Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Freeborne - Peak Impressions (1967)



One of the few straight rock records ever issued on the mostly-folk Monitor Records label -- a great 60s outing from Freeborne, a group with a sound that's as tripped-out as you might expect from the cover! Instrumentation is heavy on organ and guitars, both acoustic and electric, but there's also some cool percussion too -- and interesting use of recorders, in a way that comes across with an ocarina-like charm! Vocals are somewhat soft, but have a dark undercurrent -- and there's a really great folk-into-psyche sort of feel to the whole thing. Titles include "Images", "Land Of Diana", "But I Must Return To Frenzy", "Inside People", "Yellow Sky", "Peak Impressions & Thoughts", and "Visions Of My Own". (Special limited CD -- pressed up for us by the Smithsonian Folkways label. Comes with original cover artwork, and the CD also features a PDF file with the original liner notes and other materials from the original record release.)


1.Images2.Land Of Diana3.Visions Of My Own4.Sadly Acknowledged5.Peak Impressions & Thoughts 6.Yellow Sky7.Hurtin' Kind Of Woman8.Inside People9.A New Song For Orestes10 But I Must Return To Frenzy11.Images - (Mono 45 version)12.Land Of Diana - (Stereo mix #2)13.Incidental Musi


This is probably the album that has the least in common (other than blatant drugginess) with the other Bosstown bands of the late 60s. The heavy use of keyboards, martial drums, and dreamy, almost hidden soundscape is unique. It’s not heavy, but it’s not mellow either. The best songs on it sneak up on you. In fact, an initial reaction might be to remember the wacky instrumental freakout in the closing “But I Must Return To Frenzy” but nothing more. Hey, it’s not often you hear a band of the era that makes better use of a trumpet than a lead guitar. And in the long run, once everything sinks in, some of the album isn’t all that successful. But like the little girl with the curl, when it’s good it’s very, very good.
The album opens with a catchy two-keyboard song intro, leading into the verse of Images,” which is perhaps the most instantly likeable song. A dreamy melody gives way to some discordant piano soloing and a trumpet solo, before returning with another verse. Though the album gets weirder and more experimental as it goes along, the listener immediately knows what he or she is in for here. The jazzy chord progression to the next song, “Land Of Diana,” is turned upside down by heavy reverb and dreamy backing vocals. A brief organ solo is followed by a scream and an equally brief guitar freakout, one of the few noticeable guitar moments on the whole album. The song eventually moves from some freaky echo to some old-style jazz scatting, followed by otherworldly reverbed “ah” vocals and a tad more keyboard weirdness. This is truly unique stuff.
“Visions Of My Own” follows, coupling some quiet acoustic guitar with an incessant recorder riff. The pace continues to be slow, the lyrics dreamy and quasi-intellectual, the melodies irresistible, once their odd sensibility grow on you. A brief anti-war statement follows, disrupting the pace a little, though it has a nice, sparse arrangement. Side one ends with the album’s masterpiece, “Peak Impressions & Thoughts,” a song with an absolutely relentless beat and chord progression, mind-melting lyrics and keyboards that build in intensity until they’re all over your room.
Side two is kind of a let-down, by comparison. It’s not bad, and the songs are still full of ideas, but they’re not as unique or memorable as what preceded them, as they mine blues, jazz, gospel and garage rock and repeat themselves a bit. The long instrumental section that comes near the album’s close goes in and out of focus, and though these guys often write like jazz musicians, they don’t have that kind of chops. Of course, I lose interest a few minutes into the Velvet Underground’s “European Son,” too, so take my dismissal of this song in that light. Like all of the other choices for this session (except The Smoke), the Freeborne get definite points because they just plain don’t sound like anybody else. And side one is a completely solid listen.


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