Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Alan Jack Civilization - 1969 - Bluesy Mind

Alan Jack Civilization 
Bluesy Mind 

01. I've Got to Find Somebody 2:48
02. Shame on You 2:30
03. What You're Gonna Say 3:10
04. Baby Don't Come Back Home 3:30
05. The Way to the Hells 4:58
06. What's Wrong 6:15
07. Some People 2:05
08. Middle Earth 9:36

Alan Jack (piano, organ, harmonica, vocals)
Claude Olmos (guitar, percussion, vocals)
Richard Fontaine (bass, percussion, flute, vocals)
Jean Falissard (drums, tambourine, percussion, vocals)

France's version of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers ?  France's version of early Savoy Brown ?  Seem like odd comparisons ?  Well, on the surface it might seem so, but having played this album a couple of dozen times over the years, that's the description by feeble Anglo mind keeps coming back to.  And to some extent that's what makes this album interesting.  If this had been released by an English, or American outfit, I doubt most people would have paid much attention to these blues-rock moves ... 

I don't know a great deal about namesake singer/keyboardist Alan Jack.  I'm sure there's lots of information on the man out there, but I've simply never tracked it down and most of what I've found has been in French.  That said, to some extent Jack was almost inconsequential on much of 1969's Jean-Luc Young produced "Bluesy Mind".  Yes, the band was named after him.  Yes, he handled lead vocals, wrote most of the material, and played keyboards.  That said, whenever I listen to the album my attention focuses on left handed lead guitarist Claude Olmos.  Virtually every track benefited from his tight and economical leads, saving most of these eight tracks from becoming little more than pedestrian blues-rockers.  And that's the predominant influence and sound you'll find on this set ...  Judging by material like 'I've Got to Find Somebody', 'What's Wrong' and 'Some People' Jack, Olmos and the rhythm section of  drummer Jean Falissard and bassist Richard Fontaine had clearly been listening to late-1960s UK blues-rock bands like Chicken Shack, Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown, and Ten Years After.  That said, there were a couple of interesting exceptions including the hard rocker 'he Way To the Hells' and the mild progressive/psych-tinged 'Middle Earth'.  You also  had to give Jack and company credit for performing all eight tracks in English (extremely rare and almost daring for a late-1960s French band).  The downside was that Jack sounded like he'd learned the lyrics phonetically which gave many of the songs a labored and occasionally unintentionally funny sound.  I know, hearing US, or UK bands singing in French is equally disconcerting.  Still, even overlooking the language issues, Jack's voice was an acquired taste.  He didn't have much in the way of range and when he tried to toughen up his delivery, the results were frequently pitchy, if not borderline irritating.  All of those limitations aside, the results were surprisingly enjoyable and an album that I play quite a bit.  Maybe due to the fact so much late-1960s/early-1970s French bands fall into hideous MOR pop, or pretentious jazz-rock pretense, these guys sounded pretty tight and entertaining.

- 'I've Got to Find Somebody' was a standard blues-rocker that didn't have much going for it any the way of originality.  The chief joy was listening to Jack pronounce 'find' as something that sounded more like 'friend'.   I know, Kim Simmonds wouldn't have sounded much better singing in French.   rating: ** stars
- Opening up with some blistering Olmos lead guitar, 'Shame On You' found the band kicking up the energy level with a nice rocker.   Yeah, Jack's labored English saw the title sounding like 'Same On You', but given Olmos wild fuzz guitar it didn't really matter that much.   Probably the most radio friendly song on the album it was tapped as a French single.   rating: **** stars
- For feat of misleading people technically I wouldn't call 'What You're Gonna Say' psychedelic, but with a slightly acid tinged vocal and Olmos shimmering guitar, it came close.  One of the album's more commercial numbers.   rating: *** stars
- 'Baby Don't You Come Back Home' found the band returning to a blues-rock base.  Professional with Olmos lead guitar again and the band's harmony vocals providing the highlights.  rating: ** stars
- Once you got over the funny spoken word introduction, 'The Way To the Hells' (they're spelling, not mine) served as side one's heaviest performance.  And once again, the spotlight was on Olmos who used the platform for his most varied and extensive solo.    rating: **** stars
- A dark, brooding, blues-rock shuffle, 'What's Wrong' was suitably authentic with Jack howling his way through a traditional tale of love gone wrong.  Unfortunately, in spite of some nice Olmos fuzz lead guitar, it was also about as exciting as large chunks of the UK blues-rock catalog.     rating: ** stars
- Another pedestrian blues-rocker, 'Some People' found Jack apparently trying to do his best John Mayall impersonation.  Didn't do much for me ...  rating: ** stars
- My choice for the album's most interesting (and atypical) performance, 'Middle Earth' found the band dipping their collective toes into a slow-churning slice of progressive rock.  The lyrics were goofy, but he song had a nice, slow building energy propelled by some first rate drumming from Falissard and Olmos' standout performance.   rating: **** stars

As mentioned above, the album was tapped for a French single:

- 1969's 'Shame On You' b/w 'Baby Don't You Come Back Home' (BYG catalog number 129 013)

One of the better late-1960s French rock LP's I've come across ...

The band released one French language non-LP 45 before calling it quits:

- 'N'y Change Rien' b/w 'J'ai Besoin de la Terre' (BYG catalog number 129 022)

Falissard and Olmos subsequently reappeared in the band Alice (they stayed lone enough to record and release the band's debut single).  Olmos then went on to play with a host of bands, including Magma.

1 - 1972 - 1 (Come)

1 (Come)

01 One of a Kind 4:29
02 Il Car Raga 8:38
03 Free Rain 5:12
04 3 Songs 10:09
05 Old Englishhh 7:56

Mark Baker - Drums
Reality D. Blipcrotch - Percussion, Vocals
Roger Crissinger - Organ, Piano, Keyboards
Donald Ensslin - Banjo, Guitar, Guitar (Rhythm)
Frank Trevor Fee - Bass
Marv Granat Dulcimer - Guitar, Sitar
Sarah Oppenheim - Autoharp, Voices
Laurie Paul - Vocals, Voices, Tanpura
Theodore Teipel - Flute, Harmonica, Piano, Keyboards

An overlooked unique gem released in 1972 by the label run by Jefferson Airplane. The music is dreamy, mellow, jammy, mildly experimental, "folky", "jazzy", "psychedelic" and drenched in hippie cliches.  There are passing similarities to Third Ear Band and Children of One (no relation).  The raga exploito cut "II Car Raga" has an awesome scatty and ethereal male vocal line. The jammy flute passages hearken to Focus and other Dutch and German acts of the same time period. Perhaps the best feature of the album is the atmospheric female vocals. "Free Rain" is nice piece of gentle songwriting that sticks in my head.  The album generally has a bland, pastel, mellow feeling that disposes it to be heard as background fodder, but it grew on me over the course of a few listens and there's enough substance and quirks to make for a very satisfying listen. I would only recommend it to people with a specialization in early 70s vibes.

Reissue of one and onyl album by USA psych-pop band 'I' (ONE) not to be mistaken with UK brass-led progband 'ONE'. This ONE was officially released on Airplane label GRUNT in '72. The band's name is "1", not "One". The album title is listed as "Come" in some places.

The Unfolding - 1967 - How To Blow Your Mind And Have A Freak-Out Party

The Unfolding 
How To Blow Your Mind And Have A Freak-Out Party

01. I've Got A Zebra - She Can Fly    
02. Play Your Game    
03. Girl From Nowhere    
04. Flora's Holiday    
05. Love Supreme Deal    
06. Prama    
07. Electric Buddha    
08. Hare Krishna    
09. Parable    

Drums, Vocals – Gary
Guitar [Lead, Rhythm], Vocals – Peter
Guitar [Lead], Bass, Vocals – Ken
Narrator – Steven Kapotvich
Soprano Vocals – Victoria Sackville
Vocals – Andrea Ross

from Dangerous Minds :

I have been avidly buying records since I was eight. By that age, I had a pretty full grasp of rock and roll and its furthest reaches (the second record I ever bought was Mothermania by The Mothers of Invention). I “got” what oddball records were and looked for them specifically. The Audio Fidelity label was for the most part the home of sound effects records, newfangled stereo experiment records with bongos going back & forth from speaker to speaker, calliope music, Nazi marching orchestras and all other kinds of similar cheapo ephemera. It was a budget label like the ones pre-VU Lou Reed worked for, but it rarely delved into rock and roll. There was a three-volume set called Jet Set Discotheque with a few truly remarkable garage tunes from god knows where and a little later, this psychedelic abomination, How to Blow Your Mind and Have a Freakout Party.

Had this come out on the ESP Disk label (and it certainly could have) it would have found fans who “dug” the Fugs and other off-kilter freaks, but because it was on this un-hip “bow-tie-daddy” label it aroused suspicion and was relegated to stay where these records were placed anyway, even when they were brand new—in the 99 cent cut-out bin.

Don’t get me wrong, this is most definitely an exploitation record (or a “psychsploitation record” as they are known in deep record collector lingo). Most exploitation records are recorded by older hack musicians with no clue of the subject matter (which is what gives them their charm, especially when they’re trying to be psychedelic). This record was most definitely recorded by young people. On acid. It’s crude, young, and innocently dumb, which is what saves it from being just another boring psych record. The art also resembles a kids school book drawing version of the great Cal Schenkel art on the Mothers of Invention LP covers.

I found this in a used record store in 1972 and knew immediately from the cover that I would love it. And I was right. The record is experimental beyond its time, has incredibly bizarre effects I’ve never heard on any other record from this time period, plus catchy songs (at least on side one). Around the same time I bought a Grateful Dead record and expected it to sound just like this due to their extreme hype, not the boring country record I wound up being disappointed with.

The band credited is called The Unfolding. There is one name I recognize, David Dalton. There is a David Dalton won the Columbia School of Journalism Award for his Rolling Stone interview with Charles Manson, wrote bios on Andy Warhol, Sid Vicious, The Stones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, etc., and he co-wrote Marianne Faithfull’s autobiography. I have no idea if this is the same person but it very well may be as this was a New York label and Mr. Dalton was a New Yorker (the CD reissue liner notes are no help in this department).

This record was most certainly made for a kid like me. It comes with hysterical instructions on “how to freak out,” plus an insert where you can send for psychedelic “stuff” for your very own freakout party! The TV trick is my favorite and the first thing I ran to try, messing up my parents TV in the process!

"You can really turn your guests on with a mind-blowing light show with two things you probably have in your house right now: a TV set and a see-through kaleidoscope (not the kind with colored glass in the bottom). First put a rock and roll record on the phonograph. Turn on your TV and make the image jump in time to the music by turning the vertical knob all the way to the left or right. Now point the kaleidoscope at the TV screen. This is a guaranteed TRIP. Now play the same record at another speed. YOU ARE NOW FREAKING OUT. Enjoy it."

"To set the scene for the party, spray pop bottles or an old chair with DAY-GLOW PAINT in bright colors, then light the whole room with DAY-GLOW light (you can buy these in any hardware or art-supply stores). This will make everything glow with weird luminous psychedelic colors. Guaranteed to blow their minds right away."

There’s even instructions on how to dress:

"Wear bright really out-of-sight combinations, things that look strange together. GIRLS! This is a chance to wear something exotic and fantastic that you wouldn’t get a chance to put on. Perhaps spray an old pair of shoes with DAY-GLOW and wear DAY-GLOW tights to match. Bright oranges and greens, goofy jewelry, peacock feathers as earrings and a super mini-skirt.  GUYS! The idea is to look cool and mysterious, so wear moccasins, prayer beads, or Indian bells, psychedelic buttons, and groovy mod clothes. If you really want to blow your guests’ minds, paint your face in wild colors. It’s a chance to use some way-out make-up effects. Paint flowers on your arms and wear a mystical PSYCHEDISK on your forehead. Hypnotize your friends with its hallucinating effect."

In case you don’t have it memorized, they clue you into the (hysterical) “Psychedelic Top Ten”!

A few more instructions with a green and purple gleam in their winking third eye and we’re on our way:

"Invite your grooviest friends, people who really swing, and enjoy exploring new and exciting experiences. BLOW YOUR MIND, FREAK OUT, etc. on pieces of colored paper, then glue them on to a piece of tinfoil and fold. This will let them know what kind of scene it’s going to be. Ask everyone to bring things they really dig: records, candy, people, flowers, books on flying saucers, kooky things. Tell them it’s a costume party and to come in their most out-of-sight clothes. Tell them it’s going to be a happening; they’ll get the message."

"By now your guests should be really grooving with your head. Get everyone involved in way-out conversations. Read your horoscopes. Compare the personalities of people born under different signs."

Oddly they leave almost nothing to your imagination, truly the antithesis of a psychedelic experience, but they must have known the plastic people they were aiming this at

The record is broken into two parts in more than just the physical sense. The great side A (Acid Rock)  is the where all the actual songs are: “I’ve Got a Zebra—She Can Fly,” “Play Your Game,” “Girl from Nowhere,” “Flora’s Holiday” and “Love Supreme Deal.” Then the heavy comedown of the slow moving side B: “(Meditations) featuring Prama,” “Electric Buddha,” “Hare Krishna” and “Parable.” It is is a heady mix of weirdness, chanting and sound effects (from the Audio-Fidelity library no doubt) and is meant for the coming down period (of course the record is only 35 minutes long so good luck. Good luck on even turning a record over while tripping your ass off… how did we DO that? Haha and truly, good luck on even listening to side two with its babbling nonsense surrounded by slide whistles, bells, and backwards thingamajigs). You can hear the whole record in this YouTube clip Listen Seriously Dudes!