Psych and Prog

Karuna Khyal “Alomoni 1985” (Voice, 1974)

The Nurse With Wound List—which appeared in the UK avant-garde group’s 1979 debut album—opened many minds to a lot of amazing, weird music. Of the nearly 300 artists whom NWW acknowledged as influences on their music, Japan’s Karuna Khyal (and its brother band, Brast Burn) remain perhaps the most mysterious.

But you know what? The dearth of information regarding these phenomenal bands only enhances the listening experience. These bizarre aural documents—Karuna Khyal’s Alomoni 1985 and Brast Burn’s Debon—seemingly manifested magically. Their creator, one Takahashi Yoshihiro, apparently had no interest in claiming ownership or reaping whatever rewards would come from these bafflingly unique masterpieces. And that’s beautiful.

Consisting of two sidelong tracks that total 48 minutes of mind-boggling music, Alomoni 1985 sounds as if it were improvised under the influence of potent hallucinogens… in a remote cave. One may hear a slight connection to fellow Japanese psychonauts Taj-Mahal Travellers, but Karuna Khyal are a much stranger proposition. Like the Travellers, KK occasionally veer into eerie-drone territory, but more often they’re twisting rock and experimental music into unprecedented shapes.

Alomoni 1985 begins with a lurching beat and a wonderfully warped string instrument snarling a mutant blues riff, as the singer chants as if spellbound. A harmonica mirrors that fantastic riff while the heavy, burdened beat continues to trudge. An abrupt transition into a sinister chug follows, almost Chrome-like in its machine-mantra motion, but more organic than those Bay Area industrial-psych madmen ever sounded. Things get very intense and abrasive, and I can imagine a lot of listeners bowing out here.

There’s a stretch in the first track that comes off like Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band covering Can‘s “Yoo Doo Right” while being sucked into a vortex—and this is the album’s most accessible passage! The singer definitely has that gravelly Don Van Vliet timbre, but his language will be indecipherable to most Western ears. (“Kwannik kwannik kwannick TOOLAAAHHH,” eh? Can I get an “amen”?) Some studio black magic eventually turns the voice into nightmarish hall-of-mirrors murmur. It’s too much, man.

The second track starts with some of diabolically scary wind noises, insistent kick drums, and more enigmatic muttering and bellowing. What the hell is happening? I’m not sure, but the oddly angled, chunky proto-techno action foreshadows American weirdos Black Dice by about 30 years. The track gradually morphs into a disturbing marching-band/arcane-ritual procession that takes the Mothers Of Invention’s “Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet” to the next dimension. Karuna Khyal—whoever they were—proved themselves to be operating on a whole other level of genius.

What few original copies of Alomoni 1985 exist on the second-hand market go for hundreds of dollars. Your best chance of obtaining the vinyl for a reasonable price is Phoenix Records’ unofficial 2012 reissue (which Discogs has banned). Or you could search for Paradigm Discs’ 1998 CD. Finally, if desperate to hear the album, you can stream it. But wear good headphones for optimal brain-bonking. -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.

Bob Seger System “Noah” (Capitol, 1969)

The follow-up to Bob Seger System’s classic 1968 debut LP, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, Noah is yet another early Seger album that its creator would rather you forget. You won’t find Noah on streaming services nor on CD, and vinyl copies are scarce in the wild. Like Kraftwerk, Bob is not the best judge of his music’s worth. So it is up to his fans and critics to save their scorned, great work from oblivion.

One likely reason Seger has banished Noah to the memory hole is that six of the album’s 10 songs don’t even bear his writing. Guitarist/vocalist Tom Neme basically became the co-leader of the System, and that understandably didn’t sit well with Robert.

Neme’s quality control veered wildly on Noah, but when he was good, he was really good. Take “Lonely Man,” for example. A soulful ballad with deceptive funk in its trunk, the song sounds like the blueprint for Ethan Miller’s Howlin Rain band. This tune really wrings you dry. Funny how one of the greatest Seger songs wasn’t even written by Bob, although he sings his damn ass off for Mr. Neme. Another Neme highlight is “Jumpin’ Humpin’ Hip Hypocrite,” on which he sings in an action-packed, tom-tom-heavy rocker that jams out into bruising psychedelic realms.

But Neme’s “Follow The Children” enters jaunty sunshine-pop song territory, which is not at all Seger’s forte. The vague, feel-good refrain “the reason for living is just to be free” is a beautiful thought, although “freedom” is variable and subjective, right? Similarly, the title track is an uncharacteristically cheerful pop song augmented by Bob Schultz’s sax that departs from that rugged BSS garage-rock template true heads love. Heck, they even let bassist Dan Honaker sing one song (the undistinguished “Lennie Johnson”).

Seger returns to his strengths with “Innervenus Eyes,” one of the toughest garage-rockers in the BSS canon, with intensely whorling and stabbing organ parts, Can-like bass pulsations, and our Bob singing like a man trying to shake off demons. “Death Row”—a classic garage-rock brooder left over from the Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man sessions and originally released as the B-side to “2 + 2 = ?”—closes Noah on a dark, bright note.

But the real shocker here is “Cat,” the most OUT song in Seger’s catalog: he channels Can’s Malcolm Mooney on this crazed duel with Pep Perrine’s drums, cowbell, and maracas. Sure, this strange anomaly has always alienated the folks who swarm to Bob’s post-Beautiful Loser amphitheater shows (assuming they even heard it), but fug those normies. “Cat” is the feral stuff that Seger quickly abandoned, but I’d rather hear this six-minute primal workout on repeat than listen to 10 seconds of “Old Time Rock & Roll.”

Maybe after Seger passes, Jack White or another superfan will get Noah reissued. Until then, prepare to shell out big bucks for this erratic nugget. -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.

The Ventures “Underground Fire” (Liberty, 1969)

There’s no way most mortals have heard all of the Ventures‘ 250-plus albums. Nor, it is fairly certain, are all of the Ventures’ album worth hearing. Even the band members would admit that many of them were hastily pumped out to capitalize on trends. The Ventures were blessed—or cursed—with the ability to play nearly every style of music with verve and ingenuity. And they and/or their labels seemingly possessed an urgent need for money. So, the Ventures’ discography from their ’60s/’70s peak looks like a precursor to Guided By Voices’, for sheer prolificness.

Now, with regard to this surf-rock institution founded in Tacoma, Washington, I’m a shameful dabbler. But of the tiny fraction of LPs by them that I’ve heard, Underground Fire stands out. As most mortals know, Ventures’ albums consist mostly of covers of popular tunes from whatever period they were released. And they often have a marketable theme—or gimmick, if you want to be less charitable.

By contrast, Underground Fire can pretty much stand alone as a creative milestone for the Ventures. Side one’s all originals; side two’s all covers of some heavy, late-’60s hits that you know and probably love. But the group prove they’re much more than master replicators of popular idioms; these cats can also write some memorable instrumentals, when they set their minds to it.

The title track kicks off the album like the Yardbirds exorcising some blues-rock demons. New lead guitarist Gerry McGee apparently thought that surf rock had runs its course, and the rest of the band acquiesced with his more scathing vision. “Embers In E Minor” is cool, driving rock that has the air of hip British library music of the time. Were the Ventures secret KPM Records fans? One hopes so. Possibly the funkiest song in the Ventures’ discography, “Sea Of Grass” finds bassist Bob Bogle and drummer Mel Taylor really upping their game here. This may be blasphemous hyperbole, but I’d put “Sea Of Grass” in a DJ set with the hardest-grooving cuts by Booker T. & The M.G.s and the Meters.

In “Higher Than Thou,” Bogle’s bass line is a monster of minimalist propulsion while McGee’s guitar leads are greasy blues-rock lightning. It’s a serious party jam that may help you reach its titular state. With its on-the-nose title, “Country Funk And The Canned Head” is, you guessed it, a Canned Heat homage, as well as proto-ZZ Top boogie. (By the way, Mel Taylor was Canned Heat bassist Larry’s brother.)

Underground Fire‘s cover songs are as familiar to most seasoned listeners as the fingers on their record-flipping hand. On “Born To Be Wild,” the Ventures lean in to this Steppenwolf biker-rock staple like their paychecks depended on it. No vocals necessary when you have such slashing guitar interplay and an urgently punchy rhythm section. As for “Sunshine Of Your Love,” folks of a certain age don’t really need to hear this Cream classic in 2024. But if we must, the Ventures’ vicious, funked-up version is the way to go.

There’s also a respectful rendition of “The Weight,” but we only need the Band’s, to be brutally honest. The Ventures’ “Light My Fire” stands as a great contribution to the canon, if you dislike Jim Morrison’s vocal presence. And, if I may conjecture, John Durrill’s rococo keyboard excursions probably impressed Ray Manzarek. The same concept applies to “Down On Me,” except if Janis Joplin’s voice somehow gets on your nerves. McGee tears off fluid, searing leads—just a commanding performance. The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown nugget “Fire” blazes brightly and maintains the album’s theme with panache.

Underground Fire hasn’t been reissued on vinyl in the US in 55 years. Regardless, you should be able to find copies fairly easily and cheaply. I scored mine a few years ago in an Oak Park, Michigan shop for $2.99. -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.

Eddy Senay “Hot Thang” (Sussex, 1972)

As a guitarist from Detroit coming up in the ’60s and ’70s, Eddy Senay had to deal with some tough competition. Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel, the Funk Brothers’ Dennis Coffey, the MC5’s Fred “Sonic” Smith and Wayne Kramer, etc. But Senay held his own among these heavy Motor City axe-slingers on his two lone albums for Sussex, Step By Step and Hot Thang (both released in 1972). He wasn’t as incendiary a player as the aforementioned musicians, but Senay ruled as a purveyor of mellow finesse, a virtuoso of blissful licks.

Hot Thang bears similarities with Mel Brown’s Chicken Fat (reviewed on this blog earlier this year). Both records eschew vocals (let us give thanks) and possess a sinuous, sinewy approach to bluesy funk. Sometimes the best way to start an album is to ease your way into it. Fig. 1 is “Just Feeling It,” a laid-back psych-blues charmer that would make Khruangbin flip their wigs. “Down Home” bears Steve Cropper/Booker T. & The M.G.s vibes. Country funk of the highest order, the song rewardingly chews the aforementioned Chicken Fat.

Written by Donny Hathaway and Richard Evans, “Zambezi” remains one of the coolest funk cuts ever, with Senay operating at his flashiest and most dexterous, working in perfect tandem with the uncredited, flamboyant organist. It’s the album’s peak and my go-to cut from it for DJ sets. Almost as great are “Jubo” and “Reverend Lowdown.” The former’s hard-hitting, elastic funk screaming to get on a blaxploitation-film soundtrack; the latter’s stripped-down, James Brown-ian funk with tambourine-augmented beats. Scorchers, both.

Senay’s such an ingenious musician, he can make even an over-covered hit such as Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” sound necessary. He does it with requisite solemnity, but also a peppier tempo and funkier rhythm. It’s one of the best versions of this song, which, given how many there are, is serious praise.

Modern Harmonic reissued Hot Thang on vinyl and CD in 2017. Get it on all formats -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.

Traffic Sound “Virgin” (MaG, 1970)

I first encountered Traffic Sound in the ’80s, at a time when very few records by Peruvian rock bands infiltrated North American stores. We had access to many Brazilian releases back then, but Peru? Our ignorant, pre-internet asses didn’t even know that that South American country harbored a rock scene. But Traffic Sound were the real deal, and they broke through to receptive heads, becoming many listeners’ introduction to Peru’s rich rock landscape.

Traffic Sound only released four albums, but their second one, Virgin (following a covers-heavy debut indebted to artists such as Hendrix, Cream, and Animals), is both their most popular LP and their creative peak. The band consisted of Jean-Pierre Magnet (sax), Willy Barclay (lead guitar), Manuel Sanguinetti (vocals), Lucho Nevares (drums), Willy Thorne (bass), and Freddy Rizo Patrón (rhythm guitar). Their chemistry was magical.

The acoustic-guitar-fueled title track kicks off the album with widescreen, heroic rock marked by Sanguinetti’s passionate vocals, sung in English—another factor that helped Traffic Sound make inroads into the Anglo-American market. “Tell The World I’m Alive” channels the quasi-maudlin vibe of some of Aphrodite’s Child’s ultra-sincere ballads.

Virgin really takes off, though, with “Yellow Sea Days (March 7th; March 8th; March 9th),” a three-part suite that’s one of Traffic Sound’s towering achievements. It starts in laid-back loping mode, blissed out to the max with spangling acoustic guitar, burbling hand percussion, and distant golden sax mellowness. The second section coils into a predatory groove laced with a fried, descending electric-guitar riff that would make Jeff Beck accidentally swallow his plectrum. The third part gently ascends into a psychedelic reverie as heavenly as anything by Relatively Clean Rivers or Friendsound. In a different but no less sublime vein, “Jews Caboose” is a slice of fuzzed-out, funky, Latin psych-rock that’s heavier than anything Santana and their ilk did. Pure heat.

Virgin peaks with “Meshkalina,” which is by far the most streamed track from this album on $p0t1fy. This song warns about the sinister powers of mescaline, which may make you all the more want to partake. The “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah YEAH YEAH” refrain permanently scars your brain—but in a good way. Sanguinetti sings, “We were having fun, even though we were dying/Let me die, Meshkalina.” Yikes. As urgent and harrowing as a trip to the ER in a foreign country, “Meshkalina” ranks as one of the greatest drug songs ever. High praise, indeed. (Pun intended.) The aptly titled “Last Song” ends Virgin with a delicate, fluid acoustic-guitar instrumental—quite a contrast to the turbulent “Meshkalina.”

In 2024, the Spanish label Munster reissued Virgin with a photo-laden booklet that includes detailed liner notes. Act quickly. -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.

Screaming Trees “Even If And Especially When” (SST, 1987)

The peak album from Ellensburg, Washington’s finest, Even If And Especially When stands as one of the greatest psych-rock releases of the 1980s. And it holds up today; hell, I just played “Don’t Look Down” in a DJ gig a few days ago night, and it sounded great seguing out of Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Little Miss Strange.” (Its 1988 follow-up, Invisible Lantern, was almost as sublime. The Trees were on fire in the ’80s.)

Produced by the great Steve Fisk and Screaming Trees, Even If abounds with indelible melodies played with nuanced attention to the details of 1960s psychedelic rock. True, there’s a sense of wheel reinvention here, but it’s done so exquisitely that it matters not. Early on in the Trees’ career, Mark Lanegan (who died in 2022 at age 57) mastered the melismatic singing style that signifies mental transport to other realms. And so many of his lyrics dealt with the perception of traveling to destinations unknown and/or unexpected, e.g., “Yeah, I’ve gone so many places/That I don’t know where I’m at” from “Cold Rain.” Confusion is sex, to quote Sonic Youth, another SST band.

Even If opens with “Transfiguration,” a boisterous mission statement of ’60s psychedelia that’s devoid of kitsch and replete with liberating fervor. The Trees are telling you straightaway to strap in, because we’re blasting off at full speed with no guard rails… and lids will be flipped. “Straight Out To Any Place” continues the torrid pace established on the previous song. Lanegan convincingly sells the opening verses: “I’m burning baby, catch on fire with me/There’s some ghosts in my head/And they’re chasing me through my dreams.” On “World Painted,” the Trees perfected that swirling-miasma-of-wonder mode, before “Don’t Look Down” puts pedal to the metal in a gush of drug-trip-recounting exhilaration (“I get the strangest feeling/Jump up, become the ceiling”).

If you want to hear magical reenactments of the grooviest ’60s psychsploitation cuts imaginable, check out “Girl Behind The Mask” and “You Know Where It’s At.” The midtempo psych saunter of “Cold Rain” boasts an incredible swagger, with Mark Pickerel’s beats possessing an oddly danceable hitch in their stride, while brothers Gary Lee and Van Conner slay on guitar and bass, respectively. It’s been my favorite song on Even If since the album came out 37 years ago. “In The Forest”—which recalls the most exciting aspects of groups such as the Litter and Count Five—is a fantastic climax to a record that revitalizes the hell out of psychedelia’s familiar tropes. This addictive album can withstand repeat listens, with no ill side effects.

Although I haven’t seen it myself, a vinyl reissue of Even If reportedly has surfaced this month from the notoriously frustrating SST label, whose owner, Greg Ginn, typically has been lax to keep its most desirable titles in print. So, affordable copies may be circulating. Good luck. -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.

Sadistic Mika Band “Sadistic Mika Band” (Doughnut/Harvest, 1973)

Led by the wife/husband team of vocalist Mika and guitarist/composer Kazuhiko Katō, Sadistic Mika Band released three very good albums in the ’70s (this one, Black Ship, Hot! Menu) that peddled an over-the-top strain of glam rock, with surprising undercurrents of funk. That funk mainly came from bassist Rey Ohara and drummer Yukihiro Takahashi, the latter of whom later played with electro-pop legends Yellow Magic Orchestra.

Sadistic Mika Band often have been called the Roxy Music of Japan, and for good reason: their chops and production values were impeccable and their songwriting teemed with invention and personality. While SMB presented as goofier than Bryan Ferry and company and didn’t attain the popularity of their British counterparts, they did open for them on the UK leg of their 1975 Siren Tour and accrued a fervent cult status among collectors.

This album bursts into vivid life with “Dance Is Over,” full-on glam with flashbacks to ’50s rock & roll, as was common in the first half of the ’70s. Being Japanese musicians, though, SMB imbue the homage with a flamboyant excessiveness and surplus adrenaline. Now that they have our attention, SMB deliver the killer funk bomb that is “Silver Child.” Mika giggles, gasps, screams, and belts over a fathoms-deep groove and absurdly oscillating wah-wah guitar pyrotechnics. The song makes Parliament-Funkadelic at their most extravagant sound buttoned up. Drop “Silver Child” in a DJ set and watch the floor explode.

Nothing else on Sadistic Mika Band quite matches that peak, but a few inspirational flashes occur. “Galaxy Way” offers truly odd tropical funk with marimba and synth while “Milky Way”‘s pseudo-reggae rock foreshadows Patti Smith Group’s “Redondo Beach,” and is accidentally funky, to boot. “Picnic Boogie” is at once a parody of American rock and doo-wop and an apotheosis of it. Mika’s charming sassiness here makes one wonder why she didn’t get more time on the mic for this record. “Arienu Republic” is peak freewheeling glam that would make Marc Bolan, David Bowie, and Gary Glitter stomp their hands and clap their feet. Have Asian musicians ever sounded more British, even while singing in Japanese? Doubtful.

A few songs on Sadistic Mika Band tilt too heavily into sentimental-ballad territory for my taste, but they’re executed with serious panache. This was a common trait in Far East Asian pop music of the mid 20th century and it has its devotees, but maudlin singing has always disagreed with me. Hearing how much sheer glee went into SMB’s music, you can’t help feeling shocked that the band’s catalyst, Kazuhiko Katō, hanged himself in 2009.

Sadistic Mika Band has been oop on vinyl since 1975, though Universal Music Japan re-released it in on CD in 2018. Suffice it to say, a major reissue campaign for SMB’s ’70s LPs is overdue. -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.

The Doors “Waiting For The Sun” (Elektra, 1968)

Waiting For The Sun is the Goats Head Soup of the Doors’ catalog. It followed their two most beloved albums—The Doors and Strange Days—and was considered a letdown by most critics and fans upon its 1968 release. Nevertheless, it reached the top of Billboard‘s LP chart. But, as with Goats Head Soup (which had the difficult task of following Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main St.), time has been kind to Waiting For The Sun. Over the decades, the deep tracks on both records have risen in esteem and they’ve proved to be some of the best work by both groups. (Read our review of Goats Head Soup here.)

You can’t say that Waiting For The Sun lacks range. This album contains “Love Street”‘s feathery, filigreed, and quaint romantic pop that threatens to float right off the grooves and “Five To One,” perhaps the toughest and most ominous Doors song—which is saying something in a catalog that boasts “The End” and “Horse Latitudes.” Hip-hop stars J Dilla and Jay-Z and Plunderphonics prankster John Oswald all sampled “Five To One,” which provides a helluva climax for Waiting For The Sun.

Waiting For The Sun also possesses the Robby Krieger-dominated “Spanish Caravan,” in which the guitarist flexes his considerable flamenco chops. The melody eventually gets as convoluted and bombastic as anything ELP or Yes would do a few years later. Then you have “My Wild Love,” which is constructed like a work song, with backing chants, claps, and stomps. Like it or not, there were very few tracks that sounded like this on rock records of the time—especially on those released by major labels.

You got “Yes, The River Knows,” an intimate jazz-pop beauty, not unlike Tim Buckley ca. Blue Afternoon. and also the relentless earworm of big hit “Hello, I Love You.” Bizarrely, the Doors may have unknowingly blueprinted a strain of synth-pop on “Hello, I Love You,” with its sassy automaton shuffle. Yes, the rhythm resembles that of the Kinks’ “All Day And All Of The Night,” but Manzarek’s keyboard drives it instead of distorted guitars and it’s stiffer in the joints, and that makes all the difference. This development was concurrent with Silver Apples’ first LP, which also foreshadowed synth-pop, but in a more blatant manner. “Hello, I Love You” also possess the coolest sound on any Doors record—those three seconds of futuristic, spaced-dusted keyboard wizardry at 1:16.

I have a fondness for the maligned “Summer’s Almost Gone,” because of how it foreshadows Opal‘s “Happy Nightmare Baby.” A swaying, wistful ballad about romantic doubt and confusion, “Summer’s Almost Gone” features Krieger’s bottleneck-guitar sighs sailing over Manzarek’s Ramsey Lewis-esque keyboard curlicues. Less successful is “Wintertime Love”‘s baroque, waltz-time puffery that’s somewhat similar to Love’s “Stepanie Knows Who,” but with much less thrust and excitement.

If you dig sophisticated, multi-part anti-war tunes, “The Unknown Soldier”—which peaked at #39 with a bullet—is the bomb. “Not To Touch The Earth” stands as one of the Doors’ eeriest, most suspenseful, and psychedelic tracks. Krieger forges a mesmerizing guitar motif while Manzarek creates a proto-Suicide throb that intensifies throughout the song. Despite reports of him being a drunken mess for these sessions, Jim Morrison roars at his most portentous and croons at his most suave. The coda is almost as nerve-shattering as that of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man.” When people diss the Doors, I like to counter with “But have you heard ‘Not To Touch The Earth'”? If that doesn’t convince ’em of the Doors’ worth, nothing probably will.

I get it: some listeners have trouble with Morrison’s try-hard “poetic” lyrics and self-serious demeanor. But I filter out most of that noise and enjoy Mr. Mojo Risin strictly as a disruptive performance artist who’s competing for attention with the exceptional music behind him. More often than not, Jimbo rises to the occasion and—bonus!—sometimes delivers unintentional humor. -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.

Sugarloaf “Sugarloaf” (Liberty, 1970)

Cheap-heat alert! You’ve probably passed over this ubiquitous bargain-bin dweller by Denver band Sugarloaf more times than you care to count. But please reconsider. I copped mine for a buck years ago, and I’m happy to report that I got way more than expected from these two-hit wonders.

Sugarloaf’s debut album peaked at #24 in the US, thanks largely to its hit single, “Green-Eyed Lady,” which reached #3 in the singles chart. After an instantly magnetic intro featuring Bob Webber’s luminous guitar wails and Bob Raymond’s bubbly, bulbous bass line, things excitingly change for the duration of the song’s 6:50. Allegedly, the suspenseful main riff derived from a scale exercise in a music-theory book. Works for me. As paeans to emerald-orbed girlfriends go, this is unsurpassable. It’s a minor miracle that radio lavished so much love on such a non-LCD, unconventionally structured jazz-rock opus—although the Doors kind of, uh, opened the door for such airplay largesse. Whatever the case, those were different times.

Next, Sugarloaf turn in a suitably turbulent cover of the Yardbirds potent blues-rock warhorse, “The Train Kept A-Rollin’ (Stroll On).” Another zenith occurs on “Bach Doors Man/Chest Fever.” It opens with a momentous classical-music overture that will curl the toes of Iron Butterfly fans. This then segues smoothly into a grandiose rendition of the Band’s greatest song, “Chest Fever” (nobody can compete with Richard Manuel on the mic, so the decision to go instrumental makes sense.) Sugarloaf transform the original’s propulsive, proto-house rhythm into a staccato blues-rock behemoth full of swirling organ, trenchant guitar stabs, and wicked bass ostinatos, while drummer Myron Pollock gets baroquely funky. It’s a complex banger, for damn certain.

Now, a lot of critics have dismissed side two of Sugarloaf, but “West Of Tomorrow” is a striking bit of musicianship. The track boasts the sky-punching air of a Guess Who hit (partially due to singer Veeder van Dorn’s vocal resemblance to Burton Cummings), but it’s more progtastic than those Canadians, with its intricate beats and dynamic interplay among Webber’s guitar, Jerry Corbetta’s keys, and Raymond’s bass.

After this song, though, the record flags. “Gold And The Blues” is trudging (not walking) blues with plenty of guitar fireworks, but ultimately it sounds like flashy filler. There’s no good reason for it to last more than seven minutes. Last comes “Things Gonna Change Some,” middling waltz-time rock with fruity vocals by van Dorn. There’s an urgency here, but overall the effect is not gripping, although Corbetta breaks off a vibrant piano solo in the last minute.

Sugarloaf‘s hit/miss ratio is 66.6%, which is higher than that of many pricier albums. Stop riffling past this one. -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.

Can “Ege Bamyasi” (United Artists, 1972)

The recent passing of vocalist/lyricist Damo Suzuki (may he rest in peace) reminded us that his short run with krautrock gods Can (1970-1973) constituted the peak for the greatest rock group ever, if consensus opinion holds any water—and I think it does, for a change. Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, and Future Days—what an unfuckwithable triumvirate of albums! Each one is phenomenal in different ways, exemplifying Damo’s incredible ability to adapt and catalyze. (Suzuki’s crucial contributions to songs on the Soundtracks and Unlimited Edition collections should not be overlooked, either.)

As much as I love Tago Mago and Future Days, I have to pick Ege Bamyasi as my favorite of the Damo era. It captures Can at their most concise and funky and, at times, downright catchy. How many times have you caught yourself bellowing along to Suzuki’s “Hey you! You’re losing, you’re losing your vitamin C”? Too many times to count, no doubt.

Ege Bamyasi begins seemingly in mid jam, as “Pinch” instantly plunges the listener into a vertiginous vortex of torqued funk rock. Talk about an exciting welcome into the closest thing I can think of to a perfect album… Suzuki is in rare tough-guy mode on the mic on this tensile, rugged track, with everyone in the band at the absolute pinnacle of their powers. It’s hard to imagine any other drummer than Jaki Liebezeit executing this kind of complexity and controlled power while keeping the funk bumpin’. In a 180º turn from “Pinch,” the subtly suspenseful “Sing Swan Song” bubbles into life, its aquatic tranquility foreshadowing 1973’s Future Days, but its loping funkiness belongs exclusively to this LP. The seductive cha-cha funk of “One More Night” represents some of the most understated party music ever created, with Irmin Schmidt’s obliquely pinging keyboard motif elevating the song into rarefied status. Suzuki’s sotto voce intonations are a blessing for stressed-out heads, even if toward the end he clenches up.

The record’s best-known song by far, “Vitamin C” is the staccato funk bomb that’s detonated a million acrobatic breakdance moves. This track possesses a strange anti-gravitational pull; it seems to hover five feet off the floor and also contains a passage of oddly moving, old-world melancholy. And then comes a bizarre coda featuring a chorus of crickets and a piercing keyboard drone that bleeds into the album’s longest cut, “Soup,” which eventually breaks into a jagged funk juggernaut not unlike “Halleluwah.” “Soup” goes off on tantalizing tangents, including an agonizing noise interlude that sounds like a pitched-up cement mixer. Then it gets even weirder, with Damo seemingly trying to speak Italian without knowing how, while the rest of the band go on a stridently abstract bender that could break the spirit of the staunchest avant-gardist.

A huge contrast ensues with “I’m So Green,” whose featherlight funk makes you feel as if you’re levitating. Liebezeit’s beats are at once militarily precise and designed for hedonism, while Michael Karoli’s guitar carries a surprising Hawaiian sway and sigh. As for Suzuki, he’s in supplest form. This is one of my go-to Can tracks in DJ sets. Ege ends with the paradoxical “Spoon”: so light yet so ominous, so spooky yet so funky. Schmidt’s head-spinning keyboard swirls entwine with Karoli’s spidery spangles while bassist Holger Czukay and Liebezeit lay down an earthy, girthy rhythm. Thus ends one of the most spellbinding albums ever, one whose pleasures are infinitely renewable. -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.

Hovercraft “Experiment Below” (Mute/Blast First, 1998)

Seattle trio Hovercraft have unjustly vanished from the Discourse™. You never see them mentioned during discussions of greatest bands/albums of the ’90s or even talk of best groups out of Seattle, which is a shame. Not even opening for Mike Watt in their early days—with Eddie Vedder on drums—lifted Hovercraft’s profile very high, though it likely helped them to get signed to Mute Records.

During Hovercraft’s existence (1993-2001), guitarist Campbell 2000 (Ryan Campbell), bassist Sadie 7 (Beth Liebling), and drummer Dash 11 (Ric Peterson) piloted a unique strain of space rock that was as psychedelic and baffling as a chemical equation. Their second and final (and best) album, Experiment Below, features seven tracks that all segue into one another—a series of outrageous jams that ebbs and flows like rivers of magma down a volcano.

Hovercraft were masters of quiet-and-loud dynamics, their lulls portending imminent terror, their crescendos explosive and extreme. The band forever kept you on edge, waiting for the next comet on fire or supernova to come to pass. Everything on their records (and during their live performances, if you were lucky enough to catch them) seems spontaneous, yet also precision-tooled. It’s a wonderful paradox.

Experiment Below‘s songs are rather long and vocal-free, and their intricacy and spurts of sculpted noise, power chords, and ice-pick tinglings never let you fully get your bearings. Some folks might flash on the longest cuts from Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn or the French band Spacecraft’s 1978 LP Paradoxe as Hovercraft touchstones, but Experiment Below hits with more brutality and scientific rigor than those classic works. Plus, Hovercraft’s fascination with technology’s effect on human physiology and psychology—judging from their song titles—sets them apart from most of their sonic peers.

Experiment Below has never been reissued, probably because it didn’t sell well during its initial run. That’s a sad commentary on the music public’s taste, but most things are. Last year would’ve been opportune for a 25th-anniversary edition, but alas, no. As with most ’90s records, you’ll likely have an easier time scoring the CD than the vinyl (one US dealer is selling the LP on Discogs for $200!), but as the Pop Group sang, where there’s a will, there has got to be a way. Lastly, if you dig Hovercraft, you should seek out the self-titled record by Schema, their 2000 collab with Stereolab’s Mary Hansen. -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.

Rotary Connection “Peace” (Cadet Concept, 1968)

As an agnostic and person of refined taste, I loathe damn near all Christmas music. Always have, always will. However, I do find an infinitesimal percentage of recordings made to celebrate this bloated holiday to be tolerable. On my short list of listenable albums dedicated to xmas, Peace by the Chicago psychedelic-soul ensemble Rotary Connection certainly deserves a special spot under the tree. The fact that they focus on originals amid their freaky interpretations of “Silent Night” sure helps nudge this LP into the victory column, as do the impeccable arranging skills of Charles Stepney.

Beginning with expected solemnity, the first of three versions of “Silent Night” softly explodes into an elegantly chaotic guitar solo, frenetic, Keith Moon-like drumming, and a concatenation of bells. Somebody spiked the eggnog with LSD, praise Jesus! The second rendition’s more traditional in structure, but again boasts some outré guitar fireworks. Finally, “Silent Night Chant” deploys a slinky, funky rhythm in its serpentine, psych-rock reconfiguration of this overplayed Austrian carol. I just might spin it in my next DJ set.

Elsewhere, “Last Call For Peace” is wild-spirited orchestral soul that will make you want eradicate war forever. “Christmas Child” is smooth, progressive soul that challenges the lushest Supremes songs of the era for over-the-top production and arrangement honors. With Stepney and vocalist Minnie Riperton in tow, nothing succeeds like excess. The ballad “If Peace Was All We Had” sweeps and soars like peak-era Brian Wilson and Scott Walker and is a silky wonder of vocal layering.

The record’s not all good, sadly. “Shopping Bag Menagerie” and “Sidewalk Santa” are over-egged schmaltz. Overall, though, Peace performs the miraculous feat of nullifying my perennial “bah humbug” attitude for about 40 minutes. -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.