Psych and Prog

Maxophone “Maxophone” (1975)

The lone album from Maxophone is another piece of archaeological evidence pointing towards the inevitable conclusion that the Italians took progressive rock to heights only hinted at by their UK contemporaries. While richly melodic, Maxophone nevertheless are as go-for-broke with their ornamented arrangements as any other Italian prog act, regularly spouting riffs offering more twists than a bowl of fusilli, bursting into flowery orchestral beauty, or detouring down a jazzy sax-mad side road at the drop of a hat. The layered vocals are delivered with the inspired passion that hallmarks the genre, also managing to hit some angelic falsettos along the way. –Ben

Soft Machine “Volume Two” (1969)

My personal favorite entry in the Soft Machine catalog, Volume 2 perfectly balances the psychedelia of their debut with the jazz-rock leanings of follow up Third. Sporting a stoner-friendly, reverb-drenched production, Wyatt’s vocals are as expressive as ever, with his drum prowess underscoring the tragedy of his paralysis a few years later, while Ratledge is favoring thick acoustic piano chords as much, if not more than, organ. Kevin Ayers is gone and in his place we have Hugh Hopper filling in the bass seat, decidedly more nimble-fingered and with his oft used fuzz pedal in tow, not to mention brother Brian on sax. Like their first album, side one consists of a suite of sorts, something of a cut and paste job that nevertheless keeps things going with highlights like the Third predicting sax driven “Hibou Anemone And Bear”, and “Dada Was Here” with Wyatt’s passionate yet nonsensical vocal delivery. Side two tends to follow a more conventional arrangement of separate songs, favorites being the twisted acoustic “Dedicated To You But You Weren’t Listening”, “Pig” with it’s heavy fuzz-bass intro, and “10:30 Returns To The Bedroom” closing the album with some rapid fire fusion, and closing the door on Soft Machine’s pysch days for the jazzier pursuits to come. Volume 2 is one of those “difficult” albums that nevertheless draws one back continually, melodic content complex yet somehow totally captivating, instrumental aptitude in bounds, but focused for ultimate effect. –Ben

Linn County “Proud Flesh Soothseer” (1968)

I owned this album for a long while before I got around to playing it… uh, dumb move. I’d passed it over because I thought it was generic, “sweaty,” late sixties blues rock. And, though I like sweaty sixties white guy blues, I can only take so much so often! So, randomly, I finally tossed this on expecting to play it through as background once then file it away as I do (when it comes to certain styles)… uh… well, it IS blues rock, and sweaty, but its progressive blues with some heavy, very cool nods to sike. It’s sike is West Coast sixties genius, but it also plays a bit like later Graham Bond without all the occult mysticism and no African flecked jazz. That said, there is a blues jam in the middle of the record thats tortured and whatnot, BUT the interplay of horns, Hammond, and the song writing makes for some super catchy, and… it’s kinda DANCEABLE!? What progressive blues album can you say THAT about? –Nipper

Amon Duul II “Yeti” (1970)

For me this is one of the high points of “Kosmische Musik”. A sprawling double album of druggy, gothic flavored songs and jams that never gets boring. Judging by this album it would be fair to say that, whilst the Americans and British knocked on the doors of perception in the late sixties, the Germans kicked the back door in at the beginning of the following decade. Some of the music on this LP is seriously out there. “Eye-Shaking King” is a case in point; featuring some truly heavy acid guitar work and crazed, effect laden vocals. The opening suite to the album, “Soap Shop Rock” and “Archangel Thunderbird” are other jaw-dropping moments. The latter half of the album is comprised mostly of heavyweight cosmic jams that transcend anything anyone on the West Coast of America could muster. The musicianship is truly sublime throughout this great record and is aided by the excellent wide sound created by the production team. Anyone who is intrigued by Kosmische Musik/Krautrock should ensure that this is one of their first dips into this fascinating genre. –Simon

The Monks “Black Monk Time” (1966)

The story of the Monks is almost that of urban legend. Five U.S. G.I.s stationed in Germany in the 1960’s, decide to go AWOL from the military, begin dressing as monks and record an album of some of the most avant-garde rock n roll ever. Yes, it almost sounds too good to be true. I had heard the tale of these Monks when I picked up this wild little gem and it certainly lived up to the legend. Twelve amazingly off-kilter garage rock tunes that will surely grab your attention. The album starts of with “Monk Time” the band’s anthem and call to arms. The singer screams and squeals his montra of peace and rock n roll and invites you to become a monk and rock n roll with them. The album then kicks into gear with the raucous stomper “Shut Up” and the dancable organ-fueled “Boys Are Boys and Girls Are Choice”. The album then gets even more wild with the goofy but cathy “Higgle-Dy-Piggle-Dy” with its yodeling falseto. The album then takes a dark turn on the track “I Hate You” which is as menacing as the name implies. Just when the Monks got ya down, they bring you right back up a string of amazing garage rock rave ups. “Oh, How To Do Now” is the band’s most freakbeat dance song, with its great organ sound and catchy chorus, then the stomping sound of “Complication” slows it down a touch just before you’re treated to the wonderful “We Do Wei Du” and the amazingly sparatic “Drunken Maria” with its great call and response chorus. “Love Came Tumblin Down” is probably the Monks’ most straight forward song, with its standard singing style (no yelling, chanting or yodeling) it’s still a great song. The album then ends with “Blast Off” and “That’s My Girl”.  All in all, this is a very cool, unique, bizzare and fun record. Anyone looking to hear some great 60’s garage rock that definitely isn’t from the standard mold, should seek out this obscure freaky classic. –KAM

Manuel Göttsching “E2-E4” (1984)

A bold and visionary statement from German guitarist Gottsching who masterfully blends subtle low key electric guitar improvisations with washes of ambient electronica to create a timeless otherwordly soundscape that draws in the listener. As stated this is the track sampled for the Balearic scene hit “Sueno Latino”.However to hear the full piece is a much greater joy.The familiar riff is spread over about 40 minutes while runs of improvisation drift in and out of the mix.The electronic backing is what makes this record so special though as it makes it impossible to gauge what era the music comes from.It simply hasn’t aged one bit. A unique record that will please lovers of many genres. –A

The Running Man “The Running Man” (1972)

Prog!!! Yep, but not “fantastic” prog like mid ‘70s Yes or Rush, rather Running Man is bluesy, heavy, mid tempo, jammin’ ploddy plod kind of prog like Colosseum. Running Man struck me not so much as one who loves prog in general, but on a more visceral, a “kid in awe” level. This LP has the sheen of sweet, sweaty unattainable guitar skills high school boys of a certain era would die to posses. In other words, so rockin’!! –Nipper

Parliament “Osmium” (1970)

A trashy, kitschy, collage-like soul album in which Clinton begins to lay the ground of the P-funk sound. Those expecting the heavy psyched-out guitar rock of early Funkadelic will find this a little “poppy.” Those expecting the streamlined dancefloor grooves of Parliament will find this a little “rocky.” But this is no middle-ground record: they gospelize Pachelbel, dick around with country twang, and feature some bagpipes and harps in an ethereal soul workout about getting to the other side. It’s unlike anything else you’ve ever heard, though doubtless you’ve heard just about all of it: in the sampling of some rappist or another. –Will

The David “Another Day Another Lifetime” (1967)

The David didn’t really blaze any new “freak” avenues, but they have songs falling nicely beyond the mid-60’s three chord thump-mmmm-bump. I guess they sound like a better Stateside garage band who took steps into the “psychedelic” while retaining “garage” energy, and staying smartly this side of “hippie.” It paid off for them at the time… they got some airplay, even charted locally, but too bad it wasn’t enough for the squares to remember them. This has become a hard-to-find record, but when and if you can snatch it! –Nipper

Billy Nichols “Would You Believe” (1968)

“Would You Believe” is stunning late ’60’s pop crafted with knowing nods of love to Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds, that thankfully NEVER forgets the importance of the… (cough) London Social Degree. However, if drug references are Billy’s point, they’re overwhelmed soniclly as “Would You…” is packed full of LUSH, dense arrangements awash with a “sound” that serves to unify the LP as a whole… it’s absolutely gorgeous. In fact… I own two copies (I wish!). Anyways, turns out, thirty years ago, this LP was shelved without any believable reason, the Loog, the fella responsible for the shelving, oughta be ashamed. –Nipper

Arthur Brown “The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown” (1968)

Occasionally, screaming out of two scant seconds of dead FM radio silence, would be “I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE, and I give you FIRE!” Terrified, before the first phrase of the song’s riff was finished, I’d jump up and turn off the radio. Um, it WAS the mid ’70s and, being a kid easily creeped out, I truly believed Arthur Brown WAS the god of hell fire! He, and his big CREEPY voice… it’s possessing as it IS possessed…, was coming after ME! It haunted me, if ever I thought about evil things (um, clowns mostly) that song, that VOICE, provided the soundtrack. Eventually, I got over being honestly freaked out, it was just theatrics (RIGHT?!). Now “The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown” is one of my favorite ’60s albums. The A side is a wicked psychedelic concerto of swirling Hammond organ, thundering drums and Mr. Browns big BAD voice… which gives me shivers, still. –Nipper

Mighty Baby “Mighty Baby” (1969)

Most of the members of Mighty Baby began in The Action, a Scouse soul/R&B group, and slowly evolved, as their hair and beards grew and thier minds expanded, into Mighty Baby. Mighty, indeed!

This is a great album of solid easy groovin’ by English boys assimilating American psychedelic West Coast sounds. Full of heady, reserved guitar fills/leads, harmonies… and that Hammond! Sheesh! –Nipper