Mushroom - "Analog Hi-Fi Surprise"
(Remastered with Bonus Tracks) (Weed Records 2002, weed 7910)
From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
When it came out in 1999, there wasnít much else on the music scene that sounded anything like Mushroomís Analog Hi-Fi Surprise. Utilizing the rhythmic structures of modern electronica, but playing music on vintage instruments that combined the groundbreaking jazz styles of Bitches Brew era Miles Davis and Head Hunters era Herbie Hancock with the German kosmische musik explorers like Can and Neu!, Mushroom created a masterwork of freaked out funky fusion and swirling psychedelic space jazz that has, in the few short years since its release, been highly influential in its own right. And although it may be a little bit premature for a re-issue with bonus tracks, I donít think youíll hear any Mushroom fans complaining. Certainly not this one!
The bonus tracks (all together totalling about 25-minutes of extra music) are all taken directly from the same sessions with the same players that gave birth to the original tracks on the album, so thereís no compromise to the overall experience. In fact, Jamming With Erik is as tasty a slice of space funk as youíre likely to hear, and gets things going right off the start now, before the classic, and more experimental sounding Magic of Michael, which opened the original album. Iíd have to say, actually, that most of the bonus tracks are a little more on the composed and melodic side, with less of a jam session feel than the original material, giving the album a fuller, more complete array of sonic delights to sample from now. One of the best of the bonus tracks is lead guitarist Dan Olmsteadís twangy, grooviní Theme from the Movie "Rock Bottom", which producer (and drummer) Patrick OíHearn even says in the liner notes that if heíd been using his brain, he would have included on the original CD. Motherís, Birmingham, 3:00 am is perhaps the most psychedelic addition to the album, with a cheerful, trippy Carnaby Street feel to it. Fitting, considering itís named after the legendary British club that was host to numerous celebrated UK bands in the late 60ís and early 70ís (including Pink Floyd, who recorded part of their classic live Ummagumma album there). Mushroom adds to their collection of overly long but amusing song titles with the new closing track Women want many things from just one man, Men want just one thing from many different women. Itís an appealing little number with some more of Olmsteadís twangy guitar, gentle Rhodes, whooshing space sounds, and an eccentric rhythm that effectively utilizes some backwards recording techniques (as the albumís name implies, it was recorded using analog equipment for that special vintage sound). My only complaint about this last piece is not about the actual track itself, but its placement on the CD. While I definitely appreciate OíHearnís decision to scatter the bonus tracks amongst the original ones (instead of just lumping them together at the end as these things often go), I always thought, and still do, that the sublime Abbie Hoffman made a perfect end to the album. I would have preferred Women want... somewhere in the middle with the other tracks, leaving the original closing of the album intact. But itís a minor quibble. The re-issue has new liner notes from OíHearn with amusing anecdotes, such as the fact that A song of remembrance for a time when wife swapping was considered politically correct and The evolution of smells in an underground garage after an all night rave would have been one continuous piece if the tape hadnít run out.
So the question is, if you already have the original Analog Hi-Fi Surprise, is it worth forking out the bucks for this version? Well, thatís a question youíd have to answer for yourself. I donít think you need to be a Mushroom collector to find value in this CD though. The value is apparent in the quality of both the extra tracks and the original ones.
Mushroom's web site can be found at: http://www.innerspacerecords.com/mushroom/index.html.
Weed Records can be found on the web at: http://www.weedrecords.com.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald