CD Review: Various Artists (Psychic Circle Records)

psychiccircle-webVA – File Under: Male Vocal: The Golden Age Of The Beat Balladeer
VA – Let’s Ride: 20 Popsike Excursions From The UK and Europe Vol. 3
VA – Outbreak Of Twangin’
VA – Roaring Blue: Return Of The Instro-Hipsters Vol. 3
Psychic Circle

Music scholar extraordinaire (and also the leader of the fabulously fine psyche freakout project The Bevis Frond) Nick Salomon has assembled yet another fine bunch of comps chock full of rare, previously uncomped music by obscure bands deserving more attention than they received when this music was first released in the ’60’s. One thing about the Psychic Circle label I should say up front is that every single release the label puts out is stellar. Not only is the sound top notch and the selection of songs and artists second to none, but the detials such as liner notes and little background tidbits make every release by Psychic Circle a must have for every devotee of ’60’s rock music of any sub-genre. From psyche to freak beat to groovy instrumentals featuring guitar and Hammond organ to anything and everything else – I know anything Psychic Circle releases is going to be top drawer stuff.

The first comp (File Under: Male Vocal) is dedicated to the male singers in Britain in the ’60’s who really couldn’t be considered beat, soul or psyche yet were of that same time. Salomon says in his liners the idea came into his head because of all the ’60’s comps he had seen and worked on, none had featured this type of music and he was wanting to rectify the situation before people forgot about this small sub-genre of British rock. While this is not my preferred form of ’60’s music (I like Psych!) this compilation is very interesting and I am all for music done well with a decent amount of emotion and soul and you’ll find that in spades here. Notables include Graham Bell (who later went on to join British psych group Skip Bifferty among other projects), Brian Keith (a onetime lead singer for British psych band Plastic Penny, whose rhythm section later backed Elton John on John’s groundbreaking ’70’s albums), Ronnie Jones (who went to the UK as a member of the US Airforce and later stayed, forming a band with the guitarist John McLaughlin and also forged a career as a stage performer), and James Royal (who led bands with such members as the pre-fame Rick Wakeman of Yes, John Entwhistle of The Who, and Mitch Mitchell of Jimi Hendrix’ band) among many others on this comp. Great stuff, with some strong grooves.

Let’s Ride, the next comp, is the third volume in a wonderful, almost infinite (one can hope) treasure trove of previously uncomped popsike! This comp is for fans of albums such as The Beatles’ groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper, which seemingly influenced every band on this collection. The comp features bands Sight and Sound (featuring future members of The Move), Stoics (featuring future stars Frankie Miller, Hugh McKenna, and Jimmy Dewar), Mike Batt (who would go on to join The Wombles), and Unit 4+2 (whose members Bob Henrit and Russ Ballard would later go on to join Argent) among many others. This comp is a pop-sike fan’s dream. Very great stuff here to use to get your Sgt. Pepper jones handled without actually having to pull out the Beatles’ album to do it!

Outbreak of Twangin’ is next and if you are a fan of ’60’s guitar-led instrumentals like those played by bands such as The Shadows and that lot, you are in for a killer time here! This set will take you back to a time before the Beatles when instrumental songs featuring twangy guitars and skittering drums were titled with surf and spy themes (among other subjects) and hit the top of the charts. Though none of the songs included on this comp made the charts, they very well could be considered “the best of the rest” as they feature the same great qualities as the ones you remember today yet are uncomped and waiting on this CD for you to discover. This comp features bands such as The Eagles (no, not those Eagles! This is a British band whose members included noted session guitarist Terry Clarke), Alan Caddy (who later joined hit-makers The Tornadoes), The Saxons (who later “became” The Tornadoes when the original Tornadoes quit en masse), Judd Proctor (who later became a noted jazz session player who worked with Benny Goodman among others), and Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers (featuring Pete Miller of Cold Turkey fame) among many others on this 26 song comp. This is great stuff to play at a party or for just grooving around your house playing air guitar!

I am a big fan of ’60’s Hammond organ-led instrumentals and this last comp, Roaring Blue, is chock full of them! Great British hard R&B with the classic Hammond sound at the helm, which means great groovy stuff, people. The comp features acts such as The Sound of Jimmy Nichol (Nichol was a drummer who filled in with the Beatles when Ringo was sick while the Fabs were touring and Nichols later inspired the McCartney song “It’s Getting Better”), The Underground (actually Madeleine Bell and Blue Mink), Monty Babson (producer of British psyche band The Smoke), and Big Jim Sullivan (session guitarist who tutored Ritchie Blackmore and backed Tom Jones and Van Morrison on their albums) among many others. This is great groovy, trippy stuff and would work best at parties in situations where great music is called for!

Let’s face it: if you’re as big a fan as I am of ’60’s rock and roll in all of it’s forms, you will love these sets and everything Salomon releases on his Psychic Circle label. While concentrating purely on comps at this point in time, Salomon nonetheless does painstaking research on each cut that makes his releases and includes helpful and incredibly interesting background info on each and every band making his collections. Needless to say Salomon awes me with the depth of his knowledge everytime I read his notes. He also goes the extra mile top include music never comped before or at least very rarely comped. So you will get the maximum freak-out impact for every dollar you spend on any Psychic Circle release. I know I sound like a commercial here but this stuff is fantastic and every time I whip out one of the Psychic Circle comps at a party of music heads, people just go apeshit at the cool sounds. These are all great, pick them up!