A very young – pre-Action – Mike Evans
The Action – Mike Evans second from left…
Mighty Baby looking kinda patchouli-y….
Listen -Mighty Baby – Egyptian Tomb – MP3
Listen -Mighty Baby – House Without Windows – MP3
Listen -Mighty Baby – Same Way To the Sun – MP3
A couple of days back a reader forwarded me the sad news that bassist Mike Evans,a founding member of both the Action and Mighty Baby had passed away.
I’ve mentioned it here at Iron Leg and over at Funky16Corners numerous times, but allow to reiterate the importance of the Action to my musical education. Not only did the mightiest of Mod bands record some of the finest singles of the 60s (produced by no less a light than George Martin) but they carried the mod love for American soul music very far, covering number by (and introducing me and my mod/garage cohorts to) a variety of soul classics.
Their anthemic version of the Marvelettes ‘I’ll Keep On Holding On’ is one of the greatest soul covers ever committed to wax, and their covers of Martha and the Vandella’s ‘In My Lonely Room’ and Bob and Earl’s ‘Harlem Shuffle’ were killer as well.
As the 60s moved on and their mod vibe morphed into something much more psychedelic, Evans and a few of his fellow Actioners went on to become Mighty Baby. Their debut album was a truly inspired classic, mixing psychedelia (with a San Fran twist) with a progressive vibe.
I’ve posted cuts from that album in this space before, and I’ll add a third today, in memory of Mr. Evans.
Below is a repost of my original write-up of Mighty Baby’s ‘Egyptian Tomb’ from September of last year.
I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll be back on Monday.
Originally posted 9/2009:
The weekend is hovering like a cobra, ready to strike, so like a swami of the mystical east, I will now attempt to soothe it with some tunage, so that we may all ascend to the next level, with happy ears and a smile on our faces (individual smiles, or maybe one big collective one, I’m not sure).
The tune I bring you today was passed along to me many years ago by my man Mr. Luther as (if memory serves) a birthday gift, and what a gift it was.
Then, the connective tissue at work was the fact that a number of members of Mighty Baby had also done time in one of the greatest of the Mod bands, the Action. I had heard of Mighty Baby, and has seen the album cover in a coffee table book, but was woefully unfamiliar with their music.
When I got home, and slid the CD into the player and slapped on the headphones I was – to rehash an old cliché – blown the fuck away.
The first song on the album (and the CD, natch) is the tune I bring you today, ‘Egyptian Tomb’.
When ‘Egyptian Tomb’ started flowing from the phones into the earholes, my head began to spin.
Though I spent a fair amount of time digging the fuzz, the mod beat and the lo-fi, look sharpery of the mid-80s retro scene, I was a couple of years older than many of my compadres and as a result had spent a goodly amount of time, previous to those years ingesting a somewhat higher grade of freaky post-psychedelic progressive-ness, perhaps a little too caftan and long bearded for the Beatle-booted, mop tops of ’86.
Back in the day, during the waning moments of my Beatles obsession, when I was playing in actual (non fuzz-oriented) garage bands, and partaking in the leafy goodness of the cannibis sativa, my buddies and I tended to shovel into our ears as much of the dreamy prog-type stuff as possible. This included everything from Traffic to Yes, to King Crimson to whatever records we could find with long, dreamy songs that would – how do they say? – facilitate the dreamier effects of the intoxicants at hand.
As my tastes became punkier, and I spent more time digging on the Sonics and the Gonn, it wasn’t that I gave up on the vibe, as it were, just that I replaced ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’ with stuff like ‘Slip Inside This House’ and ‘Vacuum Cleaner’, drilling deeper into obscurity.
When I was handed the Mighty Baby CD, and informed of the Action connection (the disc also contained some very cool unreleased psychedelic Action tracks) I assumed that what I was going to hear was also stylistically Action-like.
When I actually heard the album, I was stunned at how un-Action-y Mighty Baby was, and how close they were to the things I’d been listening to at the end of my teenage years.
‘Egyptian Tomb’ is in many ways the perfect opening track for Mighty Baby’s debut album because in its roughly five and a half minutes it manages to act as a statement of purpose and style for the entire record. It is in turns spacey, jazzy, tuneful and trippy in a way that doesn’t hew to closely to any of those styles but manages to mix them all into something completely new. Though there was a taste of Traffic in there, there was also bits of California mellowness, as well as traces of the UK psyche underground that was at that time mutating into something much looser (since you could spread out more in a caftan than in a tightly tailored, ruffled, satin dandy-suit).
The grooviest thing of all about Mighty Baby, is that they managed to stitch together everything that was cool about that transitional era while simultaneously dispensing with everything that sucked about it. Mighty Baby were the prog band for people that have learned to despise the mewling of once groovy musicians who felt it necessary come 1969 to work out their “classical training” 25 minutes at a time while wrapped in a sequined cape (I’m looking at you Rick Wakeman…).
It was only earlier this year that I got my mitts on an original copy of the Mighty Baby album, which was actually one of two records released on an obscure, short-lived subsidiary of Chess Records called Head (check out that crazy label). Give this song a listen, and if you dig it, get yourself a copy of the CD, on account of it’s really, really good.
That is all.
Have a great weekend.