second album by the Los Angeles based psychedelic/garage rock/pop group the Electric Prunes. Although it never did as well as their debut record, which included their hit song "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)," it has since become regarded as a classic album of the 60s psychedelic era. While the Prunes did play the majority of the music on their first two records, most of their material was not penned by the band. Producer Dave Hassinger was too busy to contribute much to the recording of Underground due to his success from the previous singles and debut, which allowed the band to write five of the twelve songs on the album. Underground consists of a range of styles that come together to create a strangely cohesive album. The sporadic psych-pop of "The Great Banana Hoax" and "Wind-Up Toys" somehow manages to lead into the tongue-in-cheek country of "It's Not Fair" and the downright strange "Dr. Do-Good." There are a number of solid pop songs like "Children of Rain," "I Just Happen To Love You" and "Antique Doll" that help tie everything together. Psychedelic sounds and textures are abundant throughout Underground, which take otherwise good songs to new levels. It's this attention to detail that has secured Underground and the Prunes' legacy in psychedelic history. Who knows what they could have tapped into had they stuck together and gained full creative control.

Download Underground

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Couple of Singles from 45s

As an admitted conformist to the digital age of music, I've had difficulty getting into 60s psychedelic singles and 45s. iTunes can seem so cluttered filled with tons of single songs by obscure bands. So now I'm finally starting to venture into this territory and have came across some pretty amazing stuff already.

The Gordian Knot - Broken Down Ole Merry-Go-Round

My intentions of posting singles is to showcase the work of groups who didn't release albums. As it turns out, Gordian Knot did release an album in '68, but I've just been so into this song that I can't help but put it out here. I love how this song naturally eases from a somber verse to a cheery chorus. There's some great lead guitar that compliments the vocals and harmonies beautifully. In the middle of the song, it deviates into a weird, carnival-esque bridge. I don't really feel this as much as the rest of the song, but it's amusing enough. If you're dying for information on the Gordian Knot, here's a write-up on

The Mass - Without You

I'm having trouble finding solid information on this band. This article might be about them, but I'm not sure. If anyone can confirm or disprove this, it would be appreciated. Anyhow, "Without You" is a pretty straightforward R&B tune with great guitar, drums and vocals. It's just an all around good song... nothing more, nothing less.

Much thanks to Sir Psych and others from The It's Psych Forum for posting 45s.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Moon - Without Earth and the Moon (1968/1969)

This is a CD release that features psych-pop supergroup Moon's two albums, Moon Without Earth and Moon. Moon was most remembered for featuring ex-Beach Boy David Marks on lead guitar. At just 14, Marks filled in for Al Jardine who left the Beach Boys to attend dental school. After leaving the group around the age of 16, he formed two bands prior to the formation of Moon, including Dave & the Marksmen and Band Without a Name. Marks would form Moon with pianist/vocalist Mathew Moore who wrote most of Moon's songs. Bassist David P. Jackson and drummer/producer Larry Brown completed the line-up, although bassist Andy Bennet played on Moon and session drummer Jim Keltner contributed as well. The band actually moved into Continental Recorders in Hollywood and recorded Moon Without Earth in 1968 and Moon in 1969 for Imperial. Marks has since admitted that they recorded both albums under the influence of LSD. Moon would disband sometime shortly after the release of these albums, neither of which had any successful singles. Although relatively unheard at the time of their release, they have since become favorites of psychedelic collectors. Both albums are composed of catchy tunes with dense instrumentation, liberal use of vocal harmonies and occasional psychedelic effects. Moon is less focused on creating psychedelic sounds as the debut, and more focused on pure songwriting. I tend to prefer their debut for this reason, although Moon is a quality album nonetheless. This release also features five bonus tracks, three of which are recordings of Matthew Moore Plus Four.

Download Without Earth and the Moon

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Les Fleur De Lys - Reflections (1965-69)

This is a compilation of the British mod-psychedelic band, Les Fleur De Lys. Besides drummer Keith Guster, the band's lineup was in constant flux. Forming in Southhampton, Hampshire in 1964, they released a cover of Buddy Holly's "Moondreams" produced by Jimmy Page, which never took off leading to every one but Guster leaving. Guster revived the band with some musicians from London and released a cover of the Who's "Circles" which was also produced by Jimmy Page. Combining catchy hooks, driving rhythm guitar, and ridiculous psychedelic lead guitar, "Circles" is what Les Fleur De Lys is most remembered for today. Despite it's accessibility, the single flopped. The band then picked up a new lead vocalist in Chris Andrews, who had been a child actor that worked in the 1964 production of Oliver in London. They were signed by Polydor in 1966 but more lineup changes ensued and they became a three piece. Soon a young female vocalist named Sharon Tandy joined the band and they toured Holland with Aretha Franklin. After working on a short lived project called Rupert's People with guitarist Rod Lynton, Chris Andrews left the band and they became a three-piece again. They continued to release singles and began working on an album for Polydor that never surfaced. By 1969, the band disbanded for good. Reflections captures the various phases and styles Les Fleur De Lys explored. There's some classic mod-psychedelia, straight up pop like "Stop Crossing The Bridge," and more ambitious rock songs like "Liar." I also enjoy the compilation for it's mixture of male and female vocals.

Download Reflections

Sunday, May 25, 2008

T.I.M.E. - Time & Smooth Ball (1968/1969)

T.I.M.E. (Trust In Men Everywhere) were a 60s band from Los Angeles that combined pop, blues, and psychedelia. This is a CD release that includes their self-titled debut and it's follow-up, Smooth Ball. Originally known as The Hardtimes, T.I.M.E. featured future Steppenwolf guitarist Larry Byrom as well as bassist Nick St. Nicholas on Time. Recorded in 1968, T.I.M.E.'s self-titled album is a more poppy record than Smooth Ball. Although there are many psychedelic elements like fuzz guitar and mild acid leads, Time is more pop than psychedelia. With Smooth Ball, T.I.M.E. became more ambitious with longer songs, less straightforward pop, and an overall heavier sound. Lead guitar plays a much larger role with frequent acid lead guitar by William Richardson and Larry Byrom prominently mixed. New bassist Richard Tepp also adds to the heavier sound of Smooth Ball. The connection to Steppenwolf becomes more apparent on this record as well, with occasional "Magic Carpet Ride"-esque organ. Despite remaining relatively unknown, both T.I.M.E. albums have their own brand of the late 60s West Coast sound.

Download Time & Smooth Ball

Psychedelia Alive in Iowa

So I've been a little slow to post on here with graduation, trying to find a job, and generally trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing with my life. But don't worry, I still have plenty in store and don't plan on letting the Always Blue Society die a slow, neglected death. Anyhow, I've been meaning to write an entry about my recent trip to Iowa City. I went to visit my friend Chris and see Dead Meadow at a venue called the Picador and ended up encountering some great musicians from Davenport, Iowa. The Picador had an all-day event going on which included a craft fair, record swap, and live music.
As a basketball fan, I was surprised to come across a screen printed T-Shirt with a hilarious drawing of Lakers legend Kurt Rambis, as well as four basketball themed postcards from a separate stand. The Rambis shirt was done by a dude named Andrew who runs a screen printing business called the Kitchen Press. There was music throughout the craft fair, which is where I saw a duo named Johnnie and Bambi from Davenport who go by the Quiet Bears. They played a set of enjoyably melodic folk and happened to be super cool folk as well. I'm really feeling the song "We Are All Legend" from their myspace profile. Johnnie from the Quiet Bears also played drums in another great Davenport band called Mondo Drag, who opened for Dead Meadow. Mondo Drag played droned-out, heavy riff rock that made for a very appropriate opening act for Dead Meadow. I managed to get a copy of their album Holy Spirit at the show, which I highly recommend. Another opening act for Dead Meadow was a 60s psych-pop throwback group from Jersey City called the Black Hollies, who put on an impressive set. I got a copy of their album Casting Shadows, which I also recommend. Check out the song "Whispers Beneath the Willows" on their myspace for an idea of how authentic these guys sound. Of course, Dead Meadow put on an amazing set. If you haven't seen them live yet, do yourself a favor and go see them the next opportunity you have. I guess that's about all the plugs I've got from that trip. Thanks again to Chris and Skye for letting me stick around Iowa City for close to a week.

Alright, back to posting some albums.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Tremeloes - What A State I'm In: The Psych Pop Sessions

Formed back in 1958, the Tremeloes are one of the most overlooked British pop bands of the 60s. Signed by Decca in favor of the Beatles in 1962, the Tremeloes and Beatles would fight for position on the British charts from the early to mid 60s. Most of their hits were covers of popular R&B and rock and roll songs as they didn't write the majority of their material. In 1965, lead singer Brian Poole would leave the band and they were dropped by Decca when their cover of Paul Simon's "Blessed" failed to chart. A friend who left Decca managed to have them signed to CBS, which helped them reclaim success. At the end of the decade, they reached the peak of their stardom with their album Here Comes the Tremeloes charting in Britain and the US. In 1970, they attempted to become a more serious band with the release of their album Master. It ultimately failed after they called their fans "silly suckers" for listening to their older pop music. What A State I'm In collects their most psychedelic work from the 60s and it's a hell of a compilation. It's packed with some amazing psych-pop and there are a few really great instrumental tracks, including the raucous opener, "Hard Time." All of the instrumentation is superb, particularly the lead guitar of Rick West, who was known for perfecting the use of fuzztone guitar in concert. They were also great vocalists, with harmonies that rival the Beatles' best work.

Download What A State I'm In: The Psych Pop Sessions

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Smoke - High In A Room - The Smoke Anthology

Hailing from York, England, the Smoke formed from members of Tony Adams & the Viceroys and the Moonshots. After shortening the name to the Shots, they began to pursue a different sound from their R&B roots, which lead to their rhythm guitarist leaving and their financing being cut. In a tight spot, they hooked up with twin brother entrepreneurs, Ron and Reg Kray. The Kray brothers turned out to actually be gangsters that have since become famous in England. There's even a movie about them called The Krays. The Shots abandoned their deal with the Krays, which led to an injunction that withheld them from performing. Luckily they still had a publishing and recording contract with EMI, so they focused on recording. During this time, they changed their name to the Smoke and recorded their most famous single, "My Friend Jack." Unfortunately, the drug references were so blatant that EMI made them rewrite the song. The lyrics changed from, "My friend Jack eats sugar lumps / Oh what beautiful things he sees!" to "My friend Jack eats sugar lumps / Sugar man hasn't got a clue." Pretty fucking lame. It made it to number 45 on the UK charts but was banned by the BBC after three weeks. It became a big hit in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, which led to their relocation to Germany and the release of their album, It's Smoke Time. After they refused to return to England to record, the band parted ways. In the 70s, bassist Zeke Lund created a new version of the Smoke that's sound was much different than the mod-psychedelic pop of the original Smoke. Disc 1 of High In A Room is the work of the original Smoke, while Disc 2 collects the works of the second version. Disc 2 has some pretty strange shit, particularly "Sweet Wilfred-A Rodent of Note" which is about a homosexual rat...seriously. The songs are all pretty different, though many are attempts at glam rock. Last off, I must say that the cover of this anthology is amazing.

By the way, this post marks the Always Blue Society's first birthday.

Download High In A Room

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A little shout out to my bro...

Check out this animated music video by my brother Mike L. Mayfield (as referenced in my previous post) of the Citizens Against Safety Goggles created for WHY? of Anticon Records. The song is called "Song Of The Sad Assassin" from the new WHY? album, Alopecia. The video is an exciting first-person, underwater adventure with frequent materializations of an animated Yoni Wolf of WHY? It's currently featured on Pitchfork's front page under the "Forkcast" section.

Watch the video on Pitchfork
Visit Mike L. Mayfield's youtube channel

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Smoke [US] (1968)

Not to be confused with the British psychedelic band of the same name, the Smoke was a one-off studio group headed by producer/musician Michael Lloyd (weird, that's my brother's first and middle name!). Lloyd's vast exposure to the LA music industry was at an early age, signing a publishing deal at only 13 after meeting producer Kim Fowley. He was in an early version of the West Coast Art Experimental Band and wrote and produced for the LA pop group October Country. The name October Country was actually derived from a song penned by Lloyd that appears on The Smoke. Fowley introduced Lloyd to enterntainment mogul Mike Curb who gave him many production jobs. Curb was so impressed by Lloyd that he let him freely use his Hollywood Boulevard Studios for six months. It was during this time that Lloyd recorded The Smoke's sole album. It was completed with Stan Ayeroff (a founding member of Oingo Boingo) on guitar and Steve Baim on drums. This same lineup had previously been a band called the Laughing Wind. Clocking in under 30 minutes, the album is highly concentrated American psych-pop at it's best. The instumentation is dense and the songwriting and arrangements are also impressive. Although very original, Brian Wilson's influence can be heard in "Self-Analysis" and several moments on the album strike me as very Zombies-esque.

Download The Smoke

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Millenium - Begin (1968)

From what I've heard of the sunshine pop of the 60s, the Millennium's Begin could very well be the pinnacle of the genre. The Millennium was a studio supergroup headed by producer Curt Boettcher, who was known for his work with the Association. He formed the group while recording Present Tense, an album by producer Gary Usher's very similar studio pop supergroup, Sagittarius. This would be the Millennium's sole album, as it proved to be too strange for pop radio, yet too pop for underground radio. Begin is song after song of carefully crafted pop with dense instrumentation and ridiculously good melodies and harmonies. This shit will be stuck in your head for weeks, but in a good way. The production is extremely impressive, sounding polished but not overwhelmingly so. There are many psychedelic moments in the album, but it is definitely a pop record first and foremost. "Karmic Dream Sequence #1" is probably the most far out song on the record and it is pulled off well, sounding like a milder version of S.F. Sorrow-era Pretty Things. One of the best moments of the album comes right at the start with "Prelude." Innocent harpsichord chimes away and is suddenly interrupted by a nasty drum beat that sounds like a sampled jazz breakbeat from some 90s hip hop. It's definitely an unexpected way to start the record.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Forever Amber - The Love Cycle (1969)

Forever Amber was a young, British six piece pop band that lacked the money and resources to make it big. Apparently, only 99 copies of their sole album The Love Cycle were manufactured to avoid tax. Originally known as the Country Cousins, they changed their name to Forever Amber in response to the rise of psychedelia in 1967. Although The Love Cycle is meant to be a cohesive story about the stages of a blossoming relationship that ultimately goes sour, the sound of the record is largely inconsistent. Throughout the album, there are five different lead vocalists and the band flounders between stereotypical love songs and far out psychedelic pop. While I heavily favor the more psychedelic cuts like "The Dreamer Flies Back" and "Better Things Are Bound To Come," I still appreciate many of the poppy songs that dominate the album. They're full of nice harmonies, tinkering harpsichord, and catchy organ. Unfortunately, most of the drumming sounds like someone who started playing a week before the recordings. Despite The Love Cycle's flaws, it still remains an important pop album from the psychedelic era, especially considering the circumstances it was made under.

Here's the themes of the stages of the album:

The Meeting:
1. Me oh My
2. Silly Sunshine

The Talking:
3. Bits of Your Life, Bits of My Life
4. For a Very Special Person
5. The Dreamer Flies Back
6. Misunderstood
7. Better Things Are Bound To Come

The Walk Home:
8. On a Night In Winter

The Joy:
9. On Top of My Own Special Mountain
10. Mary (the Painter)
11. All the Colours of My Book

The Doubt:
12. Going Away Again

The Sorrow:
13. A Chance to Be Free

The Scorn:
14. I See You As You Used to Be

The Grief:
15. Letters From Her
16. My Friend

Download The Love Cycle

The End - Introspection (1969)

The End were a band that epitomized British psychedelia but never gained the attention they deserved. Formed in 1965 by Dave Brown and Colin Giffin of the defunct beat group the Innocents, the End managed to tour with the Rolling Stones through their friend and Stones' bassist, Bill Wyman. Wyman would later produce their first and only record, Introspection. The band survived several lineup changes throughout their existence, but in 1968 when Colin Giffin and drummer Hugh Attwooll left, they eventually became a more progressive band called Tucky Buzzard. What the fuck type of band name is that? The release of Introspection was delayed for over a year because of an ugly fall out between the Stones and record executive, Allen Klein. Instrospection is a favorite of mine, although I've always thought it's production was a bit too sleek. I recently came across some of their earlier material, which shows a bit of their R&B roots and has a satisfyingly rougher sound. I'll post it sometime or another.

"Cardboard Watch" from the Spanish film, Un, Dos, Tres, Al Escondite Ingle's

Download Introspection

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pink Floyd - "Astronomy Domine"
Live on Look of the Week in 1967

Nice beatboxing by Syd Barret.
That dude Hans Keller is a dick.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Strawberry Alarm Clock - Incense and Peppermints (1967)

Strawberry Alarm Clock is one of the most underrated American bands from the psychedelic era, largely due to the hippie image created by their self-consciously trippy name and hit song, "Incense and Peppermints." Granted that many of the songs from Incense and Peppermints contain stereotypical hippie lyrics, the arrangements, instrumentation, and vocals are so impressive that it's endearing rather than annoying. Incense and Peppermints has a wide array of instrumentation including excellent psychedelic lead guitar, harpsichord, flute, keyboards, organs, and other exotic instruments. The vocal harmonies also add to the rich sound of the album. They began as a group called Sixpence from Glendale, California in the mid-60s and would endure numerous line-up changes throughout this time and during the recording of Incense and Peppermints as well. Around the time that they released their first single, "The Birdman of Alkatrash" with "Incense and Peppermints" as the B-Side, they changed their name to Strawberry Alarm Clock. "The Birdman of Alkatrash" failed as a single while "Incense and Peppermints" took off on the radio and became a #1 hit in November of '67. Although Strawberry Alarm Clock enjoyed some success with the release of Incense and Peppermints, from that point on they would be plagued by negligent management and pressure to compromise their sound.

"Incense and Peppermints" from the film Psych-Out with Jack Nicholson pretending to play guitar

"Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow" from Psych-Out

Download Incense and Peppermints

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Vince Collins' Psychedelic Animations

Animation funded by the United States Information Agency for America's Bicentennial from 1975

"Malice in Wonderland"
This is definitely the scariest, trippiest shit I've ever seen.

Animated film for the song "Life is Flashing Before Your Eyes"
I can't figure out who did this song, but it's pretty sweet.

"It Depends On Your Perspective" from Sesame Street

This is some of the most amazing animation I've ever seen. He has new videos on his myspace page that I've yet to watch, but apparently they're digital and not as sweet. His "About Me" is pretty hilarious, though.

Vince Collins' Myspace Page

Peter Max's Psychedelic Television Commercials

Movie refreshment ad

American Cancer Society ad

7-Up ad from 1968

7-Up ad from 1970

I accidentally came across these psychedelic animated television ads by artist Peter Max, and I must say it's some of the sweetest shit I've ever seen in my life. I only know a little about Peter Max so I'm gonna spare the effort of writing anything about him and just throw up a wikipedia link instead.

Peter Max wikipedia entry

More Psychedelic Sampling

The Electric Prunes - Holy Are You

The Electric Prunes were a psychedelic garage band from Los Angeles, CA, but by 1968 they had been completely transformed into a project run by composer David Axelrod (pictured above) and producer Dave Hassinger. Their two albums from 1968, Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath, combined rock and classical music with heavy religious content. This song is from Release of an Oath.

Quasimoto - Return of the Loop Digga

Quasimoto is a project by producer/DJ/MC, Madlib. The music is heavily sampled, tripped-out hip hop with rapping by Madlib and his alter-ego Quasimoto, which is Madlib rapping with an altered, high-pitched voice. This song is from The Unseen, which is the first of the two Quasimoto albums.

Madlib's sample from "Holy Are You" occurs at about the 1:06 mark. In "Return of the Loop Digga," the sample appears at about the 2:02 mark after Quasimoto says, "Yo Madlib! Yo! I know you comin' with all this other shit man, but I want you to hit 'em with that raw shit right about now. You know whatcha gotta do." This is a great example of the potential to recontextualize music through sampling. Madlib takes a loop of David Axelrod's religious, orchestral production and turns into a raw, hip hop beat...and a peculiar one at that.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Love - Da Capo (1967)

Following their self-titled debut, Love expanded to a seven-piece for their second album, Da Capo. The first side of the record contains some of the finest American psychedelia ever recorded while the second side contains a 19-minute jam entitled "Revelation." It isn't a bad song by any means, but had Love invested as much effort and thought into the second side of the record as they did on the first, Da Capo could have been as great of a classic as their following record, Forever Changes. Regardless, Da Capo remains an important album because Arthur Lee's songwriting had begun to blossom, hinting at the greatness he would soon achieve. It also contains their only Top 40 hit, the fast-paced, pre-punk, "Seven & Seven Is." The instrumentation of the album is an impressive blend of psychedelic lead guitar, harpsichord, horns and flute. After Da Capo was released, apparently the band was on the verge of collapsing due to heavy drug use and internal conflicts. When they started recording their third album, there was so much turmoil that Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean would have sessionmen backing them on their respective songs. Luckily, they were eventually able to get together and record their undisputed masterpiece, Forever Changes, but this lineup would unfortunately break up in early 1968.

Fun Fact: Mick Jagger admits that "She Comes In Colors" was the inspiration for "She's A Rainbow" from Their Satanic Majesties Request.

Download Da Capo