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Saturday, 12 January 2019
American Garage/Psych band The Marshmallow Overcoat, straight outta Tucson, Arizona, were founded by singer/Garage Rock obsessive Timothy Gassen back in 1986 and although maybe not the best known of the 80s Neo-Psychedelic bands, they had a career that spanned the best part of 30 years of tuning in, turning on and tripping out, playing shows across America and Europe and releasing nine full length LPs along the way. The band’s amazing three-decade crusade, made on a perpetual shoestring budget, cemented The Marshmallow Overcoat as one of the longest-running Garage bands in the history of Rock and Roll. Their first recording deal was with Dionysus Records in Los Angeles who released their first LP, The Inner Groove, in 1987……….The Marshmallow Overcoat couldda bin contenders around the turn of the 90s after the release of critically well received albums on Skyclad/Get Hip Records and exposure on MTV but like many great Psychedelic bands from that era never really got the breaks. Their long strange trip has now been documented in a feature length film, All You Need Is Fuzz : 30 Years In A Garage Band, directed by Gassen. His documentary gives a rare and intimate insider’s glimpse into how a no-budget rock band rehearses, makes records, climbs in a van to take their show on the road and then survives decades of changing musical trends, commercial resistance………….and each other. The songs featured in the film have been released by the very groovy Italian Garage/Psych/Punk label Area Pirata Records as a 25 track CD titled………erm……..Songs From All You Need Is Fuzz that also conveniently works as a “Best Of” compilation of the music of this remarkable band.
The Marshmallow Overcoat exploded on the scene in a kaleidoscopic swirl of Vox keyboards and Amps, Rickenbacker guitars, Ludwig drums, Fender basses, paisley shirts, Beatle boots and everything else that screamed cool 1966/67 with a sound inspired by classic 60s bands such as The Chocolate Watchband, The Doors, The Beatles, The Byrds, Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Electric Prunes. Although their early songs were somewhat raw, by the time their excellent 1990 LP, Beverly Pepper, had landed The Marshmallow Overcoat had developed a shimmering Psychedelic sheen, honing their signature sound with Farfisa organ and 12-string Rickenbacker to the fore. Songs From All You Need Is Fuzz is a treasure chest brimming with Psych Pop gems with the pastoral ‘The Beyond’, ‘The Knights Of Fuzz’, the groovy ‘Kiss The Tears’, the jangling ‘Beverly Pepper’ along with the swirling ‘13 Ghosts’ being real highlights. For existing fans of The Marshmallow Overcoat who have followed the band on their long journey this is a real treat with three new songs, including the sublime Paisley Pop single ‘Wait For Her’, and seven songs on CD for the first time. The disc also includes a detailed 56-page pdf book, chronicling the 30-year discography and recording history of the band. For those of you new to the band, Songs From All You Need Is Fuzz is the perfect introduction to one of the more obscure bands from the Neo-Psychedelic 80s and for fans of the “classic” Nuggets bands this is well worth your time. You can check it out/stream it here……..
Songs From All You Need Is Fuzz is out NOW on CD via Area Pirata Records (the home of Italian Garage Rock) and available from their online store or from the usual groovy internet record stores.
Friday, 11 January 2019
Kicking in the doors of perception into 2019 is the first release from former Popdog and B-Leaguer Jim Styring’s new band The Ego Ritual. Spiked with a fizzing Power Pop sensibility, the self titled EP by The Ego Ritual is a Neo-Psychedelic gem loaded with layers of rolling and tumbling guitars that evokes the best of the early records from L.A’s Paisley Underground and the 90s Psych Pop quirk of bands such as Orgone Box, Green Pajamas and Hindu Rodeo. Driven by guitarist William James Ward’s subtle blend of fuzzy tones and Eastern flavours with the supple drumming of Gaz Wilde holding the bottom end together, The Ego Ritual EP is a 4 track trip into a swirling psychedelic vortex.
The opening track is a trip back 50 years to 1969 where the acid whimsy of 1967/68 had evolved into a much harder sound that had by the early 70s fully mutated into post-psychedelic heavy rock. Echoing the psychedelia infused heavy riffing of late 60s/early 70s bands such as The Open Mind and Stray, ‘Chakra Maraka’ rocks like a proper bastard with a pounding backbeat and squalling guitars crashing together in a Psych Rock tour de force with the second track, ‘Ten Points For The Red Star’, very much in the same vein. The rest of the EP is much more acid soaked filtered through a kaleidoscopic lens with a twisted Power Pop meets the Paisley Underground sound spiraling skywards leaving a vapour trail of guitars in its wake. The whole record is a total turn on for any fan of Psychedelic guitar driven rock and packed with catchy melodies and terrific songwriting, the first EP from The Ego Ritual is a quality calling card promising great things in the future for a band still doing interesting things with a genre that goes back half a century…………….recommend!!!
Due for release 18/01/2019 on CD via the New Jersey Power Pop label Kool Kat Musik with copies also available from The Ego Ritual’s Bandcamp site, so keep ‘em peeled kidz.
Saturday, 8 December 2018
Yup it’s that time again where everybody shows off their impeccable taste with a end of year list of their “best” albums. It’s not been a vintage year for Psychedelia but there have been enough releases we have been digging down in our psychedelic basement to put a list together of 20 albums along with a few compilations/anthologies and singles/EPs. As we always say, this is the music we have really liked throughout 2018 and other opinions are available…………..however these are the sounds that have been on heavy rotation in our psychedelic basement and that we feel warrants inclusion on a list of great records of the year. As usual it’s an eclectic mixture of face melting Psych Rock, fuzzed out Psychedelic Pop, strange and beautiful psych tinged Folk music, 70s influenced retro Rock, innovative Folktronica, Prog Rock, ethereal Shoegazing, Kosmic exploration in distant galaxies and what other far out left field sounds we have been digging throughout the year with everything on the list being of equal merit.
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt (Bella Union).
The Oscillation - Wasted Space (Fuzz Club).
Beautify Junkyards - The Invisible World of Beautify Junkyards (Ghost Box).
Harmony Rockets with Peter Walker - Lachesis/Clotho/Atropos (Tompkins Square).
Chickn - Wowsers! (Inner Ear Records). "during the recording of the album the band were inspired greatly by sounds from The Stooges, David Bowie, T.Rex and Ariel Pink to Sun Ra, Red Crayola, Captain Beefheart, CAN and Alice Coltraine and have managed to make a record that sounds an awful lot like Gong (both the classic 70s line up and the rebirthed post Daevid Allen band). WOWSERS! is essentially a 70s influenced left field Prog Rock record with bright splashes of heady Psychedelia added to the mix"
Melody Fields - Melody Fields (Kommun 2/Sound Effect Records).
The Limiñanas - Shadow People (Because Music).
Trembling Bells - Dungeness (Tin Angel Records). "Taking the sounds of the more tripped out late 60s/early 70s Acid Folk bands as a launch pad for their songs, Trembling Bells then add plenty of modern Psych Rock influences creating music that is Folk Rock inspired but is not really Folk Rock in the…….erm……traditional sense but a complex mix of a whole host of of fluid layers and textures seeping down to the Folk roots."
A Place To Bury Strangers - Pinned (Dead Oceans).
Prana Crafter - Enter The Stream (Sunrise Ocean Bender/Cardinal Fuzz). “Inspired/influenced as much by the sounds of early 70s kosmische German bands such as Agitation Free as by American introspective Alt-Rock singer/songwriters, Prana Crafter’s very unique approach to Acid Folk takes his new long player, Enter The Stream, deep into uncharted waters rarely explored by his peers."
Julian Cope - Skellington 3 (Head Heritage).
Lay Llamas - Thuban (Rocket Recordings).
Landing - Bells In New Towns (El Paraiso Records). “Less experimental than their previous release on El Paraiso, 2016’s Third Sight, Bells In New Towns is a hazy blend of full tilt Shoegaze/Psych Rock that sounds not unlike the present day, bulked up Slowdive with shimmering guitars and half whispered vocals fusing together in the mix and glacial Eno-esque ambience that resonates over 10 exceptional tracks."
Jack Hayter - Abbey Wood (Gare du Nord Records).
The Prefab Messiahs - Psychsploitation Today! (Lolipop Records/Burger Records). "All the cool stuff you are going to need for a right proper rave up is here………….sounding in parts like the best tracks that never made it onto Nuggets (and then again sounding like lost gems from the Neo-Psychedelic 80s), The Prefab Messiahs are back with a new record of fuzzy Freakbeat, kaleidoscopic Psychedelia and Garage Rock swagger that knowingly channels bands such as the Oh Sees, The Kinks, The Flamin’ Groovies, Electric Prunes, Night Beats, Soft Boys and The Dukes of Stratosphear with a sly wink."
Herself (Gioele Valenti) - Rigel Playground (Urtovox Records).
Wooden Shjips - V (Thrill Jockey). “It’s been a while…………….Wooden Shjips are back with a surprisingly mellow record that is destined to be the Psychedelic sound of the summer. 50 years on from the Summer Of Love, the new record channels hazy West Coast vibes with the bite of contemporary Psychedelia."
Three Dimensional Tanx - A Compulsion For Propulsion (self release). “The Stooges in space, Astral travel with the Buzzcocks, The Doors and The Damned jamming on one of the moons of Jupiter and The Ramones on acid”
Sherpa - Tigris & Euphrates (Sulatron Records). "new LP sees Sherpa dive deeper into the narcotic netherworld channelling everything from Popol Vuh to Spiritualized , slowly unfolding through six tracks summoning ancient magic. It’s a dark album, slow and sometimes menacing, but at the same time letting brilliant white shafts of light and hope break through the haze. Much like the first LP, the band’s second album blends together the trippy Krautrock of bands such as Bröselmaschine, Gila and the more mellow moments of Amon Düül II,near transcendental Middle Eastern flavoured drone outs with the foggy vibes of late 80s/early 90s bands like Spaceman 3, Loop etc. but this time Sherpa ramp up the atmospherics and they texturally almost come across like Slowcore Post-Rock in the quietest sections."
The Sunflowers - Castle Spell (Stolen Body Records).
Various Artists - Reverb Conspiracy Vol 5 (Fuzz Club). ”peerless 16 track collection of some of the best fuzzed up and freaked out tunes released in the last 12 months from all around the world and other planets. Featuring a mix of Fuzz Club signings and tracks from bands on other cool, psychedelically inclined Indie labels, these compilations have been likened to a modern-day Nuggets series and hailed by The Vinyl Factory as a time-capsule-like documentation of modern Psych”
Various Artists - Running The Voodoo Down Vol 2 (TAD Republic of Music).
Bert Jansch - Just A Simple Soul (BMG).
Heligoland - Coriallo EP (Commission 45). "Working at the margins of Dreampop/Shoegaze and Post Rock, Heligoland’s music is characterised by expansive, layered arrangements and the soaring vocals of Karen Vogt and has been described as a combination of “the emotive ethereality of The Cocteau Twins with the stark balladry of Low” which perfectly encapsulates the glacial beauty of the Coriallo EP."
The Chemistry Set - Firefly (Fruits de Mer Records).
The Thinglers - The Thinglers EP (Area Pirata Records).
THEE PSYCHEDELICATESSEN DECEMBER 2018
Saturday, 10 November 2018
For 50 years King Crimson have been driven by the singular vision of Robert Fripp. From the early days of Prog Rock trailblazers through the Post-Punk years to their late period of experimental music innovators going toe to toe with the heaviest “Industrial” bands, King Crimson have always been ahead of the curve but never over staying their welcome with Fripp regularly disbanding and reforming KC with subtle line-up changes totally in sync with the musical direction he wants to take next. The current incarnation of King Crimson is a “road” band built for touring with eight master musicians on stage having the depth and scope to dip into any part of the band’s extensive history………….however unlike many of the “classic rock” bands still touring, this is not merely an exercise in cheap nostalgia as King Crimson are still a thrilling live experience with this line up of the band being an absolute monster with three drummers, still cutting edge with the ability to surpass any preconceived expectations you may have had. Seasoned session players and incredible technicians, Robert Fripp has assembled a band that includes long time member drummer/percusionist Pat Mastelotto, former Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison and Jeremy Stacey (who also contributes understated piano to the sonic maelstrom) combining to form a formidable interlocking percussion ensemble that skillfully navigate Crimson’s complex song structures. Stacey’s last gig was with Noel Gallagher’s plodding Dad Rock outfit High Flying Birds……..it must have been……erm……easy money compared to playing with KC. The rest of the band includes Mel Collins, who originally played with King Crimson in the early 70s, with an array of saxes and flute that adds an extra layer of texture, from the mid 80s line up Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick, former Swans, Ministry and R.E.M collaborator Bill Rieflin sat behind keyboards/Mellotron and guitarist Jakko Jakszyk also handling vocal duties.………it’s a astounding line-up of players and possibly the best version of King Crimson ever. This is not a band that is on one final trek around the concert halls, but one that is breathing new life into Crimson’s back catalogue, reworking and reinventing classic tunes while also including new and unrecorded material
Suited and booted, the band take stage at the Birmingham Symphony Hall bathed in pure white light with Mastelotto, Harrison and Stacey taking their places behind drum kits at the front of the stage and the rest of the band on a raised platform behind the drums with Fripp taking his customary seat to right behind a Mellotron and a massive FX rack. The current King Crimson two part live set is about 20 minute shy of the 3 hour mark, heavy on the fan pleasing early 70s Prog Rock period but also visiting the later years taking in pastoral Prog/Psych to the sheet metal screech of Industrial Rock and everywhere in between. Opening with the percussive riffing of ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part 1)’, King Crimson take us on a epic journey of complex musical passages played at breakneck speed in a flurry of arms and fingers, Jazz improvisations, drum workouts and gorgeous sweeping Mellotrons. Because they can, Crimson tweak their set every night picking from a pool of songs and changing the running order to keep things interesting………..the Birmingham show had a first half stacked with “oldies” including ‘One More Red Nightmare’, a massive 20 minute chunk of Lizard, a selection from their legendary debut album before closing with a beautiful version of the title track from Islands with the second set fast and furious showcasing the heavier side of KC before ending with a majestic ‘Starless’ with the stage lit in fiery crimson, the only lighting change of the night. Although King Crimson’s newer material is brilliant, it’s the classic 70s stuff that a nearly full hall go nuts for………….the return of Mel Collins means that for the first time since the 70s King Crimson have a sax player in the band and now have the musical scope to explore the tunes from their early years. Not many fans would nave ever thought they would get to hear nearly half of Lizard played live, let alone the sublime ‘Islands’. With a expanded line up, the songs from In The Court Of The Crimson King are played in their full pomp with stunning Mellotron passages, Collins replicating Ian McDonald’s flute and sax parts and Jakszyk being an able replacement for the late Greg Lake. Following a charged ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part 2)’ a exquisite version of ‘Moonchild’ rolls back the years to the summer 1969 eventually merging, like on the record, into the symphonic splendor of the debut album title track. Although King Crimson’s early work was outstanding, some of the songs from the first four albums can be seriously dated and hamstrung by Pete Sinfield’s terrible Sixth Form poetry………an appalling pretentious lyricist, Sinfield is responsible for the worst Crimson lyrics ever, however baring Sinfield’s crappy words, the tunes from In The Court are stunning with ‘Epitaph’ performed during the second set with ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ naturally saved for the encore. If the first part of the show was a crowd pleasing blast from the past, the second half saw KC at the top of there game running through a selection of their later material including ‘Discipline’, ‘Neurotica’ and ‘Meltdown’ along with a reworking of ‘Easy Money’ from the Lark’ Tongues LP. Transcending genres, Robert Fripp has for the last 50 years guided King Crimson down its own idiosyncratic path, occasionally meeting the mainstream before fracturing off into alternative directions and the Birmingham show was a celebration of this with 3 hours of quite brilliant music flying by. No doubt the best gig we have been to for quite a while. It was no means cheap but worth every penny…………don’t waste your money on stuff like Camel or one of the versions of Yes living in the past. but save up and go to see King Crimson still pushing the envelope when they hit your town.
Saturday, 13 October 2018
Again summoning the sounds of a bygone Psychedelic era, Finnish heads Octopus Syng are back with a sensitive and melancholic record that, like its predecessors, draws on the spirits of Syd Barrett and early Floyd for inspiration. Victorian Wonders is a LP of contrasts, in parts dissonant and eerie and in others whimsical and diaphanous, slowly drifting through a ethereal netherworld of deep dreams. It’s quite a trip……………stoned immaculate and strangely strange, Victorian Wonders is a baroque Psych Pop opus reflecting a shimmering image of the bucolic, heady days of late 60’s gentle British psychedelia, mixing the kaleidoscopic swirl of lysergic awakening with hues of beautiful pastoral Acid Folk. For those of you that know the label, this is another Mega Dodo release celebrating “thee psychedelic” in it’s purest form.
It’s a luscious experience. Gloriously unhurried, Victorian Wonders unfolds in a hazy journey through the psychedelic with previously hidden colours emerging on each listen. Seeped in the mystical world of ancient British psychedelic explorers that was rediscovered by the first wave of wide eyed acid dandies, Octopus Syng skillfully create a blend of haunting soundscapes and tripped out tunes from a mythical British Empire and way beyond channeling the vibrations of a turned on Albion circa 1967 with a strange brew of more modern Psychedelic sounds. The dreamy ‘One Day At The Amusement Park’ eases the listener into the psychedelic world of Octopus Syng, with songs a seamless sequence of sensations flowing through the record. Scattered among the deep psychedelia there are moments of sparkling Psych Pop adding brilliant contrast to the shade…………. ‘If You Were A Flower’, ‘Go Away Damn Raindrops’ and ’Roundabout’ are in essence “classic” Psychedelic Pop songs (the kind that turn up on 60s BritPsych obscurities compilations), however Octopus Syng’s thing is then to totally drench their songs in the “acid experience” with sweetness and light coated with a glaze of weird and abstract as they drift in and out of focus. For fans of the very trippy 60s Psych/Acid Folk bands, Victorian Wonders is well worth your time. Another great record from Mega Dodo.
Due for release 09/11/2018, Victorian Wonders is available to buy as a limited edition (300 copies) purple vinyl LP in a gatefold sleeve or on CD from all the best record emporiums and on line merchants…………or directly from the good folk at Mega Dodo.
Saturday, 29 September 2018
Two years on from their spellbinding debut album on Sulatron Records, Italian Psychedelic adventurers Sherpa are back with a stunning new record Tigris & Euphrates. A concept album of sorts based around the evolution of human language through time and how it has deeply changed the relationship between people (for better or for wors) , the new LP sees Sherpa dive deeper into the narcotic netherworld channelling everything from Popol Vuh to Spiritualized , slowly unfolding through six tracks summoning ancient magic. It’s a dark album, slow and sometimes menacing, but at the same time letting brilliant white shafts of light and hope break through the haze. Much like the first LP, the band’s second album blends together the trippy Krautrock of bands such as Bröselmaschine, Gila and the more mellow moments of Amon Düül II, near transcendental Middle Eastern flavoured drone outs with the foggy vibes of late 80s/early 90s bands like Spaceman 3, Loop etc. but this time Sherpa ramp up the atmospherics and they texturally almost come across like Slowcore Post-Rock in the quietest sections.
Tigris & Euphrates opens with the brooding ‘Kim (((o)))’ before slipping into ‘Creatures From Ur’ altered state that channels a somnambulistic Jason Pierce. Beautifully mellow, the new Sherpa record explores blissed out soundscapes that evoke Spiritualized at their best but slowed down to a fraction of the pace. ‘Equiseto’ and ‘Abscent To The Mother Language’ are slow burning psychedelic embers, strange and beautiful in equal measures, flickering in Tigris & Euphrates smoky sonic fog. When most modern Psychedelic bands are recording albums that sound like Can, Sonic Youth and Hawkwind locked in battle in a distant galaxy, Sherpa have created an LP that is totally at odds with the current scene. Apart from a squall out at the end of the closing track ‘Descent Of Inanna To The Underworld’, the new Sherpa record has a meditative quality of floating free of the anchors of the earth. Totally brilliant, you can check it out here……………………
Tigris & Euphrates is out NOW on Sulatron records and available on clear vinyl (limited to 500 copies) and CD from all the best record shops and the usual suspects on line.
Monday, 17 September 2018
Before David Bowie gifted Mott The Hoople ‘All The Young Dudes’, the song that would turn their fortunes around, they were on the verge of splitting up completely, playing a few final shows due to a contractual obligation. Originally part of Island Records late 60s/early 70s coterie of British “underground” rock bands that included among others Free, Spooky Tooth, Traffic, Blodwyn Pig, King Crimson, Heavy Jelly, Vinegar Joe and Jethro Tull, the band had been partly conceived, created and named after a Willard Manus novel by maverick Island in-house producer Guy Stevens who wanted a group that would fuse together Blonde On Blonde/Highway 61 Revisited era Dylan with the Rock ‘n’ Roll raunch of the Rolling Stones. Adding Shropshire singer/songwriter Ian Hunter to established, hard gigging Hereford band Silence, led by guitarist Mick Ralphs, Stevens had a band that had depth and lyrical sophistication but live were one of the most thrilling bands on the planet that would tear up venues night after night (it was a Mott The Hoople gig that got rock shows banned from The Royal Albert Hall in the 70s after a minor riot) and it was said that “on a good night, they were the best band in the world”. Between 1969 and 1971 Mott The Hoople recorded four albums for Island, with Stevens at the controls for the majority of the sessions, however their live reputation never lent itself to record sales and any attempt to break America was met with indifference with Island dropping the band after the release of Brain Capers in November 1971. The period that Mott The Hoople were on Island has been somewhat ignored. There was a compilation, Rock And Roll Queen, released in 1972 to take advantage of the band’s new found fame but most “Best Of’s” and newer releases tend to unsurprisingly concentrate on the hits on CBS……………until now. Mental Train (The Island Years 1969 - 1971) is a 6 x CD box set that brings together all four albums, remastered and with a ton of bonus tracks, plus a disc that comprises more unheard and, in some cases, unreleased music from the Island archive and to round everything off, a disc of live material recorded at Fairfield Hall, Croydon on 13th September 1970 plus a BBC Radio One In Concert from the Paris Theatre, London on 30th December 1971. Complete with extensive sleeve notes by the former Mott The Hoople fan club secretary, the veteran Rock writer Kris Needs (who also had a hand in selecting the disc of rarities) and a 50-page booklet designed by Phil Smee who scoured the archives for rare photos and memorabilia, tracing the evolution of the band, this is the most comprehensive collection of the band’s formative years to date.
Released in a sleeve depicting a brain teasing colorized reproduction of Escher's lithograph Reptiles, the debut, self titled, Mott The Hoople LP hit the record shops on November 22 1969. A cult hit among British heads, reaching 66 on the UK charts, the first album fits Guy Steven’s vision of Dylan fronting the Stones with a mix of covers (Doug Sham’s fantastic ‘At the Crossroads’, Sonny Bono’s ‘Laugh At Me’ and a berserk instrumental version of The Kinks ‘You Really Got Me’) and some Ian Hunter and Mick Ralphs songs. As a Blonde On Blonde era Dylan tribute Mott The Hoople works perfectly as Hunter’s piano intertwines with Verden Allen’s Hammond organ throughout the record creating swirling soundscapes underneath Hunter’s Dylan-esque sandpaper vocals on Mott originals ‘Backsliding Fearlessly’ and ‘Half Moon Bay’. The second side of the record has a rockier edge, featuring probably the best known song from this LP……….Mick Ralphs’ ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ is typical of much of his songwriting from this era with proto-metal riffing and…….erm………nowadays questionable lyrics about hard lovin’ women that Ralphs would eventually find International fame with Bad Company (‘Can’t Get Enough’ was originally written for Mott The Hoople fact fans). Ralphs provided counterbalance to Hunter’s Dylan influences, contributing songwriting and lead vocals on many of Mott’s best known songs of the Island era in addition to being a vastly under rated guitar player. Nearly 50 years on, much of the first Mott The Hoople LP still stands up well today………..although patchy in places it was the blue print for their time at Island. The bonus tracks included with the debut album collect together several alternate versions of ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ and ‘You Really Got Me’ plus Hunter’s ‘Road to Birmingham’ that first appeared as a single B side, although interesting not really essential.
Although critically savaged in the music press, Mad Shadows is a fantastic album and more influential than anybody dared to believe at the time. Released September 1970, this is where Mott The Hoople really started to find their way. Featuring a collection of original songs predominantly written by Ian Hunter and produced again by Guy Stevens it’s a much darker record with the Dylan influences still to the fore and no doubt the best of their four Island records. Mad Shadows includes five astounding Hunter compositions (‘No Wheels To Ride’, ‘You Are One Of Us’, ‘I Can Feel’, ‘When My Mind’s Gone’ and the ballsy Rock ‘n’ Roll wig out ‘Walking With A Mountain’) and possibly Mott The Hoople’s best song from the Island years, Ralphs’ electrifying ‘Thunderbuck Ram’. It’s a collection of songs that where criminally misunderstood at the time of release, with only Ralphs’ badly dated throwaway ‘Threads Of Iron’ a weak link, it’s a record that has aged beautifully over the passing of time and is due for a serious reassessment. If you only ever buy one Mott The Hoople record from their early years make sure it’s Mad Shadows. The bonus tracks include the alternate version of ‘Thunderbuck Ram’ that could be found on the Island sampler LP Bumpers and a BBC radio session recording of the same song along with a collection of demos, rehearsal cuts and alternative takes from the recording sessions. The live disc, It’s Live And Live Only, includes tracks recorded at Fairfield Hall, Croydon weeks before Mad Shadows hit the record racks and shows what a blistering Rock ‘n’ Roll band Mott The Hoople where on stage at the turn of the 70s……….."Mott would swing relentlessly and unstoppably into their show every night, like a marauding band of outlaws and every night there was something close to a riot – the kids couldn't get close enough; they simply couldn’t get enough. Ian Hunter – the unwritten boss – would plant himself centre-stage behind his shades and dare anyone to remain seated." Brian May, Queen…………..The centerpiece of the Fairfield Hall recordings is a stunning mash up of ‘No Wheels to Ride’ and ‘Hey Jude’ that is included with furious live versions of ‘Thunderbuck Ram’ and ‘Rock And Roll Queen’. No stranger to cover versions, Mott would take on classic tunes and completely own them and the live disc sees them dragging CSN&Y’s ‘Ohio’ from the West Coast to the West Midlands and giving it a good kicking along with supercharged versions of ‘Keep A-Knockin’ and ‘You Really Got Me’………….when most band’s were coming down in the post Psychedelic haze, Mott The Hoople were kicking in the doors and tearing the roof offa tha mutha. The live recordings show how understated the late Overend Watts and Buffin Griffin’s contribution to Mott The Hoople was……….never flashy but rock solid always propelling the band forward creating a solid base for Ralphs, Hunter and Allen to bend songs into strange and exciting shapes.
Let’s face it, Wild Life is a bit rubbish. Stung by the commercial failure of Mad Shadows Mott The Hoople returned to the studio late 1970 without Stevens to produce their own record. Although there are a few cracking tunes, including Hunter’s pastoral ‘Waterlow’ and sublime ‘Angel of Eighth Avenue’, Wild Life is the sound of a band seriously losing its way. Flirting with Country Rock, Gospel influences and an acoustic bucolic sound more akin to label mates Traffic, it sounds like a band desperate to have a hit record by introducing alien elements into their music……….of course there is yer by now expected Mick Ralphs’ paean to hard lovin’ women, ‘Whiskey Women’, but even then there is a shortage of songs with the album bulked out by 10 minutes of ‘Keep A-Knockin’’ from the Fairfield Hall recordings. With bonus tracks that include singles from the Wild Life sessions it’s not Mott The Hoople’s finest hour, even though it it charted 4 places higher than Mad Shadows.
With Guy Stevens back at the controls, Brain Capers was a return to form. Dedicated to the memory of James Dean, Mott The Hoople’s last album for Island, released in December 1971, returned to the Dylan/Stones fusion from the first two records with a much heavier sound. Possibly the “heaviest” of the early Mott records, Brain Capers has a post Psychedelic Hard Rock sheen with Allen’s snarling Hammond and Ralphs’ crunching guitar riffs not a million miles away from the sound of Deep Purple and Uriah Heep on tracks such as ‘Death May Be Your Santa Claus’ and the brilliant ‘The Moon Upstairs’. Apart from a couple of great covers (Jesse Colin Young’s ‘Darkness, Darkness’ and Dion’s ‘Your Own Backyard’) and a solo writing credit for Verden Allen for the soulful ‘Second Love’, Brain Capers is dominated by Hunter’s ever improving song writing has he slowly becomes the focal point of the band. The bonus tracks are fantastic collection of raw demos and alternate takes including early versions of ‘One Of The Boys’ and ‘Mommas Little Jewel’ that would later appear on All the Young Dudes. The second half of the live disc features a recording on 30 December 1971 from the Paris Theatre, London for a BBC Radio One, In Concert broadcast and features five tracks from Brain Capers (plus ‘Whiskey Women’ from Wild Life) with Mott in their element playing in front of a live audience. More focused than Wild Life, Brain Capers was supposed to be the record that turned Mott The Hoople’s formidable live reputation into record sales but to say that it died on it’s arse is something of a understatement. It was the first Mott album that failed to chart either in the UK or USA leading to Island dropping the band. Disillusioned and due to split up after a final gig in Zurich in March 1972………..that was until Bowie got wind of what was happening from Overend Watts and, reveling himself to be a massive fan of the band, persuaded them to carry on, first offering ‘Suffragette City’ before it was decided that ‘All The Young Dudes’ suited Mott best. The rest, they say, is another story for later on………………
Mott The Hoople’s output for Island was prodigious with four LPs in the space of just over 2 years. Disc 5 of Mental Train, The Ballads of Mott The Hoople, gathers together a mix of out takes, demos, alternate versions, live recordings and unreleased songs that there wasn’t room to include with the bonus tracks on the four albums, making this box as complete as possible history of the Island years. It’s a beautifully presented collection of mostly hard to find early material but at around forty quid of your hard earned, it’s more for the hardcore Mott fan and not intended as an introduction to the band (we recommend the 2009 The Very Best Of Mott The Hoople for that).
Due for release 02/11/2018, Mental Train (The Island Years 1969 - 1971) is available to pre-order now from all the usual suspects.