Various Artists - World in Sound Tracks: Episode I (2007)
World in Sound (Germany) WIS-1967
Various Artists - Trip in Time #2, Psychedelic Rock Reflections (2007) Trip in Time/World in Sound (Germany) WIS-T2502
From Aural Innovations #37 (Sep 2007)
Based in Heidelberg, Germany, the World in Sound label strives to keep alive
the memory of the so-called Summer of Love of 1967, now 40 years on, by combing
through the archives of rare music of that time, as well as championing the
cause of lesser-known neo-psychedelic bands from all over the world that honor
the same sorts of music principles and the philosophy of peace, love, and harmony.
So far the label has released about 40 CDs, mostly archive reissues from the
1967-1973 period, but also a few new recordings in a similar style by local
German bands, as well as the a of compilations that they have commissioned and
released under the moniker "Trip in Time."
The compilation CD WIST: Episode I (20 tracks, nearly 80 minutes) kicks off appropriately with a NASA-style launch countdown leading into the instrumental track (more or less a psychedelic rave-up) by Those, an underground German band. Next up is "Trouble Child," the three-minute California-style pop tune by Peruvians Lahonia dating to 1970. From this point on, all the music (with one lone exception) hails from America, not surprisingly considering San Francisco saw the genesis of the Summer of Love. Although most of the music here comes from lesser-known artists of the time, a few of the songs will be very familiar to any fan of the era. Included among these covers of popular songs is "Born Under a Bad Sign," by the New York band Fear Itself, Ellen McIlwaine's gritty vocals illustrating what it would have been life if one of Janis Joplin's bands has popularized this old tune rather than Cream. We also hear versions of Tennessee Ernie Ford's "16 Tons," Frank Zappa's "Wonderful Wino," and Led Zeppelin's "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You." The latter track once again trades the traditional male voice for a female one (Nancy Lake Whedon of Stoned Circus), and though quite not matching the original, I liked hearing all these alternative versions from contemporary artists, of certainly less fame but not necessarily less talent.
Other highlights: "A Love Song" by the obscure Pennsylvania band fred (1871) impressed me with a nice mix of progressive and psychedelic styles, melodic pop flavors, and the use of violin. "Sunny" (1969) by the Head Shop (New York) is another cool psych-pop number that could easily hold its own along any number of Animals or Zombies classics of the day. The melody of "Make Love - Not War" by the Tea Company (1968, NY), conceptually almost a title track of this complilation, seems almost copied from the Beatles' "Help;" not my favorite style, but interesting to hear. Phantasia's "Genena" (1971, Kansas) at 7 1/2 minutes is one of the rare long tracks from this 7" 45-rpm dominated era...what starts out as a Donovan-esque love ballad becomes in the end a surprisingly cool fuzzy-guitar jam. Aussie solo artist Terry McNamara sounds like SF Sorrow-Pretty Things on his own tune "Silver" (1969) - could be a companion piece to "Old Man Going." Mystic Siva's "Supernatural Mind" (1970, Michigan) is yet another classic psych tune with fuzz-guitar and Zombies' keyboard stylings, and strong vocals from drummer Dave Mascarin. Dragonwyck (1970, Ohio) supply "Run to the Devil," a song that swings back and fourth nicely between a light (even jazzy) folk andheavier psych-guitar rock. The finale is a song written by Country Joe (and played live by himself with the Fish back in the day), but done in the studio only by a band he produced, called Cold (SF, 1971). "Summer Dresses" is a simple 2 minute-plus soulful pop ditty, but pleasant enough a way to top off nearly 80 minutes of psychedelic goodness.
Following up on last year's Vol. 1 in the continuing (? we hope) Trip in Time CD series, the good folks in Heidelberg have expanded this package into a 2CD package that totals over two hours, all exclusive recordings to this release. Everything here was recorded in either 2006 or 2007, though true to the series' name, stylistically the music hearkens back to the late 60s/early 70s. Nearly half of the 18 bands presented here hail from the label's homeland of Germany, but there are also contributions from the USA and far away places like Peru.
I don't have the space to cover every track or band individually, so I'll just point to the highlights as I see them. Swedes Crystal Caravan offer up a high-octane psych-blues number ("Dead Inside") that could easily go alongside works by fellow countrymen Soundtrack of our Lives and Seid. El Cuy, only one of three (!) acts here from Lima, Peru, turn it up one notch further into true stoner-territory for the rightly-titled "Animal." Short, sweet, and kick-ass. To Get Her Together, a M/F duo from Portland, OR present "Jovial Tree," a dreamy folk/pop tune with echoed vocals that sounds for all the world like a lost Syd Barrett recording; tasty. German quartet Jayahdeva contribute the sprawling "Ordinary Eye of Consciousness" that collects together a slew of otherwise basic psych-rock passages in an interesting way. Strong vocals and a great shimmery organ sound, and the track builds nicely throughout the piece to the climax. Treacle People's live version of "Fall Down" also shines brightly thanks in large part to a soaring, even spine-tingling, guitar solo from Peter Bartsch. The first disc (or "Side A" in true retro-vinyl style) wraps up with the one-two punch of Peruvians: La Ira de Dios has already started to make themselves known worldwide in recent years, but it was "Nothing to Say," a hard-drivin' dark-flavored blanga tune by Serpentina Satelite, featuring a cool bridge section of wah-feedback/reverb guitar, that really got me going. Neverthess, La Ira de Dios' live recording of "Nave Fenix" is pure bang-your-head stoner rock and a fitting way to top off the first CD.
Disc 2 (aka "Side B") features only five tracks, but is the longer disc (71 mins. vs. 62 mins.) thanks to the 20-min. plus bookend live jams by Embryo and Drahk von Trip. I've always loved the early 70s albums by Embryo, in the true heavier krautrock style. Ever since then, percussionist Christian Burchard has led an ever-changing lineup of world-music improvisationalists, here bringing in three core members of the band Karmic Society on this "Free Flow'in Jam." OK stuff, but this sort of loose, semi-unplugged jamming lacks enough urgency and dynamics for my particular taste. Sweden's Drahk von Trip stretches out their "Kortenette" recording to over 21 minutes, too full of transitions to name, at times brilliant but then it loses its way once or twice. The best bit comes early on - a hypnotic driving rock riff colored by intense passionate vocals from lead singer Susanne. Karmic Society's own contribution ("Improvability Drive") is also in the live-improv guise, though here with a more tight jazz-fusion flavor. Not bad. The contribution from instrumental quartet Oozing Goo (Berlin) entitled "Blueberry Foam" relies initially on a deliberately-paced, crunchy riff, the base for lots of wild explorations on (screaming) guitar and (throaty) organ, before then ramping up both the tempo and energy in waves later on; very nice! "Telescope," the relatively short (5 1/2 mins.) improv-instrumental by The Invisibles (of Bensheim, Germany) begins with a very happy funky-jazzy rhythm but turns out to be quite psychedelic in the end, with lots of echoed wah-guitar like the best of early Kraan. I wish this one went on as long as some of the others here! Really impressive.
Well, just as the famous Nuggets compilations would be an excellent reference point for WIST: Episode I, so are the earlier Mother West space/psych compilations (Turn Century Turn, Fluorescent Tunnelvision) a perfect comparison to the Trip in Time discs. And though I haven't heard the first one (the TIT#2 booklet includes the track listing for #1...on paper, it looks very strong as well!), I'm finding this one to be quite an essential item to have. Hot only does it introduce you to a whole host of relatively unknown acts, but you'll never hear these particular versions of these tracks anywhere else. So it will never be a redundant purchase. Highly recommended. The WIST: Episode I disc I really enjoyed as well, particularly because I tend to ignore much of the pre-1970 music which I expect will all sound like goofy Strawberry Alarm Clock/Ohio Express material...there's a very little bit of this kind of stuff here, but plenty of Blue Cheer moments as well.
Let's hope the Heidelberg crew behind all these discs continue to bring forward to us more new bands and new music in the future. In another 10 years, we'll be celebrating the silver (50th) anniversary of the Summer of Love and certainly we should have some additional retrospectives then. If the Trip in Time compilations are any indication, there's no shortage of talented young musicians who continue to be inspired by the very same music that us older folks who (sort of) remember those days in the late 60s and early 70s.
Also visit the record label web site at: www.worldinsound.com
Reviewed by Keith Henderson