Mushroom - "Mad Dogs & San Franciscans"
(Black Beauty Records 2003, BB 72003)
From Aural Innovations #24 (July 2003)
San Francisco's kings of the space-jazz two-step are a committed instrumental outfit. But when Gary Floyd sat in to provide vocals for their cover of Les McCann & Eddie Harris' "Compared To What", something magical happened. And while Mushroom have hardly abandoned their trademark sound, they clearly enjoyed working with this talented and passionately soulful singer enough to try their hands at Mushroomizing a few more classics. And I'm glad they did because having grown up with these songs it's a pleasure to hear them treated with the loving Mushroom touch.
After a soulful vocal intro the band launch into "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, But It Will Be Auctioned Off On Ebay", a trademark Mushroom combination of cool jazz grooves and psychedelic vibes. Erik Pearson and Josh Pollack's guitars blend nicely with Michael Holt's electric piano, and along with the horns and little bits of space freakiness from Doug Pearson's Wiard synth we're traveling in a cosmic netherworld between jazz and space rock. The one other original instrumental is "Even The Beatles Had Beards", which features sultry jazz and an ethereal psychedelic air.
Among the strongest of the cover tunes is "Pusherman", on which Gary Floyd attacks the Curtis Mayfield song with soulful Motown gusto, while Mushroom back him with a space-funk kick that sounds like a sci-fi version of Superfly. This is a classic example of Mushroom's ability to inject ultra cosmic psychedelic elements into seemingly unrelated styles. The song is completely faithful to the original while Mushroom simultaneously make it their own. Another standout is Steppenwolf's "The Pusher". If you don't know why Erik Pearson is credited with "snake guitar" you certainly will after hearing this song.
Rounding out the set are rousing versions of Joe Cocker's "Delta Lady" and "Space Captain", Spirit's "I Got A Line On You", and The Who's "Water". Dig the dirty rockin guitar sound and bubbly synths amidst the traditional soulful sound of The Spencer Davis Group's "Keep On Running". And Doug Pearson keeps things firmly in alien territory even on the jazzy love song cover of Clarence Carter's "Slip Away".
The word from the Mushroom camp is that this album shouldn't be taken as an indication that they have moved in a different direction. But as side trip on the tour, I'd say this is a pretty hot number.
For more information you can visit the Mushroom web site at: http://www.innerspacerecords.com/mushroom.
Black Beauty Records are distributed through RUNT. You can visit their web site at: http://www.buyrunt.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Black Beauty; PO Box 18841; Oakland CA 94619-8841.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz