Vegetable Pakoras - "S/T" + "Live at the Peace Cafe"
(Orange Entropy Records 2001, OE030)
From Aural Innovations #17 (September 2001)
Two albums on one disc, clocking in at slightly under 68 minutes. Although the concept of medium-sized ensembles playing long modal Middle-East/Indian psychedelic jams with an Amon Duül I tribal hippie vibe is not exactly a new concept, these guys are probably currently at the top of the heap of that not-particularly-lucrative genre. Here, 6-9 members, captained by Steve Zimmerman, contribute guitars, sitar, organ, and much percussion. Excellent OUT jams in an exotic vein, without a trace of Dead-inspired "jam band"-isms or trite "world music" condescencion. And despite the large lineup, there are moments of transcendental sparseness, too. "Beyond the Peanut Patch" stands out on the self-titled album as a straight-ahead rocker, building to a wonderfully frenzied midsection through several blanga-drenched moments - quite distinctive for a mostly-acoustic band. The live album is (not surprisingly) more of a relaxed, reduced-fidelity proceeding, but demonstrates both the potential pitfalls and extreme peaks (more of the latter than former) that can come from this kind of jamming. Fine stuff, but still a reminder that in over 30 years, NOBODY has yet bettered the Paul Butterfield Band's "East/West".
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Reviewed by Doug Pearson