New Zealand Trading Co. – Jam and Anti-Freeze (Memphis)
Wizards From Kansas – Codine (Mercury)
JK and Co – Land of Sensations and Delights (White Whale)
Robin McNamara – Aren’t You Thinking of Me (Steed)
Janis Ian – Son of Love (Verve)
Mighty Baby – Same Way To the Sun (Head)
Jack Bruce – Rope Ladder to the Moon (Atco)
Love – The Red Telephone (Elektra)
Holy Mackerel – Wildflowers (Reprise)
Tommy Roe – Cry On Crying Eyes (ABC)
Association – Birthday Morning (WB)
Kak – Rain (Epic)
I hope the beginning of yet another new week finds you well, with plenty of space inside your head reserved for something tasty.
During my last vacation, in addition to a grip of unusual pop stuff, I also managed to score some cool psychy stuff. That, in addition to existing examples of same in the Iron Leg/Funky16Corners archive, provided the fodder for a couple of new mixes, the first of which you see before you today.
Today’s edition of the Iron Leg Digital Trip is designed to drill a little deeper withing the cranium, entering via the earholes and ricocheting about recklessly painting the inside of the brainpan with all kinds of groovy stuff. It’s not all dreamy (though much of it is) and there are a number of deliberately rough spots left in the finish so that you might be able to wrap your mind around the whole thing without slipping off.
There’s certainly enough trippy stuff here that you might want to slap it on the next time you journey on the psychedelic plane, but as one who’s all about the natural high these days (as in one produced from within, not like homegrown, though I supposed harvesting of a dreamlike state from within oneself might also be described as such), I can assure you it’s just as enjoyable that way too.
Things get off to a start with a tune by an artist that I’ve known about my entire rock consuming life, yet never actually heard until I picked up one of his albums this year. As you can imagine, I have spent much time since kicking myself in the ass, because Terry Reid had an awesome voice, the ability to write some excellent songs as well as that to interpret those of others as strongly, which is what he does here. Donovan originally recorded ‘Superlungs (My Supergirl)’ for the ‘Sunshine Superman’ LP, but it proved far too controversial, and the original remained in the vaults for more than 30 years, while a re-recorded, expurgated version appeared a few years later on ‘Barabajagal’. Though Terry Reid’s take on the songs isn’t quite as lysergic as the OG by Mr. Leitch, Reid tears into the tune and when he starts telling the tale of his lust for the 14 year old pothead, you’re instantly reminded that this was recorded in the late 60s, where such sentiments might be wrapped in the banner of free love, instead of Terry, and Dono being clapped in irons and hung in the town square.
The next tune is by a group that I’d never heard of before I found their album. The New Zealand Trading Company may have recorded their LP in Memphis (for the label that took it’s name from the city) but they hailed from NZ, with a couple of Maori’s in the group. Though I’ve heard a couple of people rag on this album, they clearly haven’t listened to it with a clear head (or walked into it with any number of incorrect presumptions). Though the NZTC are a rough looking lot, and their album is on a label best known for its rare soul, their music is an interesting mix of psychedelia, harmony pop and slightly harder edged stuff. ‘Jam and Anti-freeze’ (some title, huh?) is a great, late 60s UK psych/prog-like tune which starts out with a rock shuffle and then slips ever so gently into a spacy vibe, with (wait for it, here it comes) some spacy vibes.
I bought the ‘Wizards from Kansas’ LP when I was up in Maine, only because I’d heard of the group, and the record looked cool. When I hit the interwebs looking for info on the band, I saw that the album often trades hands for a couple of hundred smackers. After some investigation, I’m inclined to believe that what I picked up was one of the earlier incarnations of a reissue, which since it only cost me 6 or 7 dollars is not tragedy, since any lack of resale value is more than made up for by the fine music trapped in the grooves. The track I bring you today is their dreamy take on Buffey Sainte-Marie’s oft covered (most famously by the Charlatans) ‘Codine’. Though they hailed from the land of wheat and tornadoes, the Wizards really had that West Coast vibe down pat.
I’ve featured tracks from the ‘JK and Company’ LP here before. It was a very lucky find of mine many years ago, and remains a fave today. The track included here, ‘Land of Sensations and Delights’ is yet another example of why everyone who’s heard the album wishes JK had spent more time in the studio, and less time vanishing into obscurity.
Robin McNamara was another New England find. When I grabbed the album, I had no idea that it included a genuine one-hit-wonder (‘Lay a Little Loving On Me’), but I grabbed it because it looked cool. Most of the record is unremarkable pop rock. McNamara was one of the stars of the original cast of ‘HAIR’, and was taken under the wing of Jeff Barry and the Steed label (also home to the Illusion and Andy Kim among others). The one track on the album that really stuck in my ears was the faux-operatic, somewhat psychedelic lament ‘Are You Thinking of Me’. I dig it.
If you get the willies when you see the name Janis Ian – assuming that you’re going to hear something like ‘At Seventeen’- rest easy my friends. As illustrated earlier this year when I posted a track from her first Verve LP, Ian recorded some excellent folk rock and even lite-psyche in the 60s. One fine example of the latter is the dreamy, echoey, fully tripped out ‘Son of Love’ which verily emits the smell of incense from your speakers.
Now, let me tell you about Mighty Baby. Many years back, my man Mr. Luther dropped a copy of the CD reissue of their first album on me as a gift, and it instantly became a favorite. Containing members of the mighty mod/soul band the Action (Alan King, Ace Evans, Roger Powell), Mighty Baby were more like a UK version of the psychedelic era Grateful Dead than they were a Maurice and Radiants tribute band. Their self-titled debut is just about flawless, featuring a grip of amazing tracks (including a couple that I’ll feature separately in the coming weeks). The tune I include in this mix is the trippy-on-the-way-to-heavy ‘Same Way To the Sun’, which has that sun rising over Stonehenge, making the Orange amps cast shadows on the tripping crowd thing going on. The heavy lead guitar by Martin Stone is, as they say, next level. Watch out for that trick ending…
The name Jack Bruce should of course be familiar to anyone that’s ever owned a Cream album. The tune that gives this mix its name, ‘Rope Ladder To the Moon’ is a bit of ever so slightly funky, folky, psych from the album that included the original version of ‘Theme For an Imaginary Western’. I really dig the ringing rhythm guitar, and the strings on this one.
Love, led by the mighty Arthur Lee, is of course my favorite band of all time. ‘The Red Telephone’ is my favorite song, on my favorite Love album, the justly legendary ‘Forever Changes’. “Sometimes my life is so eerie…” says Arthur, and you just kind of get a little chill, as you’re overcome with a wave of recognition. Heavy stuff indeed.
The next tune is a reminder that Paul Williams wasn’t always the co-star in Burt Reynolds movies and a comic foil to the Muppets. He was once (and still is) a brilliant songwriter, who just happens to have recorded an excellent – though rare (but reissued) – psyche-pop album with his first group the Holy Mackerel. One of the finest – and psychiest – tracks on that album is the excellent ‘Wildflowers’.
Going a step further into the world of pure pop, is ‘Cry On Crying Eyes’ by Tommy Roe. Yes, Tommy Roe, the man that brought you ‘Dizzy’ and ‘Sweet Pea’, was also the same cat that went into a studio with none other than Curt Boettcher (and several of his Ballroom, Sagittarius, Millennium pals) and recorded one of the great lost pop-psyche masterpieces of 1967, the album ‘It’s Now Winters Day’. I’ll be featuring a couple of the harder edged tracks from this album in the coming weeks, but dig the trippier side of the record with ‘Cry On Crying Eyes’. If you’re a Boettcher follower (as I am) you’ll recognize several of his trademark vocal accents in this tune. It’s a fantastic album, which has been reissued, so if you can’t find your own copy, grab the CD.
Now, when you’re talking about pure pop soaked in dreamy harmonies, you need go no further than the Association. One of those great bands that manage to have a dual legacy, one side huge chart success, the other enough of an edge for a well deserved helping of hipster cred, the Association made some of the finest pop records of the mid-to-late 60s, and ‘Birthday Morning’ is one of my personal faves from their catalog.
This edition of the Iron Leg Digital Trip closes out with the last “movement” of the three-part track ‘Trieulogy’ by West Coast psyche masters Kak. The same group that brought you the classic ‘Lemonade Kid’, Kak recorded on LP and a couple of singles for Epic in the late 60s. The version of the song ‘Rain’ included here is from their LP (not the blazing, and blazingly rare 45 version of the song).
I hope you dig it all, and that you have time to turn out the lights, clamp on the headphones and give this one a nice, deep listen.