Friday, April 21, 2017

Miss Butters Et Al

Early Psychedelic Music goes back to The Mothers and The Beach Boys, to The Byrds and ultimately to the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow. There are a myriad of others, such as the aforementioned Psychedelic Psoul, but for a wonderful taste of the genre, some of it kitschy (like The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds), some of it overlooked, hit up youtube for a sampling. Here are some favorites:

The Chocolate Watchband's The Inner Mystique: sun-drenched psychedelia for a sun-drenched spring day. Listenable and bursting with synesthesia, like biting into a juicy acid-laced orange on a hot summer's day and jumping into a swimming pool. Moving just a tad out of the garage punk of No Way Out to get a sniff of the flowers in the air, The Inner Mystique has a more flowery feel to it; the vocalist a dead ringer for Mick Jagger on She’s a Rainbow, the band here pushes the envelope a bit and are better off for it.

Come and Have Some Tea With The Tea Company  is one of the strangest 60s artifacts. Tracks range from the power-pop of "Flowers" (which dissolves into eight minutes of noise), to the campy "As I Have Seen You Upon the Wall" (the subject of which is , uh, tea theft), to two rants about the misunderstood hippie generation ("Make Love, Not War", and "Love Could Make the World Go 'Round", the latter of which is [unintentionally?] hilarious) to a version of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" that is almost identical to Vanilla Fudge, and finally "Don't Make Waves," which consists of a minute and a half of water sound effects.  

Even with their Peter Max influenced album jacket and Magical Mystery influences, The Moon orbited virtually unnoticed, delivering spacey soft-pop psychedelic arrangements, where fuzzed out distorted acid-laced guitars, shimmering backward cymbals, and outstanding harmonies melded into melodic melodies dripping with intoxication, over which lyrically echoing visions sought to convey an actual LSD experience.  As good as it all sounds, The Moon Without Earth, with its fragile beauty, never managed to make much of an impression, lacking both a supportive single and the nurturing of the  band's record label. Indeed, the song "Someday Girl" was heavenly, and could often be heard on late-night radio, or serving as background music to a liquid light show as the audience drifted into a venue. And that's the real shame, in that The Moon had genuine talent, treading lightly on the progressive baroque elements [championed by groups like The Left Banke and The Zombies] that were just around the corner, moving with a consistency that should have had them sitting in the first few rows, and not in the balcony.

Without Earth recorded in an estimated 540 hours of studio time in the Fall of 67, is  a summer of love lost treasure of euphoric baroque pop. Another of those strange, ephemeral American bands that never played a live gig and yet managed to land hundreds of hours of well-spent studio time. Very reminiscent of the Bee Gees/Beatles, the music is urgently uptempo, colorful and complex with rich vocal harmonies.  This one I've played again and again.

Not nearly as listenable, but a valiant effort indeed is Chad & Jeremy's Of Cabbages and Kings, the first side of which is packed with Summer of Love pastoral tones to soothe the savage beast. It's all about pretty acoustic guitar finger-picking and Chad & Jeremy's smooth and clear singing voices, which sound like hand-dipped ice cream. The songs — folky psych numbers, somewhere between Donovan, early Moody Blues, and the Byrds — are also strikingly beautiful, peaking with the "I'll Get Around to It When and if I Can."

On side two, the boys fly off the rails as they attempt to hang with the day's goofball psychedelic mental case aesthetic in the form of a largely orchestral suite that they sometimes spice up with sitars and non sequitur sound clips. It's not all bad. I enjoy the moment where the stately strings are punctuated with the sound of a toilet flushing, and there are a few nice melodic slivers in this muck, but, overall, it sounds like trying too hard.

Finally, and my favorite on the list is Miss Butters by The Family Tree. Miss Butters is heavily Beatles' influenced pop, but at the same time doesn't sound like anything they ever wrote.  It might be more accurate to describe it as something the Beatles could have created. Recorded in the same studio and released on the same date from the same label as another Beatles' influenced album, Harry Nilsson's Aerial Ballet, the two albums share the same producer, arranger, and session musicians. Harry Nilsson even co-wrote the song, "Butter's Lament," and his version appears as a bonus track on the CD release of Aerial Ballet.  It goes without saying that these albums sound quite a lot alike, but the truth is, Miss Butters is quite a bit better than anything Nilsson ever wrote. And as far as psychedelia goes, Miss Butters is the perfect name for the perfect psychedelic character. A lot of fun, indeed, a splendid time is guaranteed for some.