review page 10

reissues :

Merrell Fankhauser ('63-'11)
The Blues Right Off ('70/re'12)
The Skeptics ('65-'69/re'12)
Homer ('71-'72/re'12)
Cosmic Travelers ('72)
Knowbody Else ('67/re'13)
Sam Gopal ('69)
"Free Spirits" DVD ('68-'88/'13)

Cosmic Dealer ('71/'12) (link)

Gonzo Multimedia  Merrell Fankhauser : The Best Of -2cd- (US,1962-2011)****+**°

I always missed all the occasions of being able to check out better, all the Merrell Fankhauser reisues, although I know he made there a kind of legendary status in the psychedelic milieu, with his albums of Mu, or Faparadolky, or some of his solo albums with his exotic looks, as if he is abducted by alienating force taking him just a few beams out of the spectrum of earth and with his colourful Hawaii looks. I still remember those days when his albums were re-released, just like the Eben Abez releases, they only gave me the slight idea that they both must be the kind of outsider hippies before they even existed, and then remained one step away from them. 

Now, this double CD is at least a very good opportunity to make up with the shortage of time to check him out better. This also must be a better starter, for it is a compilation taken from all of his works, a kind of best of from 1963-1978 on disc one, with 1978-2011 on disc two. What was already clear on Merell’s first band from a rockabilly time, Merrell and the Exiles, is that already this band had a sensitivity and feeling for a psychedelic pop sound, and there is already present that slightly exotic, happy touch from the beginning. And although Merrell only at the time of Mu (1972) moved to Hawaii, I feel that he was destined in every way to be associated with that area and its being. Every band involved showed a good feeling for arrangements, and especially on the first CD (until 1978), an always present pop-psych sound, which in the beginning was influenced by the Ventures and had associations with a pre-surf sound, I rather would say that in general it has all the sunshines of the beach in them, under the form of a kind of smile in each song, something which makes even the lightest moments so attractive and pleasant to listen to. The songs are always clearly written, way up to the later dates, which I also think is very positive. And suddenly there is indeed that conspiracy idea of UFO’s intriguing him to the degree of insanity, the theme is taken as another light and humoristic factor, which in the hippie sense at a distance from real life to make it more pleasant, fits with Merrells personality and talent to entertain, very well. On the second album, the later periods show similar visions and workouts, with here and there, a commercial try-out like reggae rhythm and a glamorous pop arrangement on some other track. With two songs about the need to do regular jobs for a living (a working blues song) or a few down-to-earth daily concerns fits his being less. But when the humour becomes dominating in a surreal way that’s where I recognise best Merrell from the start. One of the bonus songs starts with the theme of two vegetarians with a steak before them being puzzled about their positions in their morality, suddenly out of nowhere and within the same song the UFO witness is back and added to the story. 

There’s a 12-page booklet included explaining the background stories of the bands, and about where the inspirations came from. I leave it up to you to get acquainted at the next occasion... 

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Golden Pavillion  The Blues Right Off : Our Blues Bag -LP- (I,1970,re.2012)**'

Blues in Italy ? That does not really fit so well with the Italian nature I would say. But this Venice band was exposed to blues sent on tapes from Danmark, and after a short acoustic period they really went for an electric blues recording, leading perhaps to the first electric blues album in Italy. The songs and tunes are a bit predictable, the electric guitar solos are fine and there was a soulful mood involved. It is this that should be loved by blueslovers. Practically the album never surprised me and and I personally prefer bluesrock/jams to have a bit more of an acid rock element as it had in Danmark for instance, the album surely fills the gap between styles never to be expected in Italy itself. The band leader and guitarist (out of four members) was in fact from Danmark, but his kind of jammed feeling brought over to Italy still is a bit more quietened on the Italian/Venetian ground. The guitarists later also played with Venetian Power, a band who recorded an album the year hereafter. 

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Gearfab Rec.  The Skeptics : The Complete Early Years 1965-1969 (US,comp.2012)***'

This is a fine good hanging together collection of songs showing the early inspirations of the band The Skeptics. It is mostly hanging in the foundations of garage teenage pop, with a clear Beatles and a bit more Rolling Stones(/Animals) influence in some tracks. Some of the lyrics are more catchy, like the murder out of jealousy story on “stripes”. Just one song is bluesier ‘”certain kind of girl”) and the last track (“down to the bone”) a bit more soul.  A collection that withstands repeated listens. (Personally I just didn’t really need two versions of one song together).

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Gearfab Rec.  Homer : The Complete Recordings (US,comp.2012)***'

Homer were one of the few bands of its kind to come out of Texas with this sound, just a little bit before others. You can hear a hard rock influence present, but the songs are arranged with more progressive changes in rhythm and arrangements with guitars and a bit of mellotron. Often the vocals are powered up with high toned harmony singing (direction Uriah Heep, but coming from more American standards, even a touch of Westcoast. Some songs are softer, with the use of slide guitars, ballad-like but with changes directing back to their more saturating arrangements. The band’s first single, recorded in the studio’s where also ZZ Top recorded, got them to the local top 5 charts, and this almost got them a Columbia deal, but because of some disagreements on the top management and the top position didn’t last long enough so the deal went off. The pressing of their LP in 1000 copies didn’t give enough success and after a second recording the band members went into different directions.  In a way, Homer wasn’t really so much of a song singles band as the commercial circuit expected. While their first single had a few minor catchy elements, and it also associated small fragments of a Tchaikovsky (?) march, I think their general sound, also with all the vocal parts is a bit more like being melted with the instrumental progressions, with a potential of a different sort of approach towards music that might have been a bit too soon for the American, or even Texan public. Despite these more Americana tracks, it didn’t work out for the banin a time it was depending on sales so much.

Original LP : Homer (URA 101). Previous related bands : The Stoics / Minds Eye, Ultra & Outcasts,…

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Gearfab Rec.  Cosmic Travelers
Live at the Spring Theatre Celebration (US,'72,re.13)***°°

Cosmic Travellers only made this one album, live, making this a real-live experience as well, building up greatly, with all the elements working well together towards a climax. Cosmic Travellers were former Paul Revere and the Raiders guitarist Drake Levin, lead vocalist and bassist Joel Christie, who sang lead in Jesus Christ Superstar, drummer and vocalist Dale Loyola from the Hook and the Lee Michaels Band, and vocalist and guitarist Jimmy McGhee, who performed with Otis Redding and Etta James. The recording was done in Hawaii, but the band was from Chicago & Los Angeles. They had a Peruvian drummer and a black bass player who added soul, a real black soul to the music. Basically this is psych-blues, energetic blues songs with free improvisation. The backing vocal arrangements have this attractive soulful arrangement. But what will strike most are not particularly the songs themselves, which more are like a tool to ride on something else, which is an extra energy, from blues over soul to yeah that rare psychedelic energy bursting out towards a new-born life. In the Hendrix-fashion things start to happen. Around the fourth and longest track, kundalini rises, with a freaking good guitar solo full surprising evolution, the band even stops not knowing what they hear. Never the less they continue into the soulful blues mode after that as if nothing happened. Such moments make the bluespsych genre surely worth tracing.

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Arf!Arf!  Knowbody Else: Sodiers of Piece (US,'67,re.13)***°

Arf Arf label once made one of the best psych compilations LP’s called “Beyond the Calico Wall” (with Park Avenue Playground, Afterglow, Bohemian Vendetta, Six Foot Under,..) and especially the first track from Knowbody Else could have been very well on it. It shows the ability of theatrical expressions like Arthur Brown, Byrds-like tangling guitars, great echoing effects on the drumming and crafted changes in rhythms within one song. Knowbody Else was the earliest version of the later American Southern rock band Black Oak Arkansas this is a 60s American psych band. Mostly it is songwriting with good sense for rhythmical change, the theatrical aspect and the psychedelic effects are mostly kept quiet so that nothing really goes beyond the garage core with a more sophisticated edge. One track is acoustic. The band could have been progressed further beyond its limits if it had been produced further into the psychedelic qualities that can be heard here. But their story lasted too short. 

Remastered edition from original tapes.

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TNT Sam Gopal: Escalator (UK,1969)***°

Most collectors I know always say about this album: oh yes it’s fine but not all of it. And that once was my first quick impression too. But then after some years I come to a point where I can listen without expectations. And I don’t think it is just that. The album is known for featuring (bass player and singer) Lemmy from before he went to Hawkwind and then to his own band Motörhead, singing a few bluesier, original and and some cover songs, and for it’s tabla all over the place. Lemmy’s voice isn’t acidic yet (which later it will be, in a good and strong and convincing way). Some songs are more quiet and calm and acoustic and some others show also heavier electric guitar, but all songs are really fine in its own perspective, building up the album. Mzay be just “seasons of the witch”, with some female vocalists too could have got an extra threatment because it is a bit slow and repetitive in its evolvement, for the rest I think the album is really worth tracing. After all those years I think I realised I should have given it even more appreciation as the just “yes, sure” one I remembered.

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Acorn Prod.    David Lenson: "Free Spirits" -DVD+DVDR- (US,2013)***'+*

I always found it interesting to hear how idealistic or idealised challenges are really taking form into reality itself, and how they are adapted there, are working themselves out or where they tend to fail and are breaking down at some point, and how much they can still be transformed and what is really needed to get things going, or how a full reality makes something more complete, and how we could make a better understanding of all these things. It is nice, no even wishful, to learn as much from all the goodies as well as from the mistakes. 

I still remember how Timothy Leary, once being the promoter of free religion forms and LSD trips guidance for opening the mind, at the end of his life did regret this idea a bit, for the little amount of practicality that usually was used with it, even though he still prepared himself for his own final trip, towards the next life. 

Of course, myself, I always watch and listen to the witnesses of communal experiments, on a distance, and never went myself through these things literally. I have checked many stories of set-up communes in several different places of the world. Most stories I think always start in the most ideal and idealistic way, often with a minor set of rules, with one leader quickly emerging. Then we come to the point that this leader fails to commit well to these rules himself (like no drugs, sex or violence, etc.) and where he also becomes engaged more personally, only to confuse idealism with his own desires, and where he becomes authoritarian when people start to question these choices, up to a evolved point of clear inequality finally becomes like a destructive force in the group. If at that point the leader himself or any of the members are not capable to intercept this downward process, in order to restore a practical order and reality, the coherency in the group will surely fall apart completely. If however everyone involved really takes that risk and really changes all these necessary things so that only a community is left over of friendship and practicality alone, only then the tribe aspect finally becomes a much more healthy product, that can sustain to live on much longer, just like any smaller community can. 

Everything that could happen in such a community or that could have happened wrongly and in a good way also happened to this Brotherhood of the Spirit. What is left of it, of that which is now called the Renaissance Church, still lives on.

Also this community and Brotherhood, started from a first stage and period of spontaneous growth and progression. In a way this starting point surely was innocent and real, where everyone felt for the first time the different sort of spirituality, of a real positive starting point unity in a group. The locals didn’t trust so much their optimism and separation, so in the beginning they had a hard time earning its place, and after a while they also had to change it’s Brotherhood formula into a form of a Church community. Michael Meteleca who started this group from scratch, a restless person as he was, at first just simply shared all the positive things that happened together with all the others on the same level, wishing to find himself in it better. He also made music with a band, made even one record with them, but the result was in fact a bit like a mediocre songwriter-based, commune band sort of rock music (-so nothing like Yahowa 13, a commune based rock band which did show true personality in every aspect-), in reality I don’t think Michael was the person who really had so much to say except that he truly lived with all of it onto the right vibe at first and with all good intentions that people, at the right time, -just after the Summer of ’68 and in contrast to some political and social disillusions that followed after that-, and place, were so willing to share with one another, as an alternative. 

Sadly enough, during the second stage, where the leader falls back on his personal desires and where he confuses the one-voice for the all, this also happened within this community. Even though people were starting to take jobs to finance the community, money was mainly going into just one direction and into the lead of one decision maker. Michael also couldn’t help it to get more and more involved in all the things that weren’t supposed to happen for the secure feeling of the tribe, breaking the rules that were meant to secure and maintain the integer positive vibe inside the community. At that stage he also became authoritarian. At some later stage, where people were starting to inform themselves better about all what was going wrong already, their leader in the end was forced to leave the community for the better, despite the fact that he had founded it and had pronounced himself as the leader of it at first. 

The DVD showed very well several sides and different turning points inside a growth process from a group community. It also confronts ourselves once more with the challenging idea if it really is true that anyone should have a louder voice than the others or at least not all the time at all, or if it wouldn’t have been better that every voice in a community at least counts when it feels it has a need to be heard or when it feels it has something to say, to keep the general situation safe and sound and stable. Such lessons and questions might also be provoked when watching this documentary. 
Any newly formed tribal structure at that time still was something new and experimental for westerners, because people got used to live in a much bigger state-based community which in fact lost contact with the needs or potentials from the group, so that there came a need for a smaller community that cooperated as one whole much better. To a degree, such tribe-based projects could or might be worked out better in the end, especially after having taken out the idea of one main ego-based leader to be allowed to take over the role of others, because when that happens, he could or might much too easily fall back onto his own foolishness. Only the group in totality at that stage could save what happens after that from further disaster.

The second bonus DVD, which you could order to it as well, is a hardly edited one-track interview with several members who have been part of the group for many years. 
I like the remark of the comparison to American native tribes and their way of living. The panel also continues for a longer time talking about an important guest, who had left some influence in the community, which is the channelling speaker Elwood Babbitt, who’s own contribution provided a nice side-story to what happened back then. 
Still, the interview is also a lot of babbling and it cannot really or easily bring back very well what each person really personally experienced and now is trying to put into his own words, words that at time can become more meaningless as they are supposed to be.

About Rennaissance Community & The Brotherhood of the Spirit:

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