Art - Supernaturally Fairy Tales (Psychedelic Rock UK 1967)

Rabu, 10 Oktober 2012

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Supernatural Fairy Tales is the only L.P. by Art, a re-named band formerly known as The V.I.P.'s. The album contains mostly band compositions plus a cover of The Young Rascals' "Come on Up" and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth".

All members of Art sooner or later met again in Spooky Tooth.

A 'progressive' outfit Art later evolved into Spooky Tooth in October 1967 with the addition of Gary Wright. Their finest moment was What's That Sound, which was a rehash of Buffalo Springfield's superb For What It's Worth. It's now quite hard to obtain but was included on Island's You Can All Join In compilation. 

Their album is adventurous and quite unique British psychedelic rock. It's quite primitive in places, but utilises a wide range of instruments with plenty of sound effects and variety, although side two is a bit nondescript. Guy Stevens handled the production duties. It's well worth a spin.

THIS IS NOT SPOOKY TOOTH! AAARRGH! I actually should have created an appendix for this one or something. But see, what's in a name? The lack of Gary Wright. The witty American guru still had to come and steer the band in their soulful/rootsy direction. And before that? Before that, the band, fronted by Mike Harrison, was defiantly calling itself Art, and was swinging to the hot'n'excitin' sounds of the London psychedelia. It took Gary's serious efforts and songwriting talents to steer them away from that direction, yet the psychedelic vibe had only been entirely abandoned by the time of Spooky Two.

Still, it's a wonderful album in many respects, and well worth seeking out - maybe not exactly a 'forgotten gem' of the times like Odyssey And Oracle or Forever Changes or whatever, but then again that hierarchy is so damn fragile I'm afraid to pronounce a final judgement. The album possesses all that a good psychedelic album of the times should have possessed. A vague wavery shiny flowery Indian-influenced album cover; a pretentious trippy title (which, oddly enough, was later exploited by Rhino Records when they were issuing their notorious boxset on progressive rock - granted, Art never were progressive rock in my understanding, but could have been in Rhino's vast understanding); and, of course, the music, all awash in phasing, echoing, 'mystical' vocals and other gimmicks.

It could have been crap, but the songwriting is strong - it's a place where you can really tell the band could have gotten on with its own songs even without the assistance of Mr Wright. (That guy must have put a spell upon 'em or something). Many of the twelve songs on here sound seriously alike, with very similar hooks and melodies, but they're also short and never give the impression of a pointless show-off or stupid wanky experimentation. About the only 'questionable' moment in that department is the lengthy drum solo on 'African Thing', but it doesn't bother me much because it's an African solo - a crazy rave-up that I can't remember on ANY record at the time. Props, millions of props go to Mike Kellie if it's really him bashing out that crazy rhythm; unless I'm very much mistaken, this was actually one of the first such inclusions in the history of British rock - maybe in the history of all rock. Remember, it was still two years before Santana would make the big time and popularize Latin and African rhythms for rock audiences. Then again, maybe I'm just loony.

The actual songs are psycho-pop, or, actually, psycho-rock, I'd say, because many of them really rock: Luther Grosvenor doesn't go for half measures, and he puts just enough distortion and fuzz on his instrument so as to sound like a faithful follower of Hendrix, yet not actually overdo the trick. So for 1967, the album's pretty heavy, and pretty far out. 'Supernatural Fairy Tale' is a good example, although you could swear that there was just too much mixed inside that number. The otherworldly Mellotron in the background; Grosvenor's repetitive heavy riffage; constant phasing throughout; the rambling, 'swaying' mid-section where Mike Harrison almost sounds like a twin brother of Ian Anderson in Aqualung mood; the strange harpsichord notes that keep cropping up; the psychedelic guitar solo in the outro, and maybe I've forgotten something else. Best of all, though, might be the unnerving bass riff - the way it really pins the song down in its metronomic steed reminds me of Hawkwind, and I wish I had proof Hawkwind were influenced by this song...

Of course, it's not the only highlight. The very first number, 'I Think I'm Going Weird', announces the band's arrival with a bang, with Harrison's sneery-sounding '...think I'm going weeeeeeird' almost ridiculously overblown ('hey guys, we gotta make a song about weirdness now, or else it will be hard to pick up hip chicks on the streets'), but still a total gas. Remember, psychedelia is very much a theatrical genre, so you have to take it with all of its theatricality or leave it. 'Brothers, Dads And Mothers' is like SFT Part 2, with pretty much the same instrumentation but - the gods be blessed! - a different riff. No, definitely this is the heaviest British album of 1967 not counting the Hendrix ones. It's also pretty funny when they take fast jazzy tunes like 'Alive Not Dead' and make the listener forget the jazziness of the melody by adding a rumbling proto-metallic bass line and heavily sprinkling the song with whatever psychedelic trippings they have there in the background... Mellotron? electric piano? harpsichord? whatever.

Occasionally there are lighter and poppier songs, like the very much Spooky Tooth-like 'What's That Sound (For What It's Worth)' or the folksy 'Flying Anchors' - it's not like you have to concentrate on distortion ALL the time. Truly I do admire the songwriting - if there's anything to dock points for, it'd be typical 1967 excess which made people dump all of their arranging ideas in one big pot and come out with a mess. Because frankly speaking, the record's a mess. It certainly lacks individual vision - apart from the gimmicky drum solo, the sole point that holds the album together is this heaviness in sound which Spooky T..., er, Art embrace happily. It's a good thing, too, as it provides additional space for headbanging and all that. But I would certainly like it better if the guys had applied a Sgt Pepper approach here, namely, try out different moods and grooves instead of lumping every one of these nice melodies into a rigid stylistic pattern. Then again, if diversity is not your pet horse, YOU might not even find a single reason to criticize this record, so try to find it. It's been issued on CD, which is reason enough to hunt for it - here today, gone tomorrow, you know how it goes. [Source - starling.rinet.]

01."I Think I'm Going Weird" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)
02."What's that Sound" (Stills)
03."African Thing" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)
04."Room With a View" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)
05."Flying Anchors" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)
06."Supernatural Fairy Tale" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)
07."Love Is Real" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)
08."Come on Up" (Cavaliere)
09."Brothers, Dads and Mothers" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)
10."Talkin' to Myself" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)
11."Alive Not Dead" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)
12."Rome Take Away Three" (Grosvenor, Harrison, Ridley, Kellie)

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