Psych and Prog

Budgie “Budgie” (1971)

Adopting Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality as a sludgy sonic template while staying grounded in a stomping psych-blues that even in 1971 must have sounded like a bit of a throwback, Budgie are among the truly unsung purveyors of Heavy in its infancy. Like Ozzy Osbourne, Burke Shelley’s voice anticipates the Brit-metal wail that would become a standard—though in Shelley’s case, the sense of adenoidal strain also anticipates Geddy Lee’s shriek, meaning of course that he’s bound to put off a lot of listeners. Me, I think it sounds just fine, a striking counterpoint to the dark mood of the trio’s bottom-heavy music. Derivative moments detract slightly from the proceedings—the middle section of “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman,” for example, is a bit too close to the middle section of Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” for comfort—but on the whole this debut already puts the group in the upper ranks of that early-70s “power trio” sound, and their whimsically silly lyrics are a refreshing change from the pseudo-mystical drama that their counterparts were dealing in. It’s a shame these guys are unknown outside the UK; I have yet to find any of their albums for a reasonable price. So I’m now considering paying unreasonable prices—I like ’em that much. –Will

Khan “Space Shanty” (1972)

Try as I might I can’t find one flaw on this record. Great prog/space rock from this one album project featuring the amazing instrumentation of Gong’s Steve Hillage (guitar) and Egg’s Dave Stewart (keyboard). On top of all that you get some great songs. Seldom has a forty-five minute album gone by so fast. I’ve got my bags packed and ready to move into this Space Shanty. –Brian

Gentle Giant “Octopus” (1972)

Octopus manages to be one of the most beautiful, creative and insane albums from the 70’s simultaneously. Gentle Giant’s strange progressive mix of classical music and hard rock, along with the medieval feeling vocals is very refreshing. Especially among other “prog” groups like Pink Floyd that grow stale. Octopus branches in as many directions as an octopus has legs. Very few other prog-rock groups have ever come close to equaling this level of achievement. –Rob

Minnie Riperton “Come to My Garden” (1970)

You’ll rarely hear music this magical. Borrowing from soul, orchestral pop and psychedelia in equal measures and seemingly unscathed by commercial considerations, on “Come To My Garden” Minnie follows a more organic, pastoral and ultimately more genre-busting path than during her later, more commercially successful period with Capitol Records. Also, her voice seems more in tune with the arrangements and is generally less affected, putting her often multi-tracked whistle register to chilling use as what sounds like a human woodwind instrument, which is best exemplified on “Completeness”. On the evidence of this utterly delicious recording, Riperton clearly has been a major influence on vocalists such as Kate Bush and Alison Goldfrapp. I’m spellbound and speechless. Listen here. —Michael

Jefferson Airplane “Crown of Creation” (1968)

By the time “Crown of Creation” came out the Airplane were fully loaded with incredible musicians and an album’s worth of uniquely creative songs. Ranging from their exotic take on alternative lifestyles to the acid crazed end of the world. The instruments, voices and sound experiments expand in an effortless collage of psychedelic consciousness. A collision of modern art and contemporary music that helped to define the hypnotic sixties. –Scott

13th Floor Elevators “Easter Everywhere” (1967)

If all psychedelic records where this good I’d listen to nothing else. As we all know there not. Side one is flawless with even the Dylan cover (“Baby Blue”) being mind expandingly good. Side two’s almost as good and that alone is an incredible feat. One of my favorite 60’s albums of all time and my favorite psych album period. –Brian

Soft Machine “Third” (1970)

A dark, soupy jazz-fusion concoction, Third sheds away Soft Machine’s psychedelic skin in favor of four side-long monstrosities that stumble across the landscape like a disoriented and angry mammoth, spitting forth an archaic language and swinging drunken fists. Opener “Facelift” features the sounds of this electronic beast slowly awakening to the sounds of some prehistoric ritual, while side two offers the floating jazz-rock haze of “Slightly All the Time.” The only vocal track, “The Moon in June,” flows in a stream of consciousness both lyrically and musically, alternating confusion with moments of clarity, and it’s the best track here. “Out-Bloody-Rageous” closes with cues to Terry Reilly in a cascade of synths set up against more medieval jazz noodlery. While Third gets the job done, it takes too long to do it, and can be recommended only to those with the time and patience to decode its puzzling utterances. –Ben

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