No. 30: ‘The Flock’

The Flock would go on to record other ace songs, but what is arguably the band's finest moment comes on side 1, track 1 of album No. 1 -- the instrumental duet "Introduction." A collision of psychedelic rock and classical music, the number features the band's most dramatic player, the violinist Jerry Goodman. At five minutes long, it's an intricate and ultimately aggressive piece of music held together by the flowing guitar work of bandleader Fred Glickstein. "Introduction" goes from a whisper to a scream, with passages both conventional and savage. The hard rock comes into play only at the end, as the seven-member Flock emerges only to play one crushing final chord. Like their hometown contemporaries Chicago Transit Authority, the Flock relied heavily on electric guitar and … [Read more...]

No. 25: ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’

David Laflamme doesn’t want you to buy his classic psychedelic album, “It’s a Beautiful Day.” Not that the CD can be found on any old record store shelf. Decades of lawsuits and hostility have combined to send this FM staple underground, with prices for “It’s a Beautiful Day” currently topping out at about $100 on online retail sites. A curious fate for an album so ubiquitous in the dimming of the hippie era, soaring on the wings of its famous opener, “White Bird.” The singer/violinist Laflamme, in fact, has said he doesn’t even like playing “White Bird.” But he dislikes Matthew Katz a whole lot more. Katz was the San Francisco music manager behind Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and Laflamme’s group, … [Read more...]

No. 28: ‘Space Hymns’ by Ramases

The tale is told that the shade of Egyptian Ramesses II one day appeared before the Englishman Barrington Frost. The big bald Frost learned there and then that he was the reincarnation of Ramesses II -- not merely a central-heating contractor. The ancient pharaoh ordered the unlikely medium to spread the secrets of the universe to the rest of mankind, using music as his vehicle. Psychedelic music, as it turned out. Update: Read about the 2014 Ramases CD box set. First, there were some strange singles in the late Sixties. Then "Space Hymns," the first complete work, emerged in 1971, in the dimming of the original psychedelic era. Despite the album cover by famed fantasy artist Roger Dean (Yes), few ever heard the musical word of Ramases -- as Frost took to calling … [Read more...]

No. 43: Freak Out!

It's 1966. Psychedelia is in the air and just beginning to infect popular culture. LSD is still legal. Nehru jackets rule. Judging the album by the cover, the first Mothers of Invention record is right in tune with the chemically charged zeitgeist. "Freak Out!" the cover screamed, atop a solarized and colorized picture of the band, which looks suitably hairy and dazed. On the back cover, Suzy Creamcheese, a band muse of some sort, warns listeners that "these Mothers is crazy. ... One guy wears beads and they all smell bad." Hello, Frank Zappa. Fledgling hippies expecting the new psychedelic sounds out of California were instead greeted with a bunch of greasy pop songs and doo-wop. Psychedelic? Meh. Strange? Definitely. Update: Entire Zappa catalog rereleased by … [Read more...]

No. 9: A Wizard, a True Star

The sound of a synthesized jet straining to reach full throttle opens Todd Rundgren's "A Wizard, a True Star." This, paradoxically, is the sound of the artist's Top 40 career crashing. With the album, Rundgren abandoned the safe confines of radio-friendly power pop for the unknown. "AWATS" came a year after Rundgren's 1972 masterpiece "Something/Anything?" a double album that came brimming with great pop songs such as "I Saw the Light," "Couldn't I Just Tell You" and the artist's biggest hit, "Hello It's Me." Pop fans who followed the artist to "A Wizard, a True Star" found themselves confronted with a 12-title song cycle that was full of noise, synthesizers, hard rock and pure psychedelia. This dose of sonic madness took up the first side of the album, while a more traditional rock … [Read more...]

No. 16: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

The airwaves of 1967 and 1968 were scorched by fire: First, the Doors' "Light My Fire" and the Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Fire." Then came the self-proclaimed God of Hellfire, whose thunderous voice brought us "Fire." The U.K. trio the Crazy World of Arthur Brown ranks as a one-hit wonder these days -- "Fire" gets steady play on classic oldies stations, and there was no follow-up of note. But the psychedelic cognoscenti revere Brown and his bandmates for the dark matter found on the first side of the debut album, "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown." "Fire" was the centerpiece of a side-long, five-track rock operetta once called "Tales From the Neurotic Nights of Hieronymous Anonymous." Now, it's mostly known as "The Fire Suite." The rock opera king, Peter Townshend, associate-produced … [Read more...]

No. 37: Love’s ‘Da Capo’

Seconds into the opening track, "Stephanie Knows Who," it's clear that "Da Capo" represented new directions for Love and for rock. A harpsichord dances with guitar in the lovely prelude. A deep-throated sax breaks in. In the break, all of the song's instruments collide and veer off in different directions. The resulting passage is more in tune with free jazz than psychedelic music -- although this is unmistakably a hard rock song. "Da Capo" was Arthur Lee and Love's second album, out of three made with the his core group of L.A. musicians. The album was followed and overshadowed by the rock masterpiece "Forever Changes," but the songs here are streaked with brilliance and innovation. Many musicians' minds were blown by its collage of sounds and crazyquilt of influences, the material … [Read more...]

No. 4: The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’

If asked to cite a psychedelic music album, most casual music fans would reply, without hesitation: The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." The Fabs' embrace of flower power and trippy-dopey imagery was in full bloom in the summer of 1967, when the multicolored "Sgt. Pepper" tumbled onto the world stage. This was not, however, the Fabs' first visit to the land of psychedelia: "Tomorrow Never Knows" from "Revolver" startled fans the summer before, with its frenzied pace and sea of tape loops. Lennon's slithery acid-tinged "Strawberry Fields Forever" arrived as a single more than three months before, sharing the vinyl with the gentle psychedelia of "Penny Lane." For the Summer of Love, the gods of pop had delivered a soundtrack. "Sgt. Pepper" would change the lives of … [Read more...]

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