Saturday, 19 January 2013

The All-New! All- Different! Weekly Mailbag! for 01/14/13 - 01/18/13

A look at what came in the mail this week, featuring links, product descriptions and mini-reviews, featuring ...


FIRE - UNDERGROUND AND OVERHEAD (CD 2007, recorded 1967-70)

I was stoked to see this one come in.  For years now this CD has either been unavailable or selling at an exorbitant price on Amazon, so I nearly knocked over my beer when I saw it on Record Heaven for a reasonably priced 29 dollars.  Expensive for sure, but not in the 100 dollar range like on amazon, and a good price for a rare and out of print CD from a label that no longer exists.  It came out on the now sadly defunct Wooden Hill label as WHCD010 and it was one of their best releases ever.  I held my breath as this was labelled as a 'special order' item and would be shipped when available.  Well, I didn't have to wait long as it shipped about a week after placing the order and took a mere eight business days to arrive.

That all said, this isn't the most amazing compilation you will ever hear.  There's about five songs that are absolutely amazing, among the top examples of underground British psychedelia from the late 1960s one is likely to discover, but the remainder of the 20 songs just aren't as strong.  Keep in mind, that 17 of the 20 tracks were demos that were never meant for large-scale public consumption.  Fire was the creative outlet for talented songwriter and future Strawb Dave Lambert, whose material was strong enough to land an exclusive publishing contract with The Beatles' Apple Publishing.  Paul McCartney (he of Beatvana fame) himself took a hands-on approach to the band's first single "Father's Name Is Dad b/w Treacle Toffee World", pulling it from stores to re-record a new 'punched-up' version which made little difference sales wise upon reissue.  As is always the case with these compilations and re-issues of late 60s British psychedelic bands the disc features extensive liner notes, written with humor and whimsy by David Wells.
Highlights include "Father's Name Is Dad" and "Treacle Toffee World".
Rating 3/5


Doing those year end monthly reviews was a nice trip down memory lane and it was also a good excuse to order up some CDs from some bands that I really liked, that I initially passed on due to money restraints or initial uncertainty.  Los Angeles based quartet Iron Mtn, got the second time around treatment and I ordered a reprint of their demo CD which had sold out.  It cost me a measly 7 American dollars on bandcamp.  If you don't need an actual CD (and yes, for those that do, it is a need), the full five track album is available there for name your price.  The CD came in a folded cardboard cover in a plastic slipcase sealed by an Iron Mtn. sticker.  I believe the initial printing was black on white or silver, this second printing from October is silver on black and looks great.  There's some basic performance and production credits inside the cover and, like on their bandcamp page, the fifth track "Light Years Later" is not listed.  The band plays heavy instrumental music in the stoner doom categories and achieve a strong balance between riffs and atmosphere.  Scott Carlson's moog noises are quite eerie on "Monuments of Dawn", creating an uneasy feeling of being lost in a fog-filled landscape.  The package also came with some wicked stickers and a pair of gig flyers.  My sticker collection is beginning to rival my CD collection in terms of size and pride of place.
Highlights include "Land Air Sea Sick" and "The Mountain God".
Rating 4/5

KIPPINGTON LODGE - SHY BOY: The Complete Recordings 1967-69 (2011)

For years the only place one could find Kippington Lodge's entire recorded output on a single record was on a stupidly overpriced and impossible to find CD called 'Hen's Teeth'.  Kippington Lodge were the initial 1960s pop psych incarnation of 70s Pub Rock band Brinsley Schwarz.  'Hen's Teeth' brought together most of the band's 'odds and sods' non-lp singles and included all ten sides of Kippington Lodge's 45s.  Enter Summer of 2011 and a new disc from RPM focuses entirely on Kippington Lodge, including not only all 10 sides from their five 7" single releases but a clutch of previously unreleased material.  Five "new" songs to be exact, two remarkably different versions of an unreleased song called "Land of Sea", a very different version of "And She Cried" and a pair of BBC sessions, one of which was never officially released called "Younger Girl" (the other is their cover of the Tomorrow song "Shy Boy").  The music on this disc plots the trajectory of British pop psych music of the era quite accurately, from the early poppier, more flowery sides "Shy Boy" and "Lady On a Bicycle" of their October 1967 debut to the slightly darker and beefed-up progressions found on  "I Can See Her Face" and "Turn Out The Light" of their final two singles as KL from winter - spring 68-69.  The lads in the band were never out to break the mold and what they produced here is fairly typical fare for its time, but they are quite successful at capturing that aura or mood on record, as said above, plotting the trajectory of the musical styles of whatever given moment quite accurately.  This CD is available from Record Heaven for around 23-24 bucks and on the Cherry Red website for around 10 pounds.  The CD also comes with extensive liner notes on the band's history and where the songs came from / turned up by one Stefan Granados.
Highlights include "Turn Out the Light" and "I Can See Her Face".
Rating 4/5

LOVERS FROM THE SKY: Pop Psych Sounds From The Apple Era 1968-1971 (2010)

From about late 2007 to around the beginning of 2011 I listened almost exclusively to British psychedelic music from the late 60s / early 70s.  Within that general sphere I would include most of the British pop music at the time, acid folk, British invasion, mod, freakbeat, prog and what we might call these days proto-metal.  Bands like Gun, Three Man Army, Sir Lord Baltimore, Zior, Black Widow and of course Black Sabbath, the one true staple of my musical tastes since high school.  There were a few exceptions but they were few indeed, I'd say about 85 percent of what I listened to at that time was 60s British psychedelic music.  The rest was psych and prog from around the world.  After that I stopped listening to music altogether for about a year.  The point of all this is to give a little personal background and to say that even though this compilation came out in 2010 it's still new to me.

This is part four of a now five part series of compilations of mostly previously unreleased Apple Publishing demos put out by the good folks at RPM records, a division of Cherry Red.  I really enjoyed the first two volumes, '94 Baker Street' and 'An Apple a Day' which one or two of you may have read about in a previous Mailbag.  Volume three I felt at the time wasn't as strong because there wasn't as much previously unreleased material on it, however, the songs that had been previously released were well known and excellent.  This disc focuses mainly on more stripped down singer/songwriter side of psych rather than full band psychedelic beat group headswirlers, but there is some of that, notably Contact's "Lovers From the Sky", from which is derived this CD's name.  The song had never before been released and it's a corker (see video below).  All told, a total of five of the 19 songs on this disc were previously unreleased.  The terrific band Focal Point are just that on this disc, a focal point with three of their better songs, as well as former British Invasion hit-making beat combo The Fourmost with a trio of their own.  These are interesting to hear as they aren't really psychedelic or folk or prog songs.  The Fourmost didn't end up 'selling out' and trying to go psychedelic when the world around them was.  To the public eye, they were washed up and forgotten but they stuck with what they knew and didn't try to become something they were not.  Their songs are great, Buddy Holly inspired by way of latter day Del Shannon numbers, well worth hearing.  Also included are an unreleased demo by Timon (of "The Bitter Thoughts of Little Jane" fame) and the oft-compiled "Fool From Upper Eden" by none other than Andy Ellison (of John's Children fame).  A classic.  Also worth mentioning is the inclusion of both sides of one of the stupidest 45 RPM records ever released on this or any other planet, Brute Force's "King of Fuh".  It's not a bad tune, but the whole thing plays like some hippie farce to enable the singer to sneakily say the word "fucking".  "There was a land called Fuh / And in this land there was a king / And everybody called him the Fuh king".  Get it?  I got this CD from BonnieScotland, a seller on Amazon for a little under 16 dollars.  The booklet features 6 pages of very interesting liner notes from Stefan Granados about each of the bands and the stories behind the songs and how they ended up in the hands of The Beatles' Apple Publishing.
Highlights include "Fool From Upper Eden" by Andy Ellison and "Far Away From Forever" by Focal Point.
Rating 4/5

MEGACHURCH - MEGACHURCH 2: Judgment Day (2013)

Those who read my recent review of this album know how I feel about Megachurch so I don't feel the need to go into a description of the music except to say that I go on record as thinking it's genius.  So, briefly, I bought this CD on Stressed Sumo records' bandcamp page for 8 pounds.  Far as I'm concerned, it's a must have item.  This is the new version of the album with the three bonus tracks from their first album, bringing the total number of tracks to 11.  Now, the CD comes in a single gatefold cardboard sleeve which opens up to a two page comic which is quite amusing.  Production and performance are on the back cover.  Stressed Sumo sent their business card along with it, which is tucked neatly into the CD pocket.  There's also a cassette version of the album with alternate artwork for a mere 7 pounds and there's only 90 of them available.  7 pounds for an item that features genius music and that there's only 90 of in the whole world? Sweet deal.
Highlights include "Receive It" and "My Father's Dignity".
Rating 4.5/5


Fig. 2 - What lies beneath the gift wrapping
Fig. 1 - How it arrives
Those who read last week's mailbag, specifically the entry on Violet Magick will surely remember my love for tapes.  Well tape number two of El LK Ultra's Grande Tape Collection v.2 came hauling ass in the mail this week.  Just like the picture shows (see Fig. 1), the tape came ribbon-wrapped in owl themed gift wrap.  I really, really didn't want to open it up and preserve it the way it was, not out of some anal retentive need to keep it in mint condition as some kind of collectible, but out of ... respect (?) for the packaging itself.  I'd waited nearly a month for it to come in, looking at the album cover all the while, wondering whether or not it would actually show up like that, all gift-wrapped.  Also, it looks nice and the band also earned some props for sticking with the owl theme.  But in the end, saner heads prevailed and I ever so carefully began slowly peeling the tape back that held one end down, then with ever increasing deftness and grace dancing in an infinite pool of patience I wriggled and negotiated the contents from the wrapping incurring only minor damage to the paper (ripping a corner (shrug)) in the process.  What I found was a blank white tape with three Owl logo stamps on it, one for side A and two stamps for side B, inside a small booklet printed black on blue paper (see Fig. 2).  The tape costs 5 bucks on Owl's bandcamp page and is full of noise jams and demos with a cover version or two thrown in.  Basically, whatever viable recordings the band had left over since 2007 made it onto this tape.


Another recently reviewed terrific record.  Spider Kitten is a prolific DIY band from the UK who absolutely defy strict genre classification.  As Do-It-Yerselfers they can be the band that they want to be on any given song, at any given moment.  Sometimes they're nasty ass heavy sludge, sometimes the acoustic guitar and maracas are broken out, sometimes they're on an ambient noise trip.  This is the power that unsigned bands have over their own creativity, they work on inspiration.  I bought this CD for 8 British pounds on Spider Kitten's bandcamp.  The packaging is a gatefold cardboard slipcase.  Very DIY with excellent hand drawn cover art and comes with a single page four-panel comic that begins with the inspired line "She listens to Fields of The Nephilim."  Production and performance credits are on the inside cover opposite a cool photo of the band, loungin'.  They recently shot a video for the song "Twin Obscenities" that will be a major part of your weekly Hour of Power released later today ...
Highlights include "Twin Obscenities" and "Burdened".
Rating 4/5

Thanks for reading!

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