By Jeff Burger
Think time machines are the stuff of science fiction? Then you probably haven’t heard the new 60-track Losing Touch with My Mind: Psychedelia in Britain 1986–1990. Like its companion, last year’s 64-track Another Splash of Colour: New Psychedelia in Britain 1980–1985, this collection will speedily carry you back to the late 1960s. The bands on the three-CD anthology—one of which is actually named Time Machine—are time traveling too, because they’re not from the 60s themselves: as the title indicates, the collection contains anachronistic music recorded during the 1980s. If you miss outfits like the Small Faces, the Blues Magoos, the Seeds, the Move, and, especially, the very early Pink Floyd, you’ve come to the right place, because these groups—like those in America’s contemporaneous Paisley Underground movement—clearly missed them, too.
You don’t have to listen to this music to figure that out—just look at the track lists. The songs have names like “Psych Out,” “Nirvana,” “In the Opium Den,” “Exploding in Your Mind (Colour Mix),” “Plastic Flowers (Psycho Version),” “Freak Outburst,” “Happy in My Mind,” “You Can Be My L-S-D,” and “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” (that last one a cover of the Electric Prunes’ trippy 1967 hit). And then there’s the anthology’s title track, “Losing Touch with My Mind,” which is culled from a memorably named Spacemen 3 LP called Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To.
As for the group names, they include Magic Mushroom Band, Future Daze, the Revolving Paint Dream, the High Tide, the Dream Factory, the Tryp, and Legendary Pink Dots. A few employ monickers that pay homage to particular 1960s acts and songs: Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter take their name from an album title by the Incredible String Band and Red Chair Fadeaway borrow a song title from the first Bee Gees LP while the Shamen originally called themselves Alone Again Or, after the opening track on Love’s classic third album, 1967’s Forever Changes.
So how good is the music? It’s good indeed, which is rather surprising, considering that the vast majority of the bands and songs on the anthology are as obscure as those on the similarly styled Nuggets anthologies that issued from America’s Elektra and Rhino labels. Yes, there are moments of pretentiousness and self-indulgence, not to mention pointless guitar feedback, just as there were in the 60s. But there are far more instances of thrilling experimentation that pays off. The Stone Roses’ “Don’t Stop” sounds as if it could have been a Syd Barrett creation on the first Pink Floyd album while “Another Hazy Day on the Lazy A” seems redolent of John Cale. And you don’t need acid to appreciate the exhilarating guitar work on Magic Mushroom Band’s aforementioned “You Can Be My L-S-D” or One Thousand Violins’ rhythmic “Please Don’t Sandblast My House.”
A sense of adventure runs through this music that is too often missing in contemporary rock. Pick up this anthology and savor its many highlights. It’s far out, man.
Kora Feder, In Sevens. Folk singer/songwriter Kora Feder looks much too young to have produced an album this mature and consistently terrific. Then again, the record radiates a level of idealism, vulnerability, and candor that veteran artists often lack. Her vocals—which remind me a bit of Iris Dement and also of Canada’s under-appreciated Lynn Miles—are passionate and captivating. So are her poetic lyrics on this all-originals album, which address romantic relationships as well as life in the age of Trump and issues like gun violence. (See “Automatic Times,” below.) Producer Rich Brotherton (Robert Earl Keen, Eliza Gilkyson) wisely keeps the focus where it belongs, on Feder’s gorgeous vocals and consummate guitar work; but other instruments, including piano, accordion, and mandolin, add color at just the right moments. Kora Feder will knock your socks off.
Bill Evans,Evans in England.The late jazz pianist Bill Evans spent December of 1969 performing in London’s famed Ronnie Scott’s club. He was already a heroin addict but that doesn’t appear to have interfered with his performances on the newly discovered tapes preserved on this two-CD set. As at most of his other gigs from 1968 through 1974, Evans is backed on double bass by Eddie Gomez and on drums by Marty Morell (both of whom provide reminiscences in Q&As in the album’s extensive accompanying booklet). The trio run through creative arrangements of standards such as George and Ira “Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and Miles Davis’s “So What” (first heard with Evans in 1959 on Davis’s classic Kind of Blue) along with a half dozen Evans originals. The sophisticated, often stirring performances underscore his reputation as one of the most important pianists in the history of jazz.
Jeff Burger’s website, byjeffburger.com, contains more than four decades’ worth of music reviews and commentary. His books include the recently published Dylan on Dylan: Interviews and Encounters as well as Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon, Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters, and Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters.