Genre: Space Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Preceded by: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
Followed by: More (1969)
Related to: not available yet
Before: a psychedelic rock band fronted by Syd Barett, having released a couple of successful singles and a more than decent debut album. After: an ambitious rock act, featuring David Gilmour and packed with ever growing ambitions. Struggling with exuberance before, turning vinyl into gold afterwards and threatened to end up in its own shadow towards the end. This is a key album, the only album with Barett as well as Gilmour, a personal favorite, but above all: a beautiful Floyd album, merging great melodies with foggy instrumental parts without drowning in its own sound. As if the title could already foresee what would happen during the early seventies, this would remain the best preserved secret of the band.
Although Roger Waters went to the same high school as Syd Barett, and although Gilmour was hanging around in his neighborhood, he laid down the ground works for Pink Floyd together with Nick Mason and Richard Wright after they met (1962) at the school of architecture. Together with three other guys they played in a band named ‘Sigma 6’. As was made clear later, Waters was already not such a great fan of schools back then and he dropped out after one year, just like Mason. Wright apparently just didn’t show any interest at all in architecture and switched to the London College of Music. Not a bad decision at all, as was also made clear later.
The three of them initially kept playing together, till they are joined by Syd Barett (1964) after the departure of some other members. The younger childhood friend from Waters had meanwhile become an art student, fascinated by work from The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Barett’s star within the band quickly rises, as singer as well as lead guitarist, and when the band starts to grow towards its definite form, it changes its name to The Pink Floyd Sound in 1965. The Sound is dropped the next year and the four of them start performing in London’s underground clubs, where their long instrumental improvisations (avoiding to repeat themselves with their limited repertoire) were supported by surreal light effects. It was told that this new band played psychedelic music, which was not at all generally appreciated. Luckily for them, 1967 was within reach.
The rock scene turned upside down right from the start of this year by the massive booming of psychedelic bands, and on the very day the Monterey Pop Festival kicks off on the American West Coast, Pink Floyd releases its second (after ‘Arnold Layne’) single: ‘See Emily Play’. The debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn follows in August, being successful in their home country. The support tour in the US however is no success at all, due to many practical troubles and the mental downfall of Barett, set in already during the recordings of Piper. Nevertheless, the band would ultimately play at San Francisco’s famous Winterland in November, after Janis Joplin with Big Brother & The Holding Company.
On their return in the UK in December, Barett’s state of mind has further deteriorated and the band decides to add a fifth band member in case Barett can no longer perform properly: David Gilmour. He would initially become the second guitarist while Barett would stay connected with the band as non-performing songwriter, Brian Wilson-style. However, Barett left the band permanently in March and the four of them remained. Lots of material for the second album was already recorded at that point, resulting in A Saucerful of Secrets being the only Floyd-album with Waters, Gilmour, Mason, Wright ánd Barett.
With Barett gone as the bands main songwriter, the time had come for Waters to take things over. As this new Supreme Being he opens the album with ‘Let There Be More Light’. This track immediately draws your attention to the album, with an opening bass riff that originated from ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ but sounds (especially with the adding of the threatening organ in the background) like an anachronistic piece of techno music from the late sixties. However, when the drums fall in, you know you’re somewhere up high, lost in the cosmos and in the middle of this ultimate space rock song. The lyrics and music reveal that Waters is still inspired by Barett (and, apparently, some concept album by The Beatles; For there revealed in glowing robes – Was Lucy in the sky?) during his early songwriting, while new member Gilmour is also introduced. He takes on the lead vocals during the chorus and more important, he plays his first Floyd solo towards the end of the song, in that characteristic style we would get used to later on.
It’s up to the other new songwriter next, Richard Wright, presenting a song that was an outtake from Piper: ‘Remember a Day’. As we are used from him, the lyrics mainly deal with childhood memories, but because of the albums’ context it feels like we’re looking down from above to witness those young children playing. Might sound mellow or even poppy at first, but as a matter of fact it’s a real showcase for the drums (ironically played by producer Norman Smith instead of Mason on this track), giving this song a haunting groove from the moment they set in. That’s why Wright basically doesn’t need any guitars here, with Gilmour also being absent (Barett would have played acoustic and slide guitar but it’s barely noticeable). Great song.
The third song was the first one that was recorded for the album: ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’. This is the only Floyd song on which all five members play, although the guitars are quite overruled by drums and organ again. However, there’s only one guy completely defining this song: writer Roger Waters. Of course there’s the awesome bass playing, proving that it’s possible to create an entire song with this instrument as long as the guy who plays it is haughty enough to believe it. But the secret power of this song is without any doubt Water’s threatening whispering, in a style Thom Yorke would later apply to some Radiohead songs.
It’s followed by another Waters song, closing side one: ‘Corporal Clegg’. As the title already might presume, it’s also his first of many song dealing with war (inspired by Waters’ father, who died during World War II). The lyrics tell about this Corporal Clegg, a soldier suffering from shell-shock and losing his leg, while the music drenches the song in sarcasm by using a kazoo (played by Gilmour and once invented by… Thaddeus Von Clegg) in the second part. And in fact, apart from the solo on the opening track, this is the first song on which the guitar really shines.
Side two opens with the title track, a twelve minutes lasting instrumental that was compiled from several separate pieces, composed by Waters, Wright, Gilmour and Mason. According to Waters, it’s the musical translation of a battlefield, including the setup, the actual battle, the view of the dead afterwards and, in the end, the mourning. Again, it are the drums and the piano (+organ) that claim the leading role here. Nick Mason even shows that the drums can perfectly take over the role of the guitar when it comes down to soloing, if this instrument is played brilliantly. Meanwhile, Wright pounds the keys out of his piano with his fists, as can be seen on the legendary Pompeii recording. Some minutes later he switches to his church organ, and creates this mystical atmosphere on a part that might be considered a dress rehearsal for ‘Echoes’. To sum up: listening this song evokes more subterranean imagery than successively watching the entire Indiana Jones collection.
Over to Wright’s second contribution then, lyrically not differing very much from the first one. If one track must be called the least one on this album, it must perhaps be ‘See-Saw’. It sounds kind of peaceful all along and surely can help you falling asleep quietly, and maybe that’s why it was called ‘The Most Boring Song I’ve Ever Heard Bar Two’ on the recording sheet. Throughout the entire song you can ask yourself whether if it’s a charming dream or a sad condolence.
The final secret to discover is ‘Jugband Blues’, the only song out there written and sung by Barett. It was already recorded before Floyd’s trip to the US and Barett must already have known that he would soon (have to) leave the band. The Salvation Army band was added on his insistence, and initially he just wanted them to play whatever they wanted, independent from the rest of the group. Was he maybe inspired by Dylan’s opening track on Blonde on Blonde or is it a little naïve to presume that there still was some memory left at that point? Whatever the answer might be, if there was ever made a song that literally translates somebody’s mental state of mind into music, it must be this one, displaying total schizophrenia between lyrics and instrumentation. That’s why it deserves its spot on this album as a worthy clincher, with Barett seeming to drench his goodbye speech to the group in black humor and irony: I don’t care if the sun don’t shine, I’ll do my loving in the winter.
Altough Barett is represented by only one song on A Saucerful of Secrets, his songwriting still echoed in the first experiments of Waters and Wright. In this way they didn’t break completely with the band’s roots, something that would more or less happen on following albums. This new approach is already announced by the title track, which was a collaboration between the four members who would form the band from now on. That band would exceed their limits in many ways during the following years, but on almost every next album you can find something that points back to A Saucerful of Secrets. Enjoy.
Genre: Folk Jazz Soul
Preceded by: Blowin’ Your Mind! (1967)
Followed by: Moondance (1970)
Related to: Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
Let’s get back to the roots of folk jazz soul. Oh wait, there is of course not such a thing. It’s something I was obliged to make up because it’s impossible and dishonorable to fit this album in one kind of musical genre, like folk (which folk?), blue-eyed soul (or even worse and sinister: white soul) or Jazz Fusion (although that would have been very fashionable).
Van Morrison was born in Belfast a couple of weeks after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, marking the starting point of a promising musical career as well as the Cold War. Nature (Morrison’s mother was a singer during her youth) and nurture (Morrison’s father possessing an elaborate record collection) did their job and Van already discovered a lot of musical styles at a young age, among others the blues and soul from Lead Belly and Solomon Burke. This triggered him to found his own band at the age of twelve: The Sputniks, called after the Russian rocket that was launched in October ’57. Music already had the upper hand over other interests at that point: did we see Dylan quitting university as a novice earlier, Morrison already dropped out of secondary school in 1960.
A lot of other bands (in which he sang, played guitar, sax and occasionally even drums and bass; who dares to state that Van Morrison is just a good singer?) followed, which he combined with being a part-time window cleaner. With one of these bands, as a true Cold War-kid, he toured along US Army bases in Britain and Germany to perform. At the age of 19 things are becoming more professional when he compiles the band Them back in Belfast, although this would always remain more of a live project than a studio group, thanks to Morrison’s frenzied creations on stage, for example during their hit single ‘Gloria’. This considerably contrasted with the nagging and cynical way they behaved in public life (interviews, television performances), which reminds of Dylan again, during his Blonde on Blonde period.
Them broke up, but Morrison signed a new contract with their producer to pursue a solo career. While he thought they were recording a number of singles (in New York, where the recordings for Blonde on Blonde led to nothing for Dylan), a solo debut album was suddenly released behind his back in 1967. Next to the fact that most of the tracks weren’t worthy to be released (although it delivered Morrison his biggest hit single: ‘Brown Eyed Girl’), the repugnant album cover still makes Blowin’ Your Mind! a poisoned debut.
This debut and especially this relationship with his producer initially kept following Morrison like a dark shadow. The producer died, his widow kept Morrison responsible for that and even tried to get him expelled from the States. These problems were solved by marrying his girlfriend at that time and delivering 31 songs about ringworms to get rid of his contractual obligations, after which he moved to Warner Bros. On this label, when the Tet Offensive in Vietnam comes to an end and The Troubles start in Morrison’s native country, he recorded his second and first ‘real’ album: Astral Weeks. This album, as we extend the comparison with Dylan, might be considered a noteworthy attempt to equate the enigmaticness of Blonde on Blonde. Van Morrison is 23 years old then.
Every time I listen to Astral Weeks, this fact keeps captivating me. I know I’m listening to a guy who just turned 23, but what I hear is an Artist who is singing his poetry with the voice of a man who has half his lifetime behind him. The accompanying instrumentation seems to be worked out in every smallest detail by this Artist, who is recording his absolute magnum opus after so many years of hard work and isolation. I hear a bass performance that tries to pull this heavenly voice back to the earth, while a playful guitar and flute are maneuvering in between.
The fascination for Astral Weeks reaches another level when discovering the real circumstances in which this sound was born. Morrison’s new producer arranged a group of session musicians for this new album, all having a musical background in jazz. Those musicians indicated that the collaboration with Morrison (not much of a jazz fan at that point) was very inconvenient without many words being interchanged. Morrison would just enter the studio, introduce the songs on his guitar and tell the musicians to play it however they felt like playing it. After the job was done, Morrison highly praised their contribution to the album. No wonder, after hearing his voice dancing throughout the instrumentation and vice versa, the ultimate proof that musical chemistry doesn’t require any words.
Stop, and imagine yourself as a fly on the wall of that studio while Astral Weeks is being created.
The album opens with the title track, with the acoustic guitar paving the way for Morrison’s beautiful vocal performance, including very interesting lyrics. Those lyrics, dealing with spiritual rebirth, are supported by a flute and violin in the background, altogether making this a good album opener, introducing you into the themes of this album. After we are reborn, we’re lying next to our loved one on ‘Beside You’. It makes clear that this album is some sort of song cycle, with the tracks flowing seamlessly into each other. Morrison is basically singing just another love story, but one that is told by means of some great expressionistic imagery. This song (on which the flautist was never identified!) is a real showcase for Jay Berliner and his classical guitar playing, sounding like he’s been playing with Morrison for years and personally adding the greatest details to this painting.
Stand up, start wandering and feel the dew on one of my favorites: ‘Sweet Thing’. This love ballad (addressing more a feeling than a person in particular) kicks off with a sweet, slow acoustic guitar & bass combo. The tempo is raised after the drum’s hi-hat is introduced, and from that point you can see the singer parading, with the flute fluttering like birds around his head. When the strings are ultimately added, you can hear the chemistry between band and singer at its highest point. Side one is subsequently closed with ‘Cyprus Avenue’, a song that reached a legendary status thanks to Morrison’s live performances . It was the traditional closer of the show, as can be heard on his famous live album It’s Too Late To Stop Now (1974), being the only Astral Weeks track on this album. While the music (including overdubbed strings and harpsichord) doesn’t really stand out in my opinion, it are the lyrics that really shine here. Morrison sings a story about his Belfast adolescence and despite using some stream-of-consciousness, it remains very recognizable; about the power of attraction of places that are nearby, but differing very much of the neighborhood where you grew up yourself.
Side two opens with a rather short track, ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’. It really differs from the other songs as the up-tempo playing drums and the adding of a horns section gives this song a very jazzy character. Therefore it’s being much criticized because of not fitting within the album’s context. Sure, it looks like a song from his following album Moondance, but does it therefore sound any less emotional? Moreover, give it a shot not to sing along with Van’s vocal punches during the chorus. Next is a true gem: ‘Madame George’. This is an absolutely stunning song considering the circumstances in which the album was recorded. While it was Berliner tangoing with Morrison on ‘Beside You’, it’s now time for bassist Richard Davis to shine and to lead Morrison throughout this song. A string quartet adds to the classical chamber-sound here, while Van fills this chamber with his fantastic images without having to worry about any relation between them. Get on the train.
Can it go any better from here? Yes, one more time when ‘Ballerina’ sets in. Morrison wrote this song already in 1966 while touring in San Francisco with Them. It’s an amazing song, with perhaps his best vocal performance on the entire album. He really pulls you into this story from the very first lines and the grip only gets tighter towards the end, till the last pirouette fades out of your thoughts. At last, Astral Weeks is closed by ‘Slim Slow Slider’. It was also the song that was last added after being shortened many times, sounding very gloomy. Not standing out, but closing this astral trip in an apposite way: with death and Morrison smacking on his guitar.
Meanwhile Astral Weeks has reached double the age of Morrison when he made it, and still remains one of the absolute best albums of all time. Not possible to rank this album in any specific genre, it’s recommended to anybody interested in just music in general. Enjoy.
Genre: Roots Rock
Preceded by: –
Followed by: The Band (1969)
I love albums that can take you to other places, albums that succeed to give you the opportunity to travel in space and time within one hour, without even having to move from your couch. Last time I travelled to Big Pink, which is not some new to inhabit planet from the far future. It’s also more than that big house near New York, Big Pink is that small town in the American South where The Band was playing that night.
Right after the needle touched the vinyl, the spots enlightened the stage and five genius musicians showed up, completely aware of their qualities and playing with some kind of distinguished serenity. In the back sits Levon Helm, behind his drums. He’s actually the only American in the band, being the son of a cotton farmer from Arkansas. There he joined The Hawks in 1959 before moving to Canada, where the rockabilly sound of that band was highly appreciated. There, in the environs of Ontario, Levon and singer Ronnie Hawkins recruited four Canadian musicians, all around 18-19 years old.
One of those guys was the singer of the opening track of tonight’s gig: ‘Tears of Rage’. His name is Richard Manuel, the band’s pianist but also gifted with this soulful voice (to be heard a lot more during this performance). He wrote this song together with some guy named Bob Dylan and succeeds to sing it even more desperately than Dylan did earlier on The Basement Tapes. It immediately brings you into the world of The Band, to Big Pink, where unbreakable family ties survive at all costs in a divided society.
During the second song, ‘To Kingdom Come’, the spotlight is aimed at guitar player Robbie Robertson. This song is one of the many he has written as a member of The Band, but it’s one of the rare ones on which he also performances the lead vocals. Robertson (although being the only one of them who isn’t a multi-instrumentalist) is a great shareholder of The Band’s success with his smooth guitar playing and having signed for some of the groups greatest classics. His guitar playing also sounds great on this song, which might bring you some visions of The Byrds.
The next song is sung (and written) by Manuel again, and his voice is the only memorable thing I remembered from it as ‘In A Station’ didn’t really astonish me at other points. But this was quickly forgotten when that mysterious bass player starts to sing the following song: ‘ Caledonia Mission’. His name is Rick Danko and I become an absolute fan of his voice within his first two lines. He originates from Ukranian ancestors and thanks to his car accident The Band could not promote their debut album (1968) with a concert tour until the next year, when they were already recording their second album: The Band. The song is actually also written by Robertson, who created a strange mix of country verses and a soul chorus, where the piano adds another dimension to the song.
The Band announces to play one more song before the break and this one completely blows me away. During this short break I decide I’ve just listened to the best song that was ever written. Robertson wrote it, based on his experience as a young Canadian in his twenties, arriving at the cradle of soul, blues, rock ‘n roll and what else more: Memphis. He realized that he’d ended up in the world of Levon Helm and as a great songwriter he luckily possessed the capacity to describe his images in a marvelous and poetic way. On top of that the song was extremely suited for the voice of Helm, the total impersonation of the main character in ‘The Weight’.
The weight is carried by a visitor of the little town called Nazareth, as Robertson is of course considering this ‘new world’ a holy destination in his life. He comes here just to pass somebody’s (Miss Fanny) regards but would never have thought that this would be such a burdensome task, ending up in some bizarre experiences. He arrives there very tired and they decline to give this man a bed, just like in Luke’s story about Mary and Joseph. After Carmen has dropped off nobody less than the Devil to keep him company, he also runs into Luke himself, who is arguing with Miss Moses about joining the civil rights movement. Luke is worried about what’s going on and asks the traveler to stay so he can take care of the young Anna-Lee. His vehicle subsequently breaks down but luckily there’s good old Crazy Chester who can fix it. He’s willing to do that, on the condition that the traveler looks after his wild dog, Jack. It all gets too much for him now so he hops on the first train (cannonball) to get back to Miss Fanny. AMEN! After Levon of course personally kicks off the song (Anna-Lee, Carmen and Crazy Chester were all real characters in his life, from the town with the perfect name Turkey Scratch), the lead vocals are shared during the rest of the song with Manuel and Danko. Brilliant.
After turning the record over, The Band returns on stage and immediately my attention is drawn to the mystical fifth guy, sitting like an old wizard behind his organ while playing a delicious intro of the first song: ‘We Can Talk’. This is Garth Hudson, the classically skilled member of the band. During the first years, this guy gave music lessons to the other guys for 10 dollars a week, only to prove towards his parents that his education was not wasted by joining that band. The song itself is basically one of the most catchy ones on the album, showing another great example of mixed vocals, with Danko, Manuel (writer of the song) and Helm sharing the lead vocals again.
Another nice intro is delivered by Hudson on ‘Long Black Veil’, after which the beautiful vocals of Rick Danko follow again. This ballad (guy falsely accused of murder) is a cover and was originally written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin back in 1959. As you know The Band was prematurely built around this time, as they formed The Hawks from ’58 till ’63. They continued as Levon and the Hawks in 1964 before becoming Bob Dylan’s band the next year. As such they toured around the world, although Helm aborted halfway to go working on an oil rig for two years! After the tour Dylan moves to Woodstock in 1966 with The Band following him shortly afterwards. It was Danko who found the big pink house in the state of New York where he would live together with Manuel and Hudson.
But we don’t get time to dig further in history because I’m blown away a second time this night. Out of nothing (looking at a completely dark stage) a dramatic and bombastic organ sound rises up: this is a real showcase for Garth Hudson. The song is called ‘Chest Fever’ and is probably one of the rare Band songs that shows any kinship with psychedelic rock, which was booming around that time. It’s of course all about this pounding organ riff, being filled up with Manuel’s tearing voice (telling the classic story of a spurned man) and the distorted guitar playing by Robertson. This is a genius piece of music, which has to top the list of best tracks below even when it’s of course not the best one on the album, but ‘The Weight’ would be a little too predictable.
I need some time to recover from this and this time is offered by ‘Lonesome Suzie’, a decent ballad from Manuel which can’t really excite me. But the excitement returns when Danko starts singing ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, a song he co-wrote with Dylan. The song is stuffed with all kind of bizarre sounds, with the organ and guitar producing oriental noises. But the real strength of the song are Danko’s vocals, who seems to be in an ecstatic form of hesitation during this track. It was tonight’s last boost of energy, as the gig is closed by the peaceful ‘I Shall Be Released’, a majestic song from Dylan, sung by Manuel in a breathtaking way. With this song we all pray to be released from our sins and say goodbye to the world of Big Pink.
So in the end, what makes this album such a great record? I guess it’s the diversity as well as the connectedness of the songs. First of all, all different members of The Band are portrayed as individual musical geniuses, as each one gets his moment to shine. In this way it often reminds me of The Beatles’ Revolver . But there’s also an apparent connection between all songs at the same time, telling you the story of the people of Big Pink. Not the big house, but the towns and villages that these guys from Canada discovered after following their own Moses to the promised land.
Genre: Blues Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Preceded by: –
Followed by: Outsideinside (1968)
Fortunately for the development of music in all its variation, especially the heavier genres, there were always bands out there that asked themselves if things couldn’t be played a little louder. Blue Cheer certainly was such a band.
It’s 1968 and a big part of the music scene was embracing the progress technology had made with regard to improving amplifiers and electric guitars. Especially the possibility to significantly amplify the sound of the bass guitar made it possible for bands to play as loud as possible without losing the sound of the bass. This was the deciding development that notorious blues rock artists like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix were waiting for to form their own power trios, consisting of guitar, bass and drums. Bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who in fact used the same concept, adding a seperate singer. 1967 subsequently brought us Hendrix’ Are You Experienced?, 1969 Led Zeppelin’s debut album and 1968 had Blue Cheer’s impressive debut: Vincebus Eruptum.
Just like those two acts, Blue Cheer reinterpreted old blues songs and took them to higher and louder levels using loads of amplifiers. Hendrix ofcourse added the psychedelic influences that were characteristic for those times. With Blue Cheer being located in San Francisco and being called after a kind of LSD (at its turn called after a washing product), it may not be surprising that those influences are also present on their debut. If you’re looking for extensive improvisation, hyperamplification and lots of distortion, this is the album that definitely should be in your record collection. No other band of that time in my opinion had the raw intensity and energy of Blue Cheer, making them blow up their complete equipment the first time they tried to record this album.
Blue Cheer was founded in 1966 with the original line up consisting of Dickie Peterson on bass (which he played since the age of 13) and vocals, Leigh Stephens on guitar (ranked 98 on Rolling Stones’ 100 greatest guitarists of all time) and Eric Albronda on drums. Albronda was subsequently replaced by Paul Whaley and the band recruited some extra members on guitar, keyboards and harmonica. But, according to the myth, they brought the band down to a power trio after witnessing Hendrix’ mind blowing performance with his Experience at Monterey. So Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens and Paul Whaley remained as the line-up for the first album, consisting of 6 songs with a total length of about half an hour. But don’t worry, just turn the record over again.
The LP starts with the bands only real hit, a cover of Eddie Cochran’s blues song ‘Summertime Blues’. This must be the ultimate example of transforming a classic blues song into blues rock, played that hard that it’s drawing the outlines of hard rock. The first part of the song combines an extremely pounding rhythm section with a crying guitar, immediately giving you the opportunity to test your own sound equipment. The riff in the middle of the song reminds of Hendrix’ ‘Foxy Lady’, after which the guitar becomes a rollercoaster, steadily taking off and at its peak crushing down at high speed. This version beats The Who’s interpretation of the song hands down if it comes down to muscular strength and roughness.
An even greater blues classic follows quickly, when B.B. King’s ‘Rock Me Baby’ sets in. Also covered amongst others by Otis Redding (a great idol of singer Peterson), this song sticks to the typical blues sound of the guitar with another pumping combo of bass and drums adding the rock here. If not already taken place, everthing goes mental on the third track, Dickie Peterson’s self-proclaimed drug anthem ‘Doctor Please’. Peterson experienced a lot of funny feelings in his head at the time and sings about them after a rough intro of Paul Whaley. The song is about 8 minutes long and offers you the best definition of the term ‘power trio’. The energy drips out of your speakers when guitar solos, kicking drums, the screaming voice of Peterson and heavy bass sounds keep interchanging before exploding together now and then. This also reminds of later stoner rock from bands like Kyuss.
The next song, ‘Out of Focus’, lasts four minutes but was written in ten minutes according to Peterson. This song also has some psychedelic lyrics about angels in mystic dreams, propelled by a haunting guitar riff from Stephens. The roughness of the instruments and Petersons howling voice on this track marks the difference between Blue Cheer and more polished power trios like Clapton’s Cream. It’s followed by another cover, ‘Parchment Farm’, from jazz and blues pianist Mose Allison. This song offers some space for some extensive jamming just when you think the song has ended, while Peterson sings sightly funny lyrics like “I’ve been sitting over here on Parchment Farm. Ain’t ever done nobody no wrong. All I did was shoot my wife. She was no good! “. ‘Second Time Around’ offers you one last chance to pick up your air guitar, as the riffs are very sweet again. Towards the middle of the song, Paul Whaley throws in a wild drum solo, after which all the remaining distortion and psychedelic effects out there are used to close the album, definitely a personal favorite.
After their debut album, the group was confronted with a lot of personnel changes, with their style developing towards a more commercial sound during the seventies and eighties. Periods of activity and temporary break-ups followed eachother, before breaking up for once and for all in 2009 after the death of Peterson, the only continuing member troughout the years. But Vincebus Eruptum remains an essential album to understand the concept of a power trio. Enjoy.