"Love, Peace, & Poetry"
This now seven-strong compilation series, curated by uber-collector Stan Denski and others, is so refreshingly great because unlike many compilations of rare, vintage psychedelia, these include cuts not chosen simply by virtue of their obscurity. Rather, each Love, Peace, & Poetry volume succeeds in making available some of the strangest and most uniquely appealing creations from psychedelic scenes across the globe. Sure, many of these records would still be considered fetish items among the elite, but Denski and company have other motives. Listening to this series, I am never bored by the generic, run-together psych that often fills completist-aimed collections. Seasoned collectors will no doubt be surprised as well by the variety and remoteness of Denski's picks. The series' title, though, says it all; these discs want nothing more than to proffer a dose of that decades-old psychedelic intoxication, available in thrilling, nostalgia-free abundance through every minute of these compilations. - Andrew Culler
The volume covering Brazilian psychedelic music is one of my two favorites from the series, due in part to the healthy influence of the Tropicalia sound, popularized by groups like Os Mutantes. The majority of the bands incorporate the complex rhythms and unique vocal intonations of Tropicalia, applying them to brilliant appropriations of British and American rock styling. Os Brazões' "Tão Longe De Mim" is a perfect example, with exquisite, laconic fuzz spread across the shuffling latin beat and rapid-fire Portuguese vocals. A Bolha's "Um Passo a Frente" takes an approach firmly rooted in Beatlesque pop, but with Tropicalia's abrupt changes helping the song span a good five years of the Fab Four's career. As always, Denski has selected tracks with the catchiest of hooks and the most interesting of juxtapositions. Assim Assado's "Lunatica," translating as "Thus Baked," could be a melange of the Allman Brothers' bright melodic sense and a fuzzy, bass-driven funk that trades blows with brilliantly treated vocals. Also, the inclusion of oddball rarities from Módulo 1000 and Sound Factory provides evidence of more than just happy days and sunshine in Brazil, these songs evoking the grungy end of an acid trip rather than love, peace, or poetry.
A Bolha - Razao de Existir
Assim Assado - Lunatica
Sound Factory - Let's Go
My second favorite is the volume devoted to Asian psych, notable for the endlessly fascinating way in which bands from Asia, the Pacific Rim, and the Middle East sift through, and reinterpret Western pop styles. Without a dominant ethos like Tropicalia, these Asian groups were involved in more direct referencing of popular British and American music, their deviations from Western ways made all the more charming in their subtlety. Several of the songs are covers of 1960s classics, and many groups sport hilarious quasi-Western names, the best being a Japanese artist named Justin Heathcliff. The music ranges from the driving, straight-rocking psych of Erkin Koray and San Ul Lim, Turkish and Korean artists whose tracks are irresistible by merit of their locally colored vocals alone, to Heathcliff's utterly straight-faced and gorgeous take on British folk psychedelia, "You Know What I Mean." 3 Hür-El's "Gönül Sabreyle Sabreyle" distills everything great from the Cream songbook, even with a crazy guitar sound, comparable to Clapton's had he ever strapped on a sitar. Some of the best songs, however, oddly owe very little to the more typical, driving psych sound. The Quest's "26 Miles" apes sugary 50s pop, made psychedelic by the bed of distorted guitar and druggy beach sounds filling the gaps; the track from Turkish group Mogollar, though, is the disc's real joy. The simple song follows a single, meandering guitar, dipping undistorted into a loping tabla beat and sounding more akin to the Durutti Column than anything I've heard on a psych record before, one more brilliant discovery.
San Ul Lim - It Was Probably Late Last Summer
Justin Heathcliff - You Know What I Mean
Mogollar - Katip Arzvhalim Yaz Yare Böyle
Like that of Brazil, Mexican psychedelic music was, for a long time, an act of political defiance. Lacking a dominant model like Tropicalia, however, Mexican musicians relied more heavily on the precedents in American rock music from Chuck Berry to the Doors, coating their songs with a layer of urgency unequaled by any other scene. Most of these tracks are organ heavy, full of reverb-drenched guitars and gruff, shouted vocals, psych that is full of life, created often literally in the face of death. The Kaleidoscope's "Hang Out" could be a pleasant Doors-ian meditation on an innocent topic; instead it's peppered by the sounds of bombs exploding and strangled vocals, delivering lines like "I don't mind if you die/ Hang out!" La Revolución de Emilano Zapata's "En Medio de la Lluvia" is a tortured, redemptive anthem, made overwhelming by an incredible Latin-tinged guitar lead, my favorite guitar moment outside of the Japanese volume of Love, Peace & Poetry. The Mexican volume is certainly the place to find the most hard-rocking, stripped down, and darkest psych. From the hidden garage treasures of The Survival's "World is a Bomb" and La Fachada de Piedra's "Roaming," to the Hendrix worship of Three Souls in My Mind (a band admittedly "not about hippie ideals"), this comp provides an excellent companion to the sunwashed Brazilian volume.
The Kaleidoscope - Hang Out
La Fachada de Piedra - Roaming
La Revolución de Emilano Zapata - En Medio de la Lluvia
In representing a scene long-since pillaged for lost gold, the British volume wisely sticks to canonized examples of the country's psychedelic underground. While this may disappoint collectors, it's perfect for the average listener and includes some of the best 60s/70s rock I have heard. The bands included wear the influences of the Beatles, Procol Harum, and Love in no subtle way, but wear them well. Gary Walker & the Rain's epic "Magazine Woman" actually improves Harrison's Revolver-era formula by adding a skull-shaking guitar drone to the mix. Other near-classics included are Dark's "Maypole," with its driving, kraut-ish groove and fanciful lyrics mentioning Michael Caine, and Tony, Caro & John's folkpsych landmark "There Are No Greater Heroes." The unlikely treasures of the disc, though, are a songs of outsider musicians Forever Amber and Oliver. The former's "The Dreamer Flies Back" is a brilliant slice of sunny, childlike pop, glazed over by layer upon layer of guitar noise that is either well ahead of its time or the result of poor transfer from the private press original, though fascinating either way. Oliver's "Telephone" also sounds a bit out of place here. More in line with the experiments of bands like Faust, the song combines sinuous acoustic guitar lines, pseudo-ethnic chanting, wah wah screech, and tribal percussion in a acid-damaged stew that, like all Love, Peace, & Poetry, is as delicious today as ever before.
Gary Walker and the Rain - Magazine Woman
Dark - Maypole
Forever Amber - The Dreamer Flies Back
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