Friday, November 13, 2009

VA - Psychedelic States - Ohio In The 60's, 3 CD (2005) ]

As usual on the albums in this fine series, there are a handful of unearthed gems, a string of game attempts, and then a trail of also-rans (some of them quite enjoyably earnest or naïve, some of them out-and-out pedestrian). Ohio was, as the CD booklet notes, a "real hot bed" of garage rock activity in the '60s. A few bands (the Outsiders, the Choir, the Human Beinz, Ohio Express, etc.) in a slightly more pop mode even saw action on the national charts, while any number of less polished but no less potent challengers punched their way on to various local charts. That means there is a slightly higher ratio of winners-to-duds here than on other series' entries, and, as usual, those winners make the collection more than worth the cost. Running caveat: fuzz guitar rather than psychedelia (per the title) is the element that tends to connect these singles together. Some are about as trippy as the Beach Blanket Bingo movies -- though not necessarily less entertaining for that fact, it should be noted, as one listen to the snot-nosed, anachronistic frat rock of the Beau Denturies' "Straight Home" will demonstrate. The generally amateurish recording quality of a majority of these singles luckily tends to underscore rather than obscure the palpably raw emotions of the songs, but it also means the more professional quality sides stick out, particularly the chiming "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" by Columbus' favorite sons, the Dantes (who would open for most of the top national bands as they passed through the Buckeye state) and a strong take on the Yardbirds' "Evil Hearted You" by the aforementioned Human Beinz (at the time still billed as the Human Beingz). Other songs worth multiple replays include the Chosen Lot's "Time Was," the unbelievably primitive "I Hear the Word" by the Purple Persians, the Us Too Group's "I'll Leave You Crying," the Blues Invention's "Mystery Man," Richard Pash & the Back Door Society's "I'm the Kind," the Shillings' "Forgive Me My Love," and the Checkmates' "Get It While You Can." Turn the volume up loud for maximum impact.
The second Buckeye fuzz blast in Gear Fab's ongoing series is, on the whole, a slight drop-off in quality from Vol. 1, but there is still plenty of punk and psychedelic goodness to be skimmed off the top here. You might as well start with Ohio's most popular rock band of the decade, the Dantes, and their "80-96," an awesome three-plus-minute instrumental that begins as harmonica-driven garage-beat before totally toppling head over Beatle boots down the rabbit hole. It's right up there with similar rave-ups by the Yardbirds and the Chocolate Watchband, so it's not surprising that the single came out on the nationally distributed Jamie. Runners-up in this battle of the bands: the percussive-heavy "To Think" by the Bare Facts, one-time Dick Clark caravaners; the Baroque Monthly's (naturally) Left Banke-ish "You Are Your Only Mystery"; the brassy "She's Gonna Cry" by the Onion Rings; the moody folk-rock of the King's English's "It Could Be Bad"; and the organ scorcher "Haygirl" (note the amusing, and, considering the state's vast spreads of farmland, appropriate misspelling) by the Chylds, featuring an incredible performance by future drummer-for-hire Joe Vitale (Joe Walsh, CSNY, Dan Fogelberg). Vol. 3 to follow.

Those who have heard more than one entry in Gear Fab's ongoing Psychedelic States series know at this point more or less what to expect from it: indifferently recorded 45s cut by excessively hormonal American boys doing their best regionally adjusted Beatles, Byrds, and Stones poses, and herein rescued from the filthy ashtray of rock's past by the label's dedicated archivists. One would think that a third volume focused on a single state might be more dilute than its sister volumes, but this one, Ohio in the 60s, Vol. 3, pretty much holds to the same level of consistency as the first two. It's not a consistently high level, to be sure, but is nonetheless consistently interesting in sociological terms: which is to say, as a cultural snapshot of the acne-scarred, blue-balled, FuzzTone'ed Id of late-'60s Ohio adolescence. These records are nowhere near as significant from an artistic standpoint, of course, but in their own way may be as useful to the future aliens who conquer Earth as Alan Lomax's Library of Congress field recordings at revealing and defining a particular plot point in America's cultural story. (For instance, one can only interpret a song as boldly idiotic as the Strays' "Scratch My Egg" -- "I said baby, come on and be my banana" -- in the course of comprehending the historical context in which it was created.) Though Ohio generated more than its fair share of (genuinely) groovy garage-detonated explosions during the era -- including on the national stage -- most of the 26 facsimiles here never made it past (if they even made it onto) their local radio play lists and don't even begin to breathe the oxygen of the bands they were attempting to copy. But then the value of these sets is always cumulative rather than song-by-song. That said, there are golden eggs tucked away in this hothouse: psychedelic early adopter the Fifth Order ("Goin' Too Far"); national Shindig talent contest winners, Tony & the Bandits ("A Bit of Alright"); the go-go gallop of Kenny & the Kasuals' organ-trimmed "I Never Had It So Good"; the harmonica-laced Stonesy dead ringer "All You Had to Do Was Ask" by the Baskerville Hounds; a lovin' spoonful of a good-time lark ("Satisfied") by Columbus' favorite sons the Dantes; and the party-buzzing "I Want More (Lovin')" by the Chylds, which upholds northern Ohio's penchant for soul-sweaty frat rock.
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