Love, Peace, and Poetry
This series of LPs, the first of which was released back in 1998, is already known by most truly dedicated psychedelic, garage, and beat fans out there.
Of which I thought it was one...but until learning about this series, I didn't know what I didn't know...or what I was missing.
The Love, Peace, and Poetry series is dedicated to spreading the word about the best work of obscure psychedelic bands from around the world. While some of these groups were well known in their home countries of Mexico, Japan, Brazil, etc., most remain prophets without honor 40 years later.
In fact, many of the songs on these compilations were released in such absurdly small quantities--try maybe a hundred copies pressed--that there was no chance to ever be successful. Much of the music here is as good as the best mainstream, celebrated 60s rock, and the best songs on these albums deserve their place in the pantheon.
Not that fame was necessarily the point, of course. Some of these bands just wanted to put out a record and have some fun. Others pressed up albums as a sort of audio business card in order to get jobs playing at clubs. Others had high hopes of stardom, and may have spent a lot of money on musicians, production, etc., but had financing fall through, or lost distribution deals, or in the case of some of these groups, fell afoul of the law or of their own personal habits.
One interesting thing to note is the lag time involved in some of this music. Independent bands like these were making music on the psychedelic fringes all the way through the 1970s. Some of the most '66-sounding things in this genre of music were recorded as late as the mid-seventies.
Rather than being alone in a vast wasteland of hippie singer-songwriters and pompous ELP cones, then, 60s-style bands like Badfinger, Big Star, the Raspberries, and Blue Ash actually had compatriots both in the English-speaking countries and all over the world--but those other bands exploring the pop/psych cosmos didn't have the luck to get signed.
Whatever the story (and all of the artists on this series of albums have fascinating stories), these compilations are essential for fans of psychedelic and late 60s pop music. I'd recommend starting with the American volume, although my first was the Asian LP, which hooked me immediately.
These releases (there are now nine in the series) are thematically linked by cover photos of Cheryl Strode, a 1967 Playboy cover girl whose whereabouts are unknown. The gatefold sleeves are works of art unto themselves, both on the outside and in.
A great deal of information about the bands on these albums has been uncovered since 1998, and most of the groups represented in the series have had their albums re-released by labels like Little Indians (later known as Shadoks) in ornate limited vinyl editions and also on CD.
Okay, enough of me. How about some music? We could start with an unknown Cambodian band whose music was accidentally discovered by a Westerner in Cambodia during the 80s...the title of the song translates to "I'm Sixteen." Any sixteen year old girl who could sing like this, fronting a combo that sounds more like German psych-funksters Can than seems possible, is all right by me.
I find this stuff just fascinating. Who were these people? What was their situation? What music had they heard that influenced them? They couldn't have actually heard Can, could they?!? We may never know...which is exciting in a way, but also makes me sad. I'd love to hear how these folks' lives turned out. This is from LP&P's third volume, one covering Asian psychedelic music.
How about something equally obscure, but in English? The American band Jungle recorded a demonstration album in 1969, but nothing is known about them to this day, the efforts of collectors to the contrary. This demo album featured no contact info, no names, and no publishing, production, or pressing information. (Seems like it would have been difficult to hire them without any of that.)
This cut, "Slave Ship," from volume 1 of LP&P, just blows my mind, from its gorgeous guitar opening to the frenetic drumming and impassioned vocals to an ear-shredding fuzz guitar solo...just remarkable. This stuff is as good as the Stones, Who, Doors, what have you.
Or for something more garagey, try the Music Emporium, one of the first truly gender-integrated bands, with a female drummer and bassist and a male guitarist and keyboardist. Original copies of their 1969 album are worth a king's ransom, but happily, the music has been re-issued on CD by the folks at Sundazed. The package includes photos and voluminous liner notes.
"Nam Myo Renge Kyo," also on LP&P's volume one, is the Music Emporium album's leadoff cut, and it's a stone classic. Combining vaguely spiritual lyrics with a fierce garage attack, it's unlike anything I've ever heard.
Other tracks by bands and artists like Justin Heathcliff (yes, a band), Mogollar, Los Dug Dugs, Trizo 50, Sal Ul Lim, and Darius are as good as what I've posted here. Do some digging and listen to a couple of songs. If you find this stuff as fascinating as I do, why not get these compilations?
(Thanks to Carlos for his generous tech support and for his encouragement to get these records in the first place!)