Thursday, 22 June 2017

"I'm A Freak, Baby... A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-1972" by VARIOUS (July 2016 Grapefruit 3CD Mini Clamshell Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Hot Smoke And Sassafras..."
Trying to reach into every musically uncharted corner whilst still pleasing everybody and taking no prisoners on content while you do it is a tall order. And for damn sure "I'm A Freak, Baby..." isn't going to please your Auntie Flo's Sunbury-On-Thames Bridge Class as quality pastoral background music. But over at Lemmy's house they'll be breaking out the beer-crates in celebration while a visiting Ozzy Osbourne polishes his upside-down cross with glee and lines up blood-drained headless bats for guest snacks.

Getting a 3CD compilation like this right is a rare achievement. But Cherry's Red's 'Grapefruit' label has been grabbing collectors by the small people for some time now and impressing with beautifully presented and collated retrospectives that touch on underground areas most major labels can’t be assed with (then or now).

Rocking and Heavy Psyching like a marauding mushroom-manic beast - 2016's "I'm A Freak, Baby..." amply shows the reason why devotees to off-the-beaten-track music are whispering the 'Grapefruit' name in hushed tones. I've been a reviewer and Rock Music lover for more decades than I care to remember and even armed with a fairly deep level knowledge - there are bands and titles on here that I've never heard of nor seen in my 20-years as a Rarities Buyer for Reckless in London's Soho (a busy place I can assure you with a high turnover of what's genuinely rare). Unreleased recordings, acetate albums and tracks from privately pressed LPs and Singles of only 30 or 99 copies sit nestled amidst actual chart hitters like Deep Purple, The Move and Hawkwind. The whole mad lot is present and they're damn good too.

There's a ton of stuff to wade through here so once more my Imperial Leather friends unto the tangled underarms of Heavy Psych and Hard Rock. And pass the Vosene Extra Strength and neck-brace darling - we're going to need both. Going underground - here are the overhead details...

UK released 29 July 2016 (7 August 2016 in the USA) - "I'm A Freak, Baby... A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-1972" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Cherry Red/Grapefruit CRSEGBOX032 (Barcode 5013929183209) is a 3-CD 48-Track Mini Clamshell Box Set of Remasters that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (78:24 minutes):
1. All In Your Mind - STRAY (from the June 1970 UK debut LP "Stray" on Transatlantic TRA 216)
2. Cast A Spell - THE OPEN MIND (August 1969 UK 7" single on Philips BF 1805, B-side of "Magic Potion")
3. Hot Smoke And Sassafras - THE MOOCHE (May 1969 UK 7" single on Pye 7N 17735, A-side. A Bubble Puppy cover version)
4. My Son's Alive - CRUSHED BUTLER (1970 recording not originally issued - Jesse Hector and Alan Butler later formed The Hammersmith Gorillas)
5. Going Down - CHICKEN SHACK (from the February 1972 UK LP "Imagination Lady" on Deram SDL 5)
6. Father Of Time - CYCLE (from the October 1971 UK LP "Cycle" on SRT Records 71143, private pressing, 99 copies only)
7. I'm Coming Home - THE DEVIANTS (from the June 1968 UK LP "Ptooff!" on Underground Impresarios IMP 1)
8. Do It - THE PINK FAIRIES [feat Twink] (January 1971 UK 7" single on Polydor 2058 089, B-side of "The Snake")
9. Time Machine - FACTORY (February 1971 UK 7" single on oak RGJ 718, A-side, 99 copies only. Featured Andy Qunta later of Icehouse)
10. Cherry Red - GROUNDHOGS (from the March 1971 UK LP "Split" on Liberty Records LBS 83401)
11. I'm A Freak - WICKED LADY (early 1972 recording not originally issued - featuring Martin Wearer of Dark)
12. Rock My Soul - CHARGE (from the January 1973 UK LP "Charge" on SRT Productions 73275)
13. Sweet Mistress Of Pain [aka "Kiss Of The Velvet Whip"] - HAWKWIND ZOO [Hawkwind] (late 1969 recording at Abbey Road not originally issued)
14. Nightmare - STONEHOUSE (from the November 1971 UK LP "Stonehouse Creek" on RCA SF 8197. Featured Jim Smith and Ian Snow later with Asgaerd on The Moody Blues label Threshold Records)
15. Falling - THE IRON MAIDEN [not the British heavy metal band] (November 1971 UK 7" single on Gemini GMS 006, A-side)
16. Apocalypse - BARNABUS (recorded November 1971, previously unissued)

Disc 2 (79:58 minutes):
1. Bogeyman - WRITING ON THE WALL (from the November 1969 UK LP "The Power Of The Picts" on Middle Earth MDLS 303)
2. Fireball - DEEP PURPLE (from the August 1971 UK LP "Fireball" on Harvest SHVL 793)
3. Primitive Man - JERUSALEM (from the March 1972 UK LP "Jerusalem" on Deram SDL 6. Produced by Ian Gillan of Deep Purple)
4. Love In The Rain - EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND (from their July 1969 UK debut LP "Wasa Wasa" on Harvest SHVL 757)
5. Trust - HELMUT (Previously Unreleased 1970 recording. Featured Terry Aitken later with Prog Rock group 'Elegy')
6.  Rhubarb - SECOND HAND (from the March 1969 UK LP "Reality" on Polydor 583 045)
7. Dream - LITTLE FREE ROCK (from the December 1969 UK debut LP "Little Free Rock" on Transatlantic TRA 208)
8. Skullcrusher - IRON CLAW (Not originally issued, recorded 5 December 1970)
9. Zero Time - DARK (from the July 1972 UK LP "Dark Round The Edges" on SIS Studios 0102, 30 copies only plus 2 test pressings)
10. Jehovah - THE VELVET FROGS (not originally issued, recorded late 1969 - featured Dennis Muchmore and John Carrod later with The Method)
11. Brontosaurus - THE MOVE (March 1970 UK 7" single on Regal Zonophone RZ 3026, A-side)
12. STACK WADDY - Bring It To Jerome (from the February 1971 debut album "Stack Waddy" on Dandelion Records DAN 8003. A Bo Diddley cover)
13. Mr. Make Believe - SAMUEL PRODY (from the 1971 German LP "Samuel Prody" on Global 6306 906. Features Tony Savva later with Rusty Butler. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker of Queen fame)
14. Flash - BARE SOLE (Not originally issued, recorded 1969)
15. Street Walking Woman - THE PHOENIX (Previously unissued, recorded 1969)
16. Go, I'm Never Gonna Let You - SKID ROW (from their July 1971 2nd and last album "34 Hours" on CBS Records S 64411. Featured Brush Shiels, Noel Bridgeman and a young Gary Moore on Guitar)

Disc 3 (74:57 minutes):
1. Race With The Devil - THE GUN (October 1968 UK 7" single on CBS Records 3764, A-side. Featured Adrian and Paul Gurvitz later with The Baker-Gurvitz Army)
2. Heart Without A Home - BLONDE ON BLONDE (from the November 1970 UK LP "Rebirth" on Ember Records NR 5049)
3. Ascension Day - THIRD WORLD WAR (from the February 1971 debut LP "Third World War" on Fly Records HIFLY 4. Featured Jim Avery of Thunderclap Newman and Terry Stamp)
4. Street - EGOR (from the 1971 Various Artists showcase LP for new bands "Oddsocks" on Splat DBR 4286)
5. Escalator - SAM GOPAL (from the January 1969 UK LP "Escalator" on Stable Records SLE 8001. Featured Lemmy of Motorhead and Viv Prince of The Pretty Things)
6. Gypsy - URIAH HEEP (from the June 1970 UK debut LP "Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble" on Vertigo 6360 006)
7. Garden Of My Mind - THE MICKEY FINN (December 1967 UK 7" single on Direction 58-3086, A-side. Mickey Waller and Danny Peyronel would later form Heavy Metal Kids with Gary Holton)
8. Think About It - THE YARDBIRDS (March 1968 USA 7" single on Epic 5-10303, B-side of "Goodnight Sweet Josephine". Features Jimmy Page on Lead Guitar)
9.  Trying To Find My Way Back Home - MORNNG AFTER (from the January 1971 UK LP "Blue Blood" on Sky Records 71014. Features Norman Hume [aka Norman Beaker] later with Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation)
10. Yellow Cave Woman - VELVETT FOGG (from the January 1969 UK LP "Velvett Fogg" on Pye Records NSPL 18272)
11. Too Old - ANDROMEDA (from the September 1969 UK LP "Andromeda" on RCA SF 8031. Features John Du Cann and Mick Hawksworth of The Attack)
12. The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) - FLEETWOOD MAC (May 1970 UK 7" single on Reprise RS 27007, A-side)
13. Twisted Trip Woman - SWEET SLAG (from the February 1971 UK LP "Tracking With Close-Ups" on President PTLS 1042)
14. Occult - THE KULT (Previously unissued recording, recorded circa May 1969)
15. Born On The Wrong Side Of Time - THE TASTE (March 1969 UK 7" single on Polydor 56313, A-side)
The Irish Rock band famously featured Rory Gallagher on Lead Guitar and Vocals. Originally the B-side of "Blister On The Moon" - "Born..." was initially entitled "Born On The Wrong Side Of Town" and came with a different mix on Major Minor Records MM 560 in April 1968. The song was retitled and re-recorded for the April 1969 debut "Taste" LP on Polydor 583 042.
16. Hollis Brown - FUSION FARM (from the December 1971 UK LP "Rush Job" on SRT 71169. A cover of Bob Dylan's "Ballad Of Hollis Brown". Shortened their name to Farm and signed to Spark Records for one 45 in February 1974 - "Fat Judy").

Compiled and Annotated by DAVID WELLS with JOHN REED as Project Manager - these are names well known to fans and collectors alike. I know John Reed personally from my days with Reckless and his days suffering for the Record Collector magazine where he literally compiled those first Rare Records Price Guides. His knowledge of British Music is frankly frightening and especially the Avant Garde and Underground scenes and along with the hugely experienced David Wells who does the superlative liner notes - it goes a long way to explaining why this compilation is so good.

ANDY MORTEN at Pepperbox did the gorgeously laid-out design with the 35-page booklet being a feast for the eyes and brains. You get page after page of photos for each act (some of these are so obscure), singles and album sleeves pictured – key players acknowledged and so on. In-between the text are posters, flyers, gig cards, buttons and other tasty memorabilia. Each CD card sleeve has a different festival photo where some unwashed inebriated reprobate is wigging out to another three-day long guitar solo - Weeley Festival, August 1971 for Disc 1 - Glastonbury Festival, June 1971 for Disc 2 and The Isle Of Wight Festival, August 1970 on Disc 3...

SIMON MURPHY over at Another Planet Music has done the Mastering and considering the disparate sources - the Audio is fantastic - suitably grungy, hard rocking and even Punk when it needs to be. And the set is dedicated with warmth to two sad losses in 2015 - Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmister and John Whittington. To the music...

Accounts are opened with "All In Your Mind" from Stray - a fantastic nine-minute amalgamation of both box set subtitles - Heavy Psych and Hard Rock. The lads from Shepherd Bush were mere teenagers when they recorded it and you can so hear their Small Faces/Humble Pie fixation in that driving Steve Marriott riffage. England's uber metal merchants IRON MAIDEN would pay Stray and Del Bromham's song the ultimate accolade by recording it as a cover nearly two decades later - landing on the B-side of The Maid's "Holy Smoke" in 1990. We trip back a couple of years to 69's "Cast A Spell" - a proper kick-ass Rocker with The Open Mind more than justifying its £600 (2018) Record Collector Rare Record price tag. Another corking B-side then hits you - The Mooche covering a Bubble Puppy song delightfully called "Hot Smoke And Sassafras". The deeply Atomic Rooster grind of "My Son's Alive" from Crushed Butler feels more early Punk than its 1970 recording date indicates. Forsaking his Blues-Rock and R&B sound for four albums on England's Blue Horizon Records - Stan Webb's Chicken Shack was a power-trio by 1972 and their powerful cover of Don Nix's "Going Down" sledgehammers home this new direction. A huge meaty guitar piles down on the riff as John Glascock (of Toe Fat) and Paul Hancox (of The Mindbenders) try to keep up on Bass and Drums. The batty and very Velvet Underground "I'm Coming Home" from The Deviants features Mick Farren shouting about walking up your stairs until I reach your landing - but that's not before the band go into a proper full-on fuzz-guitar melt down that would make The Stooges terminally envious. Standing naked with newspapers covering their crown jewels - the four members of The Pink Fairies are clearly proud of the very Rock 'n' Roll "Do It" - a spunky rocker Twink would resurrect on Chiswick Records in the Punk explosion of 1977 and 1978. Although I've never been enamoured with the Hawkwind track - other highlights on Disc 1 include the almost Canned Heat boogie of The Groundhog's "Cherry Red" with Tony McPhee letting rip on that guitar - Plymouth's Stonehouse rocking like MC5 on the overlooked album track "Nightmare" on RCA in 1971 - and the impossibly rare Barnabus track where there's said to be only four copies of their double-album "Beginning To Unwind" in existence.

Disc 2 opens with a knees-up Mother Brown moment as an accordion and a deranged man whoop-start "Bogeyman" by Writing On The Wall - only to be quickly replaced with an 'armies of the night' doomer driving rhythm that is surprisingly Funky in its own way. I can remember when this 1969 Middle Earth Records LP used to shift for a ton - nowadays you're looking at £400+. CD number two also introduces familiar British band names and their chart-busting rockers - Deep Purple's utterly brilliant "Fireball" lets Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord do their thing on Guitar and Organ (that intro sound is apparently an air-conditioner and no one seems to know why) while ex Idle Race man Jeff Lynne injects new vitality into The Move on their chunky little raver "Brontosaurus". Primitive and at times hard-to-take Heavy Rock comes in the shape of Deram's Jerusalem and Harvest's Edgar Broughton Band but I suspect most will be shocked at the Heavy-cool of "Trust" - a previously unreleased dinosaur of its own by the sexily-named Hellmut (though rough-sounding it's a find ala Sabbath). Speaking of the Sabbs - their doomy influence is everywhere - from the frankly loony power-rocker "Rhubarb!" by Second Hand to the 'their name liveth' Iron Claw who apparently incorporated the entirety of Black Sabbath's debut into their live act. Peter Illingworth of Lancashire's Little Free Rock rocks out on his axe for the rather excellent "Dream" while Mancunians Stack Waddy dream of Bo Diddley on their Rock-R&B cover of "Bring It To Jerome" (great drum sound). And that's the already extraordinary playing of a 19-year old Gary Moore on Skid Row's groovy and vital "Go, I'm Never Gonna Let You Go" from their second and last album for CBS - "34 Hours" - titled after the amount of time it took to record the album.

Adrian and Paul Gurvitz of Gun were dreaming no doubt of Ginger Baker and laughing gas when they penned the galloping "Race With The Devil" - though it's not a tune I've ever really liked if I'm honest. Disc 3 continues in suitably madcap fashion with the very cool sitar-rock feel to "Heart Without A Home" from Blonde On Blonde - named as you've no doubt guessed after Dylan's monumental 1966 double-album. The incendiary guitar solo at its core is the stuff that Heavy Rock fans dream of and it comes roaring out of your speakers with huge production values too. I don't know if I'd have chosen "Ascension Day" by Third World War - but I reviewed this brilliant and largely forgotten pre-Punk album put out by Esoteric Recordings not so long ago on a typically great CD reissue. Featuring a clearly socially aware and very angry Terry Stamp - I would have gone for the "M.I. 5" track instead - but whichever you song you chose - this 1971 Third World War LP on Fly Records defies its age, label and date. Instead of John Kongos or T. Rex it feels like a 1976 and 1977 album - a full six years before Punk exploded across the UK.

But even that is trampled on by the wonderfully named 'Egor' whose "Street" will have Heavy Rock fans reaching for the superlatives right soon. Apparently a resident band at The Plough and Harrow Pub in Leytonstone back in the day - Egor recorded a showcase LP for new bands album called "Oddsocks" and the astonishing "Street" was their lone contribution. It opens with a World War II air raid siren (I kid you not) and then launches into the most savage riffage you've ever heard - like the band had been mainlined "Fun House" by The Stooges for 12-months straight and amidst a whiskey-fuelled mayhem session added a Harmonica as well. Wow is the only appropriate response! I love The Mickey Finn and I can completely understand why their singles render collectors weak at their very knobbly knees. "Garden In My Mind" is a fantastic rocker that feels way ahead of its December 1967 release date and the band contained Mickey Waller on Guitar and Danny Peyronel on Keyboards who along with another hero of mine Gary Holton would form The Heavy Metal Kids in the Seventies (auf weidersehen pet).

For sure you will 'need' to be seriously into Heavy Psych and Hard Rock to get the toppermost of the poppermost out of "I'm A Freak, Baby...

But if you are – you may need to postpone that trip to Elveden Forest Center Parc with a Physiotherapy Nurse from E17's Whipps Cross and order in a double-strength neck-brace from Amazon. Because after three discs of this mighty sucker – you’re gonna need both...

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