Various Artists - "Pull Up The Paisley Covers: A Psychedelic Omnibus" (Aether Records 2002, AECD-0010)
From Aural Innovations #23 (April 2003)
An interesting collection of quality 60's psychedelic covers by modern bands, with source material focusing on either the famous (Doors, Who, Stones, Airplane, Pretty Things, Bee Gees) or the hopelessly obscure/collector-hyped (Apple, the Fox, the Syn, Ed Askew, Churchills, Linda Perhacs), but always those with strong songwriting, and very much on the pop side of psychedelia. Even without the Blue Cheer / MC5 / Deviants heavy side of the genre represented here, the variety of sounds included is still impressive, from the Silverlake (as in, Beck's neighborhood) trip-hop/folk of Sunseri covering "Peace Frog/Blue Monday" to Kaminamada Yohji's solo electric guitar improvisation, "After The Dream", based on "To Keep From Crying" by malevolant-pagan-acid-folk band Comus. Nonetheless, probably a good half of the album fits within the "folk"-psych category, while most of the rest concentrate on psychedelically-effected catchy (to the point of twee) pop songs. In that former category, even Mushroom (an older recording with preeminent sixties music scholar Alec Palao still on bass) take on Jefferson Airplane's "You're Only As Pretty As You Feel", is an uncharacteristically folky (enjoyably so) performance, with Caroleen Beatty's co-vocals (as diametric as you can get from Gary Floyd's bear-sized bellow on their more recent sixties covers album) and silky violin melodies from Matt Royston.
Wylde Olde Souls add flute & tablas to a raily rocking version of Ed Wheeler's (as by Carolyn Hester) "High-Flying Bird" (also covered by the Airplane), followed up with another pleasent jangly tune with Damien Youth's cover of the Bee Gee's "Kilburn Towers" (nice, but in no danger of out-psyching any of the Index's takes on the Gibbs' songs). Also in that style are Diana Senechal - a notable cellist/multi-instrumentalist who adds acoustic guitar, xylophone (or some other sort of tuned percussion), occasional delay/phase effects (plus bits of dissonce - sirens & other concrete sounds), all under immaculately-layered harmonies and Pat (PG Six) Gruber, who appropriately tackles the Incredible String Band's "My Name Is Death". In addition to Sunseri, The Sand Pebbles' Masters' Apprentices' (a fellow Australian band who are one of the few "middling", rather than famous or obscure, bands among those covered here) cover adds smooth electronic sounds (and the real drums play a convincing loop-ish beat), as do UHF, on their reasonably straight version of the Pretty Things' properly anglo-pop "She's A Lover" with its' subtly-swelling electronics (and occasional silly effects). The Sand Pebbles get extra points for stretching out and jamming a bit (clocking in with the second-longest track on the album at six and a quarter, a dozen seconds behind Mushroom).
Zane Armstrong and Peter Scion (both covering songs more obscure than my knowledge delves down to) both operate the one-man studio project pop vein, placing sonic effects nicely in their fairly sparse recordings, with strummed guitars, subtle vocal effects and synth/keyboard bits. Israeli quartet (like the Sand Pebbles, covering countrymen - the Churchills) Rockfour are equally upbeat and poppy start out incredibly jangly before first breaking down a bit, then rocking out in a piano-and-whistle enhanced near rave-up. Taurus provide a murky and mildly-dissonant contrast to the (sometimes slightly-overly) precisely-crafted nuggets on the rest of the album, with slowly-meandering organ bed, intermittently-spiky guitar and loose drumming, on ESP-disk artist Ed Askew's "The Garden". In the slightly heavier department, Abunai! present a giddily fuzzed version of the Stones' "Citadel" (a fine psych-pop melody that shows Mick Jagger had greater talent for dames'n'devil lyrics than "psychedelic" ones). And, of course, the Bevis Frond always deliver the goods, with Nick Saloman's anthemic fuzz guitar making for a soaring version of the Syn's "Grounded". Hailing from Normandy France, Murder in the Cathedral's intertwining lead guitars and fuzzed organ & bass add layers of menace to "The Good's Gone" (although it's still more jangly than heavy), one of Pete Townshend's choice pieces of burnt-out-romance angst (while also sounding suspiciously like the early Pink Floyd outtake "Lucy Leave" - either a nice intentional touch or a fortunate accident).
All very talented bands, with an affinity for the material, doing excellently-executed versions. But despite Abunai!, The Bevis Frond, and Murder in the Cathedral, I still found myself craving for more of the heavier and jamming sides of psychedelia. The liner notes mention a second volume in the works, so perhaps it will include a few songs along the lines of "7 And 7 Is", "Interstellar Overdrive", "Welcome To The Void", "We Did It Again", "Stoned Guitar", "Third Stone From The Sun", "St. Cecilia", ... you get the idea ...
For more information you can visit the Aether Records web site at: http://www.aether-or.com.
Reviewed by Doug Pearson