Acid Jam 2
Flyte Reaction - "Sensilla"
Scorched Earth - "Fed To Your Head"
From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)
Woronzow Records - 2000/2001 releases
Acid Jam 2 (Woronzow 2000, UK, WOO-41, also on Rubric Records in the US)
Well, I was only going to discuss the latest two releases that Ade Shaw had kindly sent me, but then looking back over the last few AI issues online, I discovered that nobody has reviewed this Wondrous Woronzow Whopper of a package. The initial Acid Jam was commissioned by (Mr. Bevis Frond) Nick Saloman over a decade ago, and recently they decided to give it another go. Well, I've already put it on my Best of 2000 list, so I guess the cat's already out of the bag in that I really like this two-hour-plus CD set!
Right off the bat, CD1 kicks off with the blazing duel guitars of Saloman and Outskirts of Infinity axeman Bari Watts throughout "Reformation Blues." Stunning fretwork. "Funeral Ballet Music" is as dirge-like as it sounds, very determined in its approach to lull your senses just as Nick's guitar lifts your mood in the opposite direction. Nick's angelic-voiced daughter Debbie sings "Long Velvet Sigh" to her Dad's pretty acoustic guitar/piano tune (complete with faux-sitar solo), Ade Shaw guesting on bass. High Tide's Tony Hill conspired with current Fronders Shaw and Andy Ward for a pair of tunes (one called "High"... one called "Tide" - gee, how creative!) that show that he hasn't lost his touch either. Nothing but great free-form psychedelic jamming. The Magic Bevis Muscle Frond band (Saloman, Shaw, Rod Goodway, Simon House, and Steve Broughton) offers "Ice Plug," a violin- and wah-guitar-laden psychedelic stomp that finally allows some room for Goodway's vocals to sneak in. Bristol's Lucky Bishops are responsible for the first CD's final track, "Negative Blooty," penned by the guitarist Rich Murphy. However, it's the gritty organ sounds of Tom Hughes and the punchy bass of Alan Strawbridge that are the most outstanding in this lengthy instrumental jam. A short detour from what is mainly a psych guitar fest.
The rumbling space-blanga of "Deep Space Divers" tops off Disc Two, a fully-composed vocal track featuring another Watts/Saloman guitar pairing, this time with Nick also chiming in with some wild synthetic sound effects. Ade Shaw hands over his bass (to his old friend from Hawkwind days, Pete Pavli) in favor of keyboards for his own composition entitled "Tanz Mekkanik." Though seemingly Magma-inspired, the tune is quite a unique and wild ambient ride through the cosmos. That is, until Nick shows up late in the game to jam on his guitar to bring us back on track. 'Acid Jam 2' finishes up strong with the eerie Goodway/Shaw composition "Desert Sands" and finally the cosmic-flavored "Star Map," featuring backmasked drumming by Ric Gunther (Outskirts of Infinity). Wow...what an earful of great psychedelia! You can't complain about not having enough 'jam' for your breakfast toast...mine is spilling over onto the kitchen counter. Every psych fan should go out and 'preserve' their own copy right now.
Flyte Reaction - "Sensilla" (Woronzow 2001, UK, WOO-44, also on Rubric Records in the US)
Cambridge's Flyte Reaction is new to me, but they've been around about 10 years and 'Sensilla' is their fifth album. Their debut appeared on Woronzow in '91 and now they are back again at Saloman's request, given that the recordings were sitting around looking for a home. It's not surprising that Nick sees merit in Flyte Reaction's music...singer/songwriter/guitarist Mick Crossley tinkers with a familiar recipe of melodious anthems and psychedelic excursions from so many Bevis Frond works. Crossley's partners in crime are Dick Field (bass, keyboards) and Simon Das Gupta (drums).
Flyte Reaction sprinkle the occasional folksy ballad (e.g., "Swim Around the Moon" and "Flow") amongst the usual uptempo rock numbers. Crossley has a good voice, and has the ability to harmonize with himself when the occasion arises. "Water From Your Well" is one of the really intriguing tracks, a much darker edge and more evocative singing covering the wonderful echoed, choppy guitar riffs. Likewise, "Let It Go" is full of excellent nebulous sounds and swirly effects, amongst an otherwise quiet and introspective acoustic tune. "Some Kind of Love" is perhaps the poppiest of all songs on 'Sensilla,' but it's got a good hook to it, and avoids sounding inane. This is immediately countered by a grundgy dark slab of mesmerizing acid-rock in the form of "Dark Rain Falling," so the band is endlessly swapping from one guise to another.
There are very few dull moments during the hour-long 'Sensilla' and so if you are a fan of other Woronzow artists or American bands like Abunai! and Nick Riff, then this will be a good choice for you. What it means for me is that there are yet another four albums out there in the Flyte Reaction backcatalogue that immediately go onto my 'Look out for' list when shopping. Hmmm...where to find the time...and (more importantly) the cash! Contact (for earlier works): Mick Crossley, 53 Church Lane, Girton, Cambs. CB3 0JW, UK (SAE/IRC)
Scorched Earth - "Fed To Your Head" (Woronzow 2000, UK, WOO-45, also on Rubric Records in the US)
Scorched Earth is a brand new (?) heavy psych trio, born in a London studio. The lads obviously hit it off as already here's a full-length (55 minute) album of goodies. In the accompanying bio, Randy "The Snake" Kyser (guitar, vocals), Chuck "The Horse" Kowalski (bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals), and Jay "The Prophet" Pharaoh Curd (drums) are described as 'nearly-legendary veterans of the heavy guitar, stoner rock scene,' but I'm not at all sure from whereabouts these guys came. No matter...I can hear that they can deliver the goods.
'Fed to Your Head' opens with a couple hard-drivin' rock riff numbers of high quality. The following track, "Blues for the Universe," is the album's magnum opus... a mindblowing astral journey that starts out a little like Donovan's "Lalena" (Man, this guy's voice sounds remarkably like Nick Saloman himself! They're not having us on again, are they?) but quickly takes off for parts unknown. After the high octane twin-guitar jam, the tune returns to its subtle cosmic beginnings then drifts quietly off into space. "I Ain't Superstitious" is the *true* blues tune here... Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, you know what I mean.
"Killing Time" recalls Hendrix instead, obviously a real throwback rocker with unbridled energy and spirited interchange between the guitar licks and drum fills. The more progressive 6/8 instrumental "The Girl From Shady Grove" is an effective interlude before launching straight back into a fuzz-guitar psychfest by the name of "Busted." Next, the riff from "Blown Away" sounds amazingly familiar (Fastway?), but I don't really care if it's pinched or not... it's not *my* song they're lifting. "Long Black Gown" is the obligatory eastern-flavored track that builds slowly from subtle vocals and acoustic guitar to the full band jam, as all the while wah pedals and whammy bars are being activated. A wonderful finish. Wait, it's not over yet! 'Freebird' took less time to wrap up!
OK, three albums, three thumbs up. You can't go wrong with any of these, though Acid Jam 2 stands at the top of my list. If Scorched Earth here is truly a new entity into the scene (their names don't look too much like pseudonyms, but I still wonder), well then, they're worthy of keeping an eye on. Scorched Earth are indeed somewhat heavier than your average Woronzow band, but I'd hesitate to call them 'stoner rock,' as they don't really have that thundering doom underneath that most stoner groups have. Still, if you like all that thick sludgy guitar, you'll like Scorched Earth just fine.
Pretty much all Woronzow releases are also on Rubric these days. You can order directly from Rubric by sending check or money order to: Rubric Records, 12 W. 37 St., 5th Fl., New York, NY 10018. CDs are $14 ppd ($18 for double CDs).
Woronzow is housed online at: http://www.woronzow.co.uk/.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson