Tom Rapp of Pearls Before Swine dies

Tom Rapp of the 1960s psychedelic folk act Pearls Before Swine has died. He was 70. While Pearls Before Swine began as a band -- releasing the classic psych-folk album "One Nation Underground" -- the name evolved into a handle for singer-songwriter Rapp's projects. Rapp's early influences included Bob Dylan and, especially, the raggedy underground folk act the Fugs. Pearls Before Swine pitched the Fugs' label, ESP-Disk, via an early demo and succeeded in getting a record deal, albeit one that paid pretty much nothing. The Florida band traveled to New York in 1967 and began recording. "One Nation Underground," an early exercise in psychedelic folk tinged with garage rock, found success partly because of its creepy-crawly cover art taken from the hell panel of Hieronymus Bosch's … [Read more...]

‘Astral Weeks’ tops flood of Morrison titles

Van Morrison's psychedelic folk classic "Astral Weeks" finally is getting an expanded reissue via Warner Bros. Sony, meanwhile, has launched a massive revival of the singer's catalog. "Astral Weeks" comes out Oct. 30 via WB/Rhino, on CD and digital files. Morrison's rocking "His Band the Street Choir" also is due from Rhino at the end of October. And 33 Morrison albums have just been made available digitally via Sony, some of them long unavailable in the market. Sony's Legacy label also has released a double-disc compilation of Morrison's works. 1968's "Astral Weeks" produced no hits, but its dreamlike quality influenced generations of left-of-center musicians. Morrison, known chiefly at the time for the top 40 hit "Brown Eyed Girl," had taken to working with acoustic music, … [Read more...]

No. 9: ‘Eight Miles High’

The song started off on familiar footing for early 1966: a killer bass line, straight out of the garage. But seconds into the Byrds' "Eight Miles High," listeners were off on a sonic adventure, destination unknown. Change was coming to the music scene at supersonic speeds. Here was the early warning, blaring out of AM radios. This at a time when "psychedelic music" was mostly a rumor. "Eight Miles High" seemed to come out of nowhere -- as did so much great 1960s music -- but in retrospect there’s a clear lineage: The cluttered, borderline dissonant instrumental sections were unprecedented in rock & roll, but not in jazz, where artists such as John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman shunned traditional harmonic structure in favor of free-form heroics. The Byrds made much of "Eight Miles … [Read more...]

Ramases: Collected and celebrated

"Ramases: Complete Discography" is truth in advertising, unfortunately. A house fire claimed demo tapes for what was to be the third album by the eccentric British singer-songwriter. Otherwise, it's all here. The release of this six-CD box set is found treasure for the cult of Ramases, such as it is. Only a thousand physical copies are being produced of "Ramases: Complete Discography," reflecting the artist's deep obscurity. Yet this is no rote kitchen-sink project. The record label owner, actor Peter Stormare, whose fandom goes back to Ramases' 1971 debut album, has crafted two outstanding and unique discs from the limited catalog: One, a significant sonic restoration of Ramases' troubled second album; the other an unusually viable tribute album from contemporary artists. Both … [Read more...]

Donovan to Songwriters Hall of Fame

Psychedelic folk pioneer Donovan is being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, along with fellow '60s hitmaker Ray Davies of the Kinks. Graham Gouldman, who wrote several chart-toppers for the Yardbirds and the Hollies, also is entering the hall June 12. Donovan compositions cited by the songwriters group included the psychedelic music classics "Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow" and "Hurdy Gurdy Man." Film and TV credits include the use of "Season of the Witch" and "Atlantis." ("Season of the Witch" recently was named one of the best psychedelic music songs.) Donovan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Davies songs for the Kinks cited by the group included the British invasion hits "You Really Got Me," "All Day and All of the Night" and "Tired … [Read more...]

No. 15: ‘Season of the Witch’

Paranoia ran deep in the spring of 1966. The high times were peaking in Britain, with the rock-star elite leading the psychedelic parade. The bands celebrated their altered states in song, hesitatingly at first, then full blast. In 1966, for example, the Beatles profiled a Doctor Feelgood of their acquaintance in "Doctor Robert." The Stones unleashed the pill-popping "Mother's Little Helper." The Authorities took note. Then they took action. Donovan Leitch was looking over his shoulder as the year began. A TV documentary had just caught the Scottish singer and some friends getting high. In January, he recorded "Sunshine Superman," an early psych-pop song that raised eyebrows -- sunshine was slang for a popular type of LSD. The troubadour also debuted "The Trip," about an … [Read more...]

‘Moondance’ rises again: 5-disc set

After years of neglect, Van Morrison's "Moondance" album comes skipping back via a full-blown "deluxe edition." The five-disc box set, due Sept. 30, includes four CDs and a Blu-ray version of the album with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio. Much of the Warner Music box set is dedicated to multiple studio takes of songs from the 1970 album. To no one's surprise, an angry Morrison immediately distanced himself from the release: Yesterday Warner Brothers stated that "Van Morrison was reissuing Moondance." It is important that people realize that this is factually incorrect. I did not endorse this, it is unauthorized and it has happened behind my back. My management company at that time gave this music away 42 years ago and now I feel as though it"s being stolen from me … [Read more...]

Richie Havens dies; folk hero of Woodstock

The fiery and soulful folk singer Richie Havens, best known for his heroic work in opening the Woodstock rock festival, has died at age 72. Havens died after a heart attack at his New Jersey home, his manager said. Havens remained true to his Greenwich Village folk roots, but was a favorite among the rock festival crowds of the late 1960s. His albums between 1968 and 1971 were heavy with psychedelic imagery, notably "Richard P. Havens, 1983," the 1969 album on which he covered four Beatles songs and another by Donovan. But it was 1967's straight folk album "Mixed Bag" that first found Havens a wide audience, boosted by play on the emerging free-form FM radio format. Like Jefferson Airplane, he found the power and transcendence in its opening song, "High Flyin' Bird," by Billy Edd … [Read more...]

Incredible String Band: set lists

Incredible String Band songs played in concert, 1968-1969. View more psychedelic folk set lists. Fillmore East, WBAI benefit June 5, 1968 Waltz of the New Moon You Get Brighter Very Cellular Song October Song Bell Ringing The Pig Went Walking Over the Hill See All the People Swift As the Wind Mercy I Cry City When the Music Starts to Play* Ducks on a Pond Puppies Chinese White Maya Woodstock Aug. 16, 1969 Poetry (spoken) intro The Letter Gather 'Round This Moment Come with Me When You Find Out Who You Are * Maybe, maybe not Sources: Woodstock Wiki, Wolfgang's Vault, bootleg About set lists: While these song listings are double- and triple-sourced whenever possible, not all will be 100 percent accurate. Things get a bit hazy over a half century ... … [Read more...]

No. 28: ‘Space Hymns’

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...]

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