Jive Time Turntable

Vangelis “Beaubourg” (RCA, 1978)

I’m generally a fan of LPs that feature two sidelong tracks—mainly for the sheer audacity and large-scale ambition it demonstrates. If you’re gonna take up a whole side of wax, you’d damn well better come with the fire, right? And that’s what Vangelis (born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassio in Volos, Greece, 74 years ago) does on Beaubourg, a record that must’ve made the execs at RCA sweat bullets as they tried to figure out how to market this dark beast. Viewed from a certain angle, it could be the Greek composer’s Metal Machine Music (also an RCA release)—but without the hilariously snarky liner notes.

Beaubourg followed some of Vangelis’ most accessible and popular releases in his discography, including Heaven And Hell, Albedo 0.39, and Spiral. So when Beaubourg dropped in 1978, at a time when 69 percent of musicians in the industry were making their disco moves, it must’ve baffled fans. Reportedly inspired by Centre Georges Pompidou’s architecture in Paris, Beaubourg is more Xenakis than Moroder.

The nearly 18-minute “Part I” immediately thrusts you into a state of disorientation and panic, as Vangelis works his synthesizer sorcery toward its most chthonic ends. The opening stretches sounds like Morton Subotnick possessed by demonic forces, as warped, spasmodic bleeps streak across the stereo field like malevolent comets. It sounds as if Vangelis improvised this panoply of bizarre, chaotic, and sometimes eerily beautiful passages while in the throes of an epic DMT bender. As he had nobody in the studio but himself, Vangelis probably said, “Fuck it, I have Chariots Of Fire and Blade Runner soundtracks ahead of me, so I might as well bust out all of my weirdest moves before I rake in my millions.” Or maybe he just wanted to make RCA’s executives, marketing directors, and publicists sweat bullets. Whatever the case, this piece messes with your mind more effectively than even Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze’s mind-altering marathons.

The 21-minute “Part II” traverses some of the same territory as its predecessor, but in a more subdued manner, yet it’s still pretty unnerving in an Andromeda Strain soundtrack way. (Highest praise, by the way; respect to Gil Mellé.) Like Beaubourg‘s A-side, the B-side changes every 10 or 15 seconds, moving from fascinating episode to intriguing development with a rapidity that suggests a genius working at the zenith of his prodigious creative powers.

This may be a minority opinion, but I’ll take Beaubourg over Chariots Of Fire or Blade Runner any day. It’s a bonus that it likely made major-label bigwigs sweat bullets. -Buckley Mayfield

Grace Jones “Warm Leatherette” (Island, 1980)

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Grace Jones’ cover of the Normal’s “Warm Leatherette.” It must’ve been on a specialized program via Detroit public radio in the early ’80s. I was familiar with the original, by future Mute Records boss Daniel Miller. I loved—and still love—its relentless minimalism and abrasive synth tones going off like a haywire car alarm—apt for a song about the unexpected eroticism of a vehicular accident. (Thanks, J.G. Ballard.) Miller sings the macabre song with all the emotion of an automaton, which was somehow perfect for its lyrical circumstances. Jones, a black Jamaican woman, made “Warm Leatherette” sound even colder and more menacing than the nerdy white Englishman mustered.

How could this happen? The short answer is, Grace Jones is a freak of nature, an enigmatic woman who’s more man than most men will ever be, while also being a legit goddess. Why did this happen? Because, if I may conjecture, Grace Jones loves to take risks and subvert unlikely songs until she overshadows the original versions. The result with the title track of her fourth album is supremely unnerving and riveting.

Jones’ decision to cover “Warm Leatherette” must’ve seemed like a total WTF?! to Island Records’ execs, but in hindsight, it was a genius move. With a band full of session badasses like Sly Dunbar (drums), Robbie Shakespeare (bass), Wally Badarou (keyboards), Barry “White” Reynolds (guitar), Michael “Mao” Chung, and Uziah (Sticky) Thompson (percussion), Jones’ “Warm Leatherette” is bound to sound vastly different from the Normal’s synth ditty. She and the band use a crescendoing power chord to sub for the original’s synthesizer wheeze, while Badarou quotes James Brown’s “Sex Machine” riff. The rhythm is a juggernaut of funky skank, helping to transform this “Warm Leatherette” into a vastly different vehicle, as guitars and keys emulate siren sounds near the end. You could almost party to this rendition, if you were perverse enough.

Whew, it’s exhausting just trying to do justice to that Normal cover. Warm Leatherette has seven other tracks, most of them covers that deviate with almost as much idiosyncratic panache. The Pretenders’ “Private Life” sounds like a Sade tune, but with much more dubwise gravitas. Jones & co. inhabit Roxy Music’s “Love Is The Drug” as if it’s a skintight blue-velvet jumpsuit, slightly skanking up the disco-funk rhythmic chassis and adding staccato guitar-clang punctuation.

The silky Motown soul of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” gets an uptempo revamp with much more robust drums and bass and an extended percussion breakdown. Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” lends itself easily to slouching into a laid-back Jamaican groove, and Jones stretches her usual taut delivery as far as it can go. It can’t surpass the late Mr. Petty’s yowl, but she gives it a valiant try.

The two songs originating from Jones and her band—“A Rolling Stone” and “Bullshit”—are, respectively, rollicking R&B that bubbles with erotic promise and strutting R&B that bumps and throbs with S&M promise. To be honest, though, everything here pales besides “Warm Leatherette.” It is simply one of the greatest covers ever, a radical transformation of such unlikely provenance that it feels and sounds like a cosmic joke. But as a later Grace song put it: cry now, laugh later. -Buckley Mayfield

George Harrison “Electronic Sound” (Zapple, 1969)

Imagine the deafening sound of Beatles fans’ scratched heads and befuddled mutterings when they heard—IF they heard, rather—George Harrison’s second solo LP, Electronic Sound. Even in a post-“Revolution 9” world, Electronic Sound isn’t what Fab Four aficionados really expected or wanted from their idols. But multimillionaire musicians are gonna do what they please, aren’t they?

So, if the sitar-loving Beatle wants to put out two sidelong Moog synthesizer demos, he’s gonna damn well do it. One has to admire the bull-headedness and lack of concern for commercial prospects shown by a member of the world’s most popular rock band, with regard to Electronic Sound—even if the music therein lacks what many people seek in synthesizer records—coherence, thematic development, rhythm, melody. But if you enjoy zoning out to a panoply of strange sounds that can’t really be replicated on traditional instruments, you may find Electronic Sound to be your cup of LSD.

“No Time Or Space” is actually an edit of a synth demonstration given by American composer and Moog representative Bernie Krause (of the great Beaver & Krause; see the review of their awesome Ragnarök in our archives). He and Harrison convened in LA when the latter was producing an album for Apple Records artist Jackie Lomax. Krause didn’t know his noodlings would appear on Harrison’s album, and holy shit, was he angry about it, because the piece was destined for a forthcoming Beaver & Krause release. Rough cock-block, Sir George! Krause asked to have his name removed from Electronic Sound‘s credits, and one surmises that thereafter, Bernie would change the station whenever “Here Comes The Sun” came on.

Dramatic backstory aside, “No Time Or Space” can be a fun headphone listen if you’re properly dosed or drunk or just wandering around a desolate city after 2 am. Fans of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, Morton Subotnick, Throbbing Gristle and, indeed, Beaver & Krause should find plenty of interesting episodes per minute occurring during the track’s nearly half-hour running time. It’s a series of unnerving, sometimes terminally dystopian emissions spraying out in many directions—the product of toxic circuitry. You can also hear echoes of this piece in the synth freakout of Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.” Harrison… er, Krause really exploited the hell out of that Moog, unleashing dozens of extreme expressions from it, Jackson Pollocking all over the stereo field.

“Under The Mersey Wall,” by comparison, clocks in at a mere 18:41, and offers way fewer thrills per square inch than its counterpart. George still displays a fairly deft grasp of the Moog’s capabilities, and damn if a lot of “Mersey Wall” doesn’t foreshadow some of Gil Mellé’s queasy moves and diseased tonalities on The Andromeda Strain soundtrack.

An anomaly in Harrison’s catalog, Electronic Sound is a curio for the die-hard George/Beatles head who’s game for expanding said head.

[There is confusion about which track is which, due to errors in the original pressing, which were corrected in subsequent reissues. It’s possible I have reversed these pieces when describing them. Nevertheless, the analysis holds and, as Sonic Youth put it, confusion is sex.] -Buckley Mayfield

17th Anniversary Sale!

Join us Saturday, November 11, 10-9, for our biggest sale of the year! In celebration of our 17th Anniversary, all used vinyl, CD’s and tapes will be 25% off! All new vinyl 10-20% off! PLUS: Receive a free limited edition, hand-screened poster with any purchase. Spend $100 or more and receive a free Jive Time LP tote! (While supplies last.)

The Red Crayola “The Parable Of Arable Land” (International Artists, 1967)

Newsflash: The most far-out album on Lelan Rogers’ International Artists label was not created by the 13th Floor Elevators. Nope, that honor goes to Houston’s the Red Crayola (later the Red Krayola, because crayon corporations are spoilsports). Fifty years ago, guitarist/vocalist Mayo Thompson, drummer Rick Barthelme, bassist Steve Cunningham, and the Familiar Ugly (you know, those folks) came together to formulate a blueprint for psychedelic music that few—even the band themselves—have matched in structure and ingenious madness. Their debut album, The Parable Of Arable Land, remains a classic that continues to inspire heads who love the sound of confusion.

The album’s unique format spawns six somewhat conventional songs that are surrounded by “Free Form Freak-out”s. The effect is like a bizarre DJ set in which the transitions are ruptured by instrumental and vocal anarchy. These are howling voids, calamitous cacophonies out of which songs escape, like inmates from a burning insane asylum. The Red Crayola shattered rock-song norms, filtering free-jazz and avant-garde composition into their primordial psychedelic ooze. We’re still experiencing flashbacks from it.

“Hurricane Fighter Plane,” the first song proper, soars in on one of the most ominous, driving bass riffs ever conceived. Thompson sarcastically revels in the destructive power of the titular subject while guitar and organ whorl with sinister intent, the vaportrail of exhaust after a strafing sortie. 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson allegedly guests on keys here, as well as on “Transparent Radiation.” Speaking of which, this stands as one of the strangest ballads of all time, a surrealist ecology lament (I think) in which Thompson’s droopy, lachrymose vocals relate the following:

Styrofoam people quite violent

Clear light glowing right out of my tent

Expert men not knowing what they meant

Eating babies for nourishment

A funny bird with forehead bent

Ozone over our continent

Slogans tell me that I can rent

Transparent radiation”

That was one of the more coherent passages. Anyway, you gotta love the beautiful, shambling melodic figure that ekes its way through distant harmonica plumes. Spacemen 3’s 1987 cover extrapolated this lo-fidelity gem into a celestial symphony of tragic grandeur; they really blew it out into an interstellar sprawl.

Its hard to be more explicit than “War Sucks,” an emphatic boot to the balls of the politicians responsible for sending Americans to Southeast Asia to fight an unwinnable war. One consolation prize for such a brutal, massive loss of life is this proto-punk, metallic KO to bellicosity. (Spectrum—led by Red Crayola superfan Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember—covered “War Sucks” in 2009.)

If side 1 flexes raging rock muscles, side 2 explores weirder, more subdued moods. Well, “Pink Stainless Tail” is the exception; it’s an adrenalized analogue to “Hurricane Fighter Plane,” inflated by one of those riffs that you want to punch the sky to for hours. Garage-psych doesn’t get much more potent. “Parable Of Arable Land” sounds like the pitch-shifted quacking of a mechanical duck in the throes of a traumatic trance, while a panoply of percussion toys get a workout. This is a freak-out of a less free-form nature. The LP closes with “Former Reflections Enduring Doubt,” a deeply affecting ballad laced with juddering guitar FX, Thompson’s voice lugubrious and laden with Leonard Cohen-esque desolation. Parable goes out with a whimper, but what an odd whimper it is.

It’s a mystery why Drag City—who has issued several Red Krayola and Mayo Thompson works—isn’t giving Parable a deluxe 50th-anniversary reissue. That being said, this one’s not that hard to find. And find it you should. -Buckley Mayfield

Sun Ra “Disco 3000” (El Saturn, 1978)

In the last half of the ’70s, music-biz law mandated that every artist had to cut a disco record. James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, the Meters, esteemed jazz veterans like Yusef Lateef and Miroslav Vitous—it didn’t matter how established and respected you were; the industry-wide disco diktat had to be obeyed.

In 1978 while in Italy, Sun Ra and his tight quartet, the Myth Science Arkestra, paid lip service to disco (see the LP title), but as you’d expect from Herman Sonny Blount, the results here don’t at all conform to the genre’s major traits; nor are they exactly music to snort coke to, nor do they serve as preludes to getting laid. Rather, Disco 3000 is yet another anomaly in Sun Ra’s vast, strange discography. And that’s quite enough for me—and for you, too, I would wager.

On the astonishing 26-minute title track, over a chintzy rhythm-machine’s quasi-cha-cha beat, saxophonist John Gilmore and trumpeter Michael Ray blow mad, exclamatory arabesques, while Mr. Ra busts out some of his most severely warped tones on multiple keyboards and Moog synthesizer, raising plumes of alien glitter gas. All pretenses of regular meter quickly fly out the window. Throughout, Ra engineers passages of brilliant chaos, letting his insane menagerie of feral fibrillations and disorienting drones lift the piece into freeform, uncharted territory. If this is disco (it isn’t, let’s be honest), it’s a particularly Saturnine interpretation of the genre. I don’t think even renowned Italo-disco DJ Daniele Baldelli could smoothly segue “Disco 3000” into a KC & The Sunshine Band or Tantra track.

On “Third Planet” and “Friendly Galaxy,” piano, sax, drums, trumpet, and drums (played by Luqman Ali) cohere into rather conventional, bustling bop compositions. They offer respite before Ra and company head outward-bound again on “Dance Of The Cosmo-Aliens,” whose splenetic, galloping rhythm-box beats get wreathed with the sort of eerie, fairground organ motifs that haunted the Eraserhead soundtrack. The piece throbs with a manic intensity not unlike that of Killing Joke’s “Change,” oddly enough. Again, this ain’t disco as your lewd uncle Tony knows it.

On Disco 3000 in Sun Ra’s eloquent hands, space continues to be the place. And that’s quite enough for me. (Art Yard beneficently reissued Disco 3000 on vinyl in 2009.) -Buckley Mayfield

Ibliss “Supernova” (Aamok, 1972)

Ibliss are not a household name—even in households that contain plenty of krautrock albums. And that’s not right. The German group’s lone full-length, Supernova, may have failed to gain vast mindshare due to their propensity to jam for extended periods and to eschew typical rock song structures with verses and choruses; the four tracks here average over 10 minutes in length. Nevertheless, Supernova belongs in your collection, and though you’re probably not affluent enough to afford an original, Spain’s blessed Wah Wah Records came through again with a reissue in 2009. Do not sleep on it.

With a lineup featuring Andreas Hohmann, who drummed on Kraftwerk’s brain-blasting first LP (the one with the red and white traffic cone on the cover; one of those early joints that Kraftwerk maddeningly don’t want you to hear) and Basil Hammoudi, percussionist for the crucial pre-Kraftwerk unit Organisation, Ibliss had serious krautrock credentials. You can hear those members’ percussive might and skill on the opening track, “Margah.” It’s a rhythmic fusillade with sporadic chants, and it really grabs your attention. When Rainer Büchel’s sax comes spiraling in with feral verve and Wolfgang Buellmeyer’s Santana-esque guitar leaves stinging welts on your ears, the track elevates to a whole ‘nother level of jazz-rock sublimity. Complex yet funky and hypnotic, “Margah” bursts with humid life.

By contrast, “Drops” is sly as hell, creeping in on wispy flute and tintinnabulating bells before blossoming into a low-key psych-rock journey to the center of your pineal gland, with ample cowbell action, billowing sax, and piercing flute. It’s a deft exercise in gradually layering elements and intensifying every instrument until an elegant catharsis is attained. Then in the last couple of minutes, all the elements swirl as if in a vortex, leading to a certifiably psychedelic and dazzlingly disorienting conclusion.

If Supernova has a hit single, it’s “High Life,” an unstoppable 13-minute epic of churning and sparse funk. The track canters with a military precision that would make the Meters and CAN proud, but the rococo flute filigrees keep the freak flag flying. “Athir” closes the album with a peaceful, spacious lament led by melancholy flute and an array of percussion toys. It’s in the same family of pregnantly tense songs as Pink Floyd’s “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.” Lofty company, but totally justified. If all this ain’t enough, Supernova is engineered by krautrock’s Lee “Scratch” Perry, Conny Plank. Uh-huh.

/So, I’ve done my part to help make Ibliss a household name. Now it’s your turn. -Buckley Mayfield

Brainticket “Cottonwoodhill” (Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, 1971)

Spoken of in hushed tones by people who’ve eaten their weight in hallucinogens, Cottonwoodhill lives up to the hype. However, not everyone will dig the monomaniacal groove that dominates 26 of the album’s 34 minutes. It’s a helluva groove, granted, but some people have trouble with that sort of obsessive repetition. So, be forewarned.

Brainticket always get classified as “krautrock,” but they were based in Switzerland and their leader, keyboardist/flautist Joel Vandroogenbroeck, is Belgian; the other players on this LP hail from Italy and Germany. Whatever the case, these musicians created one of the most notorious head-wreckers in the rock pantheon. The warning on the inner gatefold—“Only listen once a day to this record. Your brain might be destroyed!”—is only slightly hyperbolic.

The album’s first song, “Black Sand,” starts in mid-gallop, born ready to sprint to the vortex of your cortex and stimulate the hell out of it. One of the great lead-off tracks in rock history, it’s a glinting slash of acid rock, marked by Ron Bryer’s burning liquid guitar leads, Vandroogenbroeck’s brash organ avalanches, and the most wicked, hollowed-out vocals (run through a Leslie speaker?). For most bands, “Black Sand” would be an album peak, but not here. Oh, no. Just you wait. “Places Of Light” is the mellow jam before the storm, with a mellifluous flute motif, poet Dawn Muir’s stoned intonations, and snarling organ riffs that would give Brian Auger Hammond envy.

So, about that peak… The two-part “Brainticket” begins with traffic/vehicle/horn sounds, out of which coalesces an über-repetitive master riff: a grinding, staccato behemoth of psychedelic propulsion that’s geared to zoom in and out for eternity. It’s the eventful foundation over which Muir rambles lysergically—hissing, gasping, groaning, and moaning the play-by-play of her harrowing LSD misadventure while what could be explosions in an analog-synth and Theremin factory transpire in the background. The whole track’s an existential freakout of frighteningly surrealistic intensity.

The first time I heard this album, I myself was on ac*d, and let me tell you, “Brainticket” loosened my already-tenuous grasp of reality, transporting me directly into the brains of the mad European musicians concocting this disorienting psych-concrète maelstrom. (It’s no mystery why Nurse With Wound sampled the main theme for their “Brained By Falling Masonry.”) “Brainticket” inevitably ends in cataclysmic cacophony, one woman’s awry trip alchemized into one of the most delirious psychedelic experiences on wax. You can’t not feel wrung out after listening to it. They don’t make ’em like this anymore… because most folks just can’t handle that level of madness… plus, it’s hard to market.

(The Lilith label reissued Cottonwoodhill in 2010, so you don’t need to spend three figures to hear this masterpiece on vinyl.) -Buckley Mayfield

The Meters “The Meters” (Josie, 1969)

Here it is—the muthafuckin’ blueprint for a style of funk that seemingly has infinite staying power. The Meters’ debut LP is an ideal specimen of precision-tooled, just-the-brass-tacks-ma’am of New Orleans dance music, which has influenced generations of funk musicians and turned on millions of aficionados—while also providing a banquet of sampleworthy passages for hip-hop producers. Eternal thanks to Leo Nocentelli (guitar), Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste (drums) George Porter Jr. (bass), and Art Neville (keyboards) for their evergreen innovations.

On The Meters, these cool-headed gentlemen concocted a spare geometry of rhythm that always equals satisfaction where it counts: in the hips and the ears. Their concise compositions get to the point—which is a very important, rewarding point—and then efficiently move on to the next fundamental equation, which they elegantly solve, over and over again. That may sound a bit dry, but trust me, what the Meters do here is very lubricious.

The opening track, “Cissy Strut,” actually was a hit in 1969, selling 200,000 copies in two weeks, according to Wikipedia. It’s staggering to think that we once lived in a world where a stark instrumental funk cut could chart; my, how far we’ve fallen. Anyway, “Cissy Strut”—which has been sampled at least 60 times— is a seminar conducted by badass musicians casually placing every element in a song to maximize its innate funkiness. Special mention to drummer Modeliste, whose embellishments are tricky as hell while never losing the funk. Amazing four-limb dexterity!

Elsewhere, “Here Comes The Meter Man” comes off as both Southern-fried and as cool as sweet tea, with Neville’s organ a churchy swirl of carefree joy and Nocentelli’s guitar a quicksilver wonder of economy and liquid bliss. “Cardova” the epitome of the Meters’ special brand of methodical funk. You’d think something this orderly wouldn’t be interesting, but you’d be quite wrong. “Sophisticated Cissy” is more laid-back than its kissing cousin, “Cissy Strut,” and perhaps a tad funkier as a result. In my considered opinion, “Sophisticated Cissy” is summer-porch-sitting jammage par excellence. The cover of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Simple Song” slams just as hard as the original, but with fewer frills (like horns and vocals); it’s tighter than a military drum corps and infinitely more exciting.

The Meters is the purest distillation of the band’s utterly democratic, telepathic chemistry, before they kinda sorta ruined things with vocals and some ill-advised covers (Neil Young’s “Birds,” Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With,” etc.). Make no mistake: This album should be studied in universities as a paragon of bare-bones funk. It’s also a fantastic party platter, if you’re one of those freaks who enjoy feeling really good. -Buckley Mayfield

Mustafa Özkent Ve Orkestrasi “Gençlik İle Elele” (Evren, 1973)

After much listening and thought, I have to conclude that Mustafa Özkewnt VE Orkestrasi’s Gençlik İle Elele is a perfect record, a paragon of Turkish funk. Its 10 instrumental tracks average a little over three minutes in length, but they’re so rhythmically tight and tonally and texturally fascinating, that they feel like teases. Every element here—swarming, swirling John Medeski-esque soul-jazz organ, trebly, frilly-tendrilled guitar, in-the-pocket drums, furious bongo- and conga-slapping and other hand-percussion accents—is laser-focused to get your head bobbing, your hips swiveling, and your loins flooded with do-it fluid. So, yeah… a perfect record.

This LP, as you may surmise, contains loads of chunky funk that’s ripe for sampling by enterprising hip-hop producers; it’s a veritable breakbeat orgy. But according to online authority whosampled.com, only four Mustafa Özkent tracks have been sampled. That seems low for an album of such bumpin’ bounty. Not surprisingly, Madlib’s brother Oh No used two songs from Gençlik in his own work; surprisingly, Madlib himself hasn’t plundered it… not yet, anyway.

The concision and airtight beat science displayed by Mustafa Özkent and company recall the Meters’ disciplined approach to funk. Of course, being Turkish, Mustaf Özkent sound a tad more non-Western in their melodies and timbres. (According to Andy Votel’s liner notes in the 2006 B-Music reissue, Özkent modified his guitars with extra frets to make it sound more like a saz or a lute.) And that makes a big difference with regard to the stunning impact this album makes on the Western listener. All that being said, the phenomenal bass solo on “Dolana Dolana” would make Larry Graham give two thwapping thumbs up.

Reissued again by Portland label Jackpot in 2016, Gençlik İle Elele—which means Hand In Hand With Youthshould never fall out of print, nor stray far from your DJ bag, if indeed you DJ. Hell, this record just may inspire to start working the 1s and 2s yourself… -Buckley Mayfield

Phil Upchurch “The Way I Feel” (Cadet, 1970)

ORCHESTRA ARRANGED AND CONDUCTED BY CHARLES STEPNEY” it reads under the title of The Way I Feel, and if that doesn’t sell you on this album, then I don’t know what to tell you. Because Stepney, as you should know, was a studio wizard who conjured certified magic for Rotary Connection, Minnie Riperton, Marlena Shaw, Ramsey Lewis, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and other talented musicians in Chicago during the ’60s and ’70s. But, of course, there’s more to The Way I Feel than Stepney’s exceptional ideas. Phil Upchurch—who also played with Rotary Connection and several other Stepney-associated artists—is a wonderfully expressive, virtuosic guitarist and bassist who issued a grip of very good LPs in the era mentioned above, including this one. (I don’t waste my time with mediocrity, dig?)

It must be said that this album contains its share of fluff—albeit sophisticated, extremely well-played and arranged fluff. Two Gordon Lightfoot covers? Not sure that’s totally necessary. Those E-Z listenin’, airy fantasias plus Quincy Jones/Cynthia Weil’s “Time For Love (Is Any Time)” find Upchurch in restrained, contemplative mode, offering classy dinner music. Similarly, the effervescent soul pop of “Wild Wood,” buoyed by a bevy of female backing vocalists singing “Hey baby, sha la la sha la la la,” is rather lightweight compared to Upchurch’s best material.

Much better is “Peter, Peter,” an Irwin Rosman composition that Upchurch turns into serpentine psychedelia while flaunting his mercurial jamming skills and facility for shifting between phenomenal fuzz and crystalline tones. Other highlights include “I Don’t Know,” a “Willie The Pimp”-style slab of nasty blues rock, and “Pretty Blue,” a laid-back, lascivious instrumental.

But with “Electrik Head,” Upchurch perversely saves the best for last. And, whoa, holy shit! It’s a career-peak song, an effusion of translucent guitar pyrotechnics, a cascade of icy, pointillist, tonal eloquence. I’ve played this psychedelic mind-blower in many a DJ set, and will continue to do so for as long as I can. Because I like to make a room full of people stop their chatter, put down their drinks, and gawk in amazement at the Hendrix-level sorcery going on here. Because it’s one of the greatest pieces of music the 20th century has yielded. Because I’m a sonic philanthropist who wants to take you to (Up)church. -Buckley Mayfield

The Dukes Of Stratosphear “25 O’Clock” (Virgin, 1985)

When 25 O’Clock came out 32 years ago, it sounded at once like a prank and a homage. That it was released on April 1 convinced many that it was indeed more the former. The cover screamed love for Cream’s Disraeli Gears, the pseudonyms hinted at British whimsy, and the music approximated the various permutations of late-’60s psych-rock with a maniacal fan’s ear for detail. When it emerged that the Dukes Of Stratosphear were actually the popular new-wave group XTC and not a forgotten gaggle of acid-gobblers from two decades earlier, some listeners kind of soured on the premise, but many others said fuck it, who cares—this record rules, no matter if it hadn’t been languishing in some vault, unheard and accruing legendary status. Count me in the latter bunch.

A concise, perfectly formed six-song EP, 25 O’Clock begins with the title track, a serpentine stormer in the vein of Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night,” with an organ sound akin to Chick Corea’s on “Imp’s Welcome,” of all things. It’s an obsessive love song about a bond that transcends the ordinary parameters of time, and it’s a sure sign that the Dukes know their ’60s psychedelia over under sideways down. “Bike Ride To The Moon” effervesces in the same sonic playground in which Syd Barrett frolicked, capturing the late Pink Floyd leader’s knack for loony melodies and beautifully chaotic song structure. You can totally imagine this song on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.

“My Love Explodes” is simply one of the most exciting songs ever, an adrenalized agglomeration of nearly every trick in the psych-rock playbook. A bonkers rave-up that could singe the hair off the Yardbirds and Count Five, it evokes an LSD trip that’s simultaneously exhilarating and harrowing. Perhaps too predictably, it ends with a “7 And & Is”-like explosion and a recording of a nerd vehemently dissing the song. Talk about a buzzkill… But all returns to bliss with “What In The World??…” an oneiric inversion of’ “Rain” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”—two of the Beatles’ greatest compositions.

“Your Gold Dress” offers more Pink Floyd worship; it’s a minor-key, low-slung snake-charmer of a tune bolstered by liberal usage of vocal FX, backward phased guitars, sitar-ized guitar, and harpsichord. The EP’s peak may be “The Mole From The Ministry,” a blatant revamp of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but “Mole”—replete with a Mellotron motif that would make the Moody Blues weep and a false, backward-sucking false ending that summons a phantom “I buried Paul” in your mind’s ear—makes the Beatles’ paragon of creepy psych comedown seem like a bit of teatime frippery.

Yes, 25 O’Clock is pastiche, but it’s the pinnacle of pastiche. It’s my favorite work by XTC, and I’m still not sick of it a hundred listens later. -Buckley Mayfield