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Friar Tuck “Friar Tuck & His Psychedelic Guitar” (Mercury, 1967)

Many people’s favorite guitarist from the world-class LA studio band the Wrecking Crew, Mike Deasy is one of the mad geniuses behind the Ceyleib People’s one-off 1968 masterpiece, Tanyet, which I reviewed for this blog in 2018. Deasy’s session credits include a litany popular artists, some of whom made it into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Mike, however, has remained a deeply idiosyncratic cult figure.

Under his goofy Friar Tuck persona, Deasy let his freak flag fly, albeit not as sublimely as he did on Tanyet. Rather, Friar Tuck & His Psychedelic Guitar is a lysergic distortion of ’60s pop and rock that seems as if it were bashed out in a day, with help from some ringers such as bassist Jerry Scheff, drummer Jim Troxel, vibraphonist Toxie French (all from the great, short-lived Goldenrod), vocalist/arranger Curt Boettcher, and many others. Yes, this is a psychsploitation record from the subgenre’s red-hot peak of 1967, but Deasy does it with more inventiveness (and echoplex) than most.

Friar Tuck & His Psychedelic Guitar splits its two sides between covers and originals. The first side hints that the monk outfit Deasy’s wearing on the cover ain’t the only thing kooky about this LP. Tommy Roe’s cutesy 1965 hit “Sweet Pea” abounds with all sorts of flamboyant six-string filigree, negating the corny recitation of banal lyrics and cheesy backing vocals. A bad-trip, FX-laden coda telegraphs Deasy’s subversive motives. “Louis Louis” (aka frat-house garage-rock standard “Louie Louie”) receives a total makeover into a blissed-out psych saunter. EZ-listening female vocals sound absurd amid the increasingly disorienting disintegration of this overfamiliar classic. Mike completely rearranged the song’s DNA into something chaotically beautiful—and barely recognizable. Deasy and his super sessioneers also transform Oscar Brown and Nat Adderley’s “Work Song” into a baroque rave-up. Finally, Hollywood Argyles’ 1960 novelty hit “Alley-Oop” fits right in with Deasy’s loopy irreverence; surely notorious Argyles member Kim Fowley approved.

Deasy’s original songs occupy side 2, and it’s here where he really lets his imagination run riot. The compositions initially seem to have conventional structures, but as they go on, the backing vocals get stacked into infinite halls of mirrors and the guitars (also played by Ben Benay and Jim Helms) color way outside the lines in fluorescent colors. “A Record Hi” psychedelicizes “Louie Louie” even further into United States Of America territory (the band, not the country). “Fendabenda Ha Ha Ha” ingeniously uses extended chants as a foundation for brain-scrambling biker rock. By the time of the closing “Where Did Your Mind Go?” you’ll be laughing at how absurd this album’s journey from chart-fodder spoof to psychedelic excess has been, as well as pondering the question in the song’s title.

(The 2007 CD reissue on UK label Fallout includes four amiable bonus tracks from Deasy singles under the Flower Pot alias.) -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

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