Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Orkustra- Adventures in Experimental Electric Orchestra From the San Francisco Psychedelic Underground[2010]

I was trying to think of something to post for Christmas, and I realized that this collection/reissue of the Orkustra's recorded output would do the trick.

Led by young Bobby BeauSoleil, the Orkustra was an attempt at the first "electric orchestra". Fusing techniques, rhythms, and instruments from Indian ragas, bebop and avant-garde jazz, folk, and rock and roll, the Orkustra made quite a mark on San Francisco's fabled underground, despite never releasing a proper album. These guys played with the Dead and Buffalo Springfield, but have been almost completely forgotten. Why? It could have something to do with good old Bobby BeauSoleil himself. In 1969, BeauSoleil killed a man in a drug deal gone wrong, and went to prison. This was after his involvement with the Manson family, of course. BeauSoleil lived on Manson's ranch at some point, but was uninvolved in their famous murders.

The music here is fantastic, truly a gem amongst many. The closest touchstone is perhaps the Third Ear Band, but their Indo-Euro fusion tended to stay closer to raga forms. The oboe and clarinet swing between wailing and crooning, the strings saw away in the background, the percussion is pounding and ritualistic, yet interesting. The occasional guitar touches work well- there are no power chords or solos. Instead, the guitar is treated in a manner more suited to this style of music.

There are 11 songs here, including two practice sessions. They run from three to twenty-five minutes, but the main draw here is the incredible "Gypsy Odyssey," performed live at St. John's Church, Christmas eve 1966. So there, there's my Christmas album this year. Yuletidin's to all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mayo Thomspon- Corky's Debt To His Father[1969]

Mayo Thompson, who you may or may not know as the leader of The Red Krayola(nee Crayola) has a certain je ne sais quoi about him that really draws me toward his work. I think it's the Texas thing. His Texas roots shine strong here, on an album of music that's certainly country, but also very western, as well as postmodern and a kissing cousin of the Velvet Underground's weird new take on rock music.

First of all, this is one of those albums that could be from any era and still be fresh. It's too much of a stew of various genres and techniques to really become irrelevant, and enough of a tongue-in-cheek poke at the same styles it utilizes. Full of odd and jerky, yet organic and hummable melodies and rhythms and memorable, if sometimes goofy, leyrics, Corky's Debt To His Father is a highly unique singer-songwriter album from the highly unique leader of one of the most violently avant-garde rock bands in America during the 1960s.

"Dear Betty Baby" is what I consider a beautiful song- the lyrics and the simply chopped off chords are very heartfelt and affecting.

I can't really pick out favorites here. I'm a little bit doped up and having a hard time typing, but all the tracks here are unique, clever, and catchy. There are a lot of well-planned moments and arrangements, and you'd have a hard time ever pigeonholing this album into a single style. This really deserves a better review, but I just wanted to finally get this favorite of mine posted.