(GUEST REVIEW BY JOHN BATTLES) Could it be that " Sign of The Three-Eyed Men" is, quite possibly, the greatest box set of the 21st Century? Hmmmmmm, could be. We've got 90 years to go, but unless Bear Family starts putting out all killer-no filler 60 Garage/Psych sets (and yours truly lays an egg), this one may be IT. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. Surely, it's fetching enormous bids on e-bay, but it hasn’t been available direct from the label since Lady Gaga was still eating egg salad sandwiches for dinner. But check this out, TEN CDs of virtually everything known to exist by The Elevators (not everything, mind you. They were quick to point out that some recordings weren’t deemed good enough, quality wise, for release). A huge, 72 page 12" hardback book, ENGORGED with rare-as-hen's nuts photos, the majority of which didn’t even appear in Paul Drummond's unquestioned Bible of The 13th Floor Elevators, "Eye Mind,” was just about worth the price of admission in itself, to say nothing of the folder containing beautifully reproduced band memorabilia. Drummond, of course, wrote the outstanding, exhaustive liner notes, uh, I mean, BOOK, that will have one just as engaged and entranced as the music itself...and, then my friends, there IS a matter of THE MUSIC ITSELF. Well, first and foremost, there's the band's groundbreaking, earth shaking first two albums, appearing in painstakingly rendered mono and stereo mixes. One needs to hear both, and then decide which one they prefer, in the event that they don't like each one equally for significantly different reasons. Now, you've read or heard this before, but their third official release, "Live,” is not considered a real 13th Floor Elevators album. It consists of various earlier studio tracks dubbed, poorly, with canned applause (in other words, the phony live Seeds album is far superior. And that, perhaps, is a little scary). Now, there were some fine songs that hadn’t appeared elsewhere for years (a notable exception being the long-out of print "Elevator Tracks"), it's true, but they do appear here, sans the screaming girls (this was, also, around the time people stopped screaming, and started LISTENING). Honorary band member and songwriter of no small note, Powell St. John (who went on to form the popular Frisco band, Mother Earth, with White Blues mama, Tracy Nelson, and now performs with Roky Erickson's former Frisco-based group, The Aliens!), contributed a fine, moderately Psychedelic, Pop ballad that woulda coulda shoulda been a hit, "You Gotta Take That Girl.” It's been described as "Macho advice" (ala Roy Head's "Treat Her Right,” which IS pretty macho, but advocates kindness toward Women...with dividends! "HEH HEH HEH! YEEEEEEAH, MY MAN!!"), but really reads as Big Brotherly concern for a really special young lady (that the storyteller apparently blew it with), playing Cyrano to a nice guy who just can't get it together. Yes, a couple of lines wouldn’t fly today, but it is a lovely song. On the opposite side of the pyramid, you've got "You Can't Hurt Me Anymore,” a wilder roller coaster ride than "Roller Coaster" itself, which should have been a single, or a cut on the first LP. "Headstone-The Contact Sessions " contains the aforementioned tracks, plus very interesting early versions of songs that would go on to see the light of day on their debut "The Psychedelic Sounds of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators,” and studio versions of cover songs that were staples in their early live show ("Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" by Solomon Burke and "I'm Gonna Love You, Too" by Buddy Holly). It's great listening, replete with outtakes and even the single "All Night Long" by San Antonio's Bad Seeds. Teddy and The Tall Tops (then featuring Mike Buck and Speedy Sparks of The Roky Erickson Band. Buck actually saw The Elevators, with Mouse and The Traps AND The Byrds!) briefly added a spiffy version of the song to their set in '86 (the song was a direct rewrite of The Elevators' "Tried To Hide,” done with the band's blessings). But it's not a "Lost Album,” in my estimation, rather, a collection of their earliest known recordings, some of which have been made available elsewhere, but not with such clean sound. This is the primer for the first album, for them, and, now, for us. The magic was already there, but had yet to manifest itself into their real first longplayer. Likewise, a real welcome addition to this set is "A Love That's Sound,” also not a "Lost Album,” as I see it, but preliminary recordings for the vastly underrated "Bull of The Woods,” the group's third, and final, real studio album. It contains radically different versions of songs that appeared on that album, plus a few fine, previously unreleased, numbers. While "Bull" was a great album (OK, it does have "Acquired taste" written all over it, but it will grab you from different angles, and pull you in more with each listen), you get a good idea of what their swan song album could have been by perusing "A Love That's Sound" (a title derived from, perhaps, the finest song on the album, Stacey Sutherland's "Street Song,” which bears the line "All the fires of Cain's motivation can't defeat a love that's sound.” The working title for the album, BTW, was actually "Beauty and The Beast,” later used for a live Erickson CD). The band was falling apart by 1968, Roky and Stacey getting put away (Roky went down first, which is partly why his vocal contributions are rather minimal, though he sounds more confident and less paranoid on these earlier sessions than on the finished product. Stacy Sutherland would go on to sing several of the songs that Roky sang during these sessions. "Bull of The Woods,” admittedly, suffered from excessive overdubbing, partly due to the band being reduced to a three piece. Tommy Hall's signature jug parts (Recorded before he split for San Francisco, where he lives to this day) are almost completely inaudible (Rumored to not even exist!) on the album, but come thru loud and clear, and take on an almost Jazz-like quality, if you can believe that, here. There are also some real gems, such as "It's You,” better known as "I Don't Ever Want To Come Down,” released, for the first time, in the 80s, under that name (it IS the chorus, which is surely what threw the compilers off), and later covered by Chicago's Waste Kings. "Wait For My Love" appeared on the fine "Epitaph For a Legend" LP (a two-LP retrospective of International Artists acts. A box set of all IA's singles is long overdue, though, perhaps, a legal impossibility), but was later overdubbed, to near-irrelevance, and released as "Till Then" on "Bull of The Woods,” still a good song, mind you, but lacking the fiery guitar sound, and the confidence and uncluttered composition of the original. But it's not the only song that arguably sounds better than on the original album release. Still, "Bull of The Woods,” though it became largely Stacy's album, is better off for his having taken charge. Stacy's remarkable talents really come to the fore, despite the sometimes murky production, and make me wish he'd lived to have a real solo recording career. Well, they just make me wish he'd lived. He fronted various groups in the 70s, but was seldom recognized for his efforts. His last-ever gig, noted in "Eye Mind,” found him eighth on the bill, playing with Greg "Catfish" Forest, who would play, in the late Sutherland's absence, at The Elevator's last reunion attempt, in 1984, and, later, in an Elevators tribute band with former Erickson bandmates, Freddie "Steady" Krc and Cam King from The Explosives, as well as Ronnie Leatherman, who'd played on The Elevators' first and final albums (details of which are sketchy), and Roky's Brother, Sumner Erickson. Interestingly, Guitarist, Chris Holzhaus, who played at what was Roky's last gig for six years, nine years later, in 1987, with King, Krc and Speedy Sparks, made it to fifth on the bill at Sutherlands' last live performance (It was widely, though erroneously, believed that an abortive Elevators reunion attempt in 1977, which failed to bring Erickson or Hall from their home bases in California, though both were on the bill, was Stacey's last-ever gig). Both of these totally different versions of the album (well, "A Love That's Sound" is really the foreplay, not the lovemaking itself. But it's so damn gooooooood). Incidentally, just now, I just heard the less awkward take of "Livin' On,” and heard Roky speaking briefly at the end, and, then there was a huge clap of thunder at my window. "Sweet Surprise" is screamin' Psych, by way of Stax Records and Texas Blues instrumental masters like Albert Collins and Freddie King, in which Sutherland really lets his guitar do the talkin', a Rock n’ Roll Paladin who shoots from the hip, and asks questions later. Incidentally, that same guitar is on sale, if you have enough money to buy a small island (the price has reportedly dropped, the economic crunch being what it is). I actually saw it on display once in New Orleans, but it was listed as the same model, NOT the same actual guitar. I saw a vessel containing probably more apparitions than any cemetery or ghost tour that town had to offer. And I didn’t even know it! Forgive me, Dark Angel. Rounding out the collection is three CDs worth of live material (not everything known to exist, but certainly MOST of it). "Live in California" comes from the same source as perhaps the first Elevators bootleg, taken from an early Frisco gig, and released in 1980, though a double live LP, reportedly, came out on Rubber Dubber, one of the earliest bootleg labels, in the 70s. The original release, which bore crude artwork by a young Robt. Williams, and less predictably, crude sound, though the remixing job here is a drastic improvement. The San Francisco Psychedelic Ballroom scene was just in it's infancy (and the Elevators delivered the child), so, this set, from the Fall of '66, only consists of roughly half originals, and the rest, covers by their personal favorites, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Kinks, Beatles, and Solomon Burke, by way of The Stones, all done quite unlike you've ever heard them, or are likely to ever hear them again. This was still the norm, in Frisco as well as in Texas. In a very short time, The Elevators would expand their repertoire to include virtually no covers. A real standout, though, is Roky and Tommy's vocal and jug duel on "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.” A seldom heard live version (in fact, it appears to be the only live version in existence) of Powell St. John's outstanding "You Don't Know (How Young You Are)" (Covered, about 30 years later, by The Sir Douglas Quintet) is an indication of things to come. Band originals like "Roller Coaster" and "Fire Engine" come to life, not with arrogance, so much as confidence. The confidence of a band that directly influenced the San Francisco scene, to the extent that they were frequently mistaken for a San Franciscan band, but were widely snubbed for having a hit record. It's simple. Unlike today, the better records got to be hits. "Live in Texas" compiles various pre and post-LP performances from club dates and TV appearances on "Somethin' Else" (not to be confused with the L.A. based pop culture program), hosted by longtime Dallas-area DJ, Ron Chapman. While all these performances are shit-hot, they do contain their share of covers. BUT would you really walk away from the chance to hear a young Roky Erickson wailing his way through "I'm Down,” "I Feel Good,” or even "Satisfaction?” I didn’t think so. The Garage band staples are rounded out by "Tried To Hide,” "Fire Engine" (preceded by a truly hilarious discussion of the electric jug between Tommy Hall and Ron Chapman), and "Roller Coaster,” plus two versions of "You're Gonna Miss Me.” If you're a longtime fan, chances are you have this stuff, but with inferior sound. Saving, if not the best, certainly the most interesting, for last, there's the ingeniously titled "Death in Texas,” a chronicle of a band falling apart (but still making good music), then resurrecting themselves, years later, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The disc begins with excerpts from a now-notorious Houston gig in 1967, when the band were debuting some of the material on their second album (no small feat, straight or tripping). A good portion of this material has been released before, with decent sound, but not with the entire impromptu jam session with members of The Conqueroo, which includes a nice, keyboard driven "She Lives (In a Time of Her Own), Bob Dylan's "It's All Over, Now (Baby Blue),” basically the only cover song the band released on LP (the bogus "Live" album, notwithstanding), and a pretty killer, Chuck Berrified, instrumental featuring Stacey's guitar, tuned to pure Rock n’ Roll. It isn’t the entire show, however. While it's true that the whole show exists, it goes without saying that the band sounds acid-damaged and increasingly paranoid. Sutherland would recount the tale, in his last known interview, of how the cops came and dragged him off the stage, while he was "peaking.” To his horror, he saw members of the audience became wolves, and he found himself on trial. Angels told him he would either be sent to Hell, or be allowed to remain on earth. He was given three predictions, one, that he would break up with his longtime girlfriend, and, another, that he would go to jail. Both "Predictions" actually came true, and, at the time of the interview, he simply stated that he hoped the third would never come true, because it was the most horrible of all. One year later, Stacy would be shot dead by his live-in girlfriend who confessed to the crime, but never served time for it. Meanwhile, back in the past, the cops took Stacy to the edge of town, and told him they were going to kill him. They later claimed it was merely tactics to try to straighten him out. The well-known live recording is a reflection of the paranoia of those times. It is, however, a good set, despite the fact that both Roky and Stacy had become increasing withdrawn. It could be argued, because of it's generable availability, and not wishing to document a train wreck, that only some of the band's finest live moments appear here. From there, things get strange. Roky was released from Rusk Mental Facility in late 1972. Stacy had been out of the Federal Penetentiary for a while, by then but he'd developed a heroin habit. Roky stuck to reefer for a while, though so-called "friends" were slipping him harder drugs, and his resistance quickly got weak. If you could see past all that, it seemed like a good time for an Elevators reunion, didn’t it? In 1973, the band reformed in earnest, utilizing a revolving door policy, which included Roky, Stacey, original drummer John Ike Walton,sSecond bassist, Ronnie Leatherman, and Roky's brother, Donnie Erickson. The revamped Elevators lineup alternated from faithful reproductions of their more popular originals to period-appropriate Boogie Rock. The five songs, here, find them, basically, in good form. It just leaves me wanting for more, personally. I have a five song bootleg with "Maxine,” a Chuck Berry/Little Richard style rocker that doesn’t appear to have turned up, again (except on the exceptional "Austin Landin" comp). Did Roky actually write it? Quien Save?m Plus an unhinged "(I've Got) Levitation,” both of which can be heard here, though the other three songs would be welcome additions to this set, especially if, possibly, cleaned up. By now, it's common knowledge that this lineup also played "Rainy Day Women,” which does exist on tape. The big rumor, it seems, was that the band only played two gigs at this time, one in Houston, and one in Austin. It's now widely understood that they did several gigs, including at least one show in Dallas. Tex Edwards of The Nervebreakers (who backed Roky twice, in 1979, in Dallas) was at that show, and confirmed that they opened with Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips,” just weeks after The Stones had put out their version. A fine version appears here, as does Roky's Bizarro World Boogie, "Stumble (Smoke The Toilet).” It does, in fact, ROCK!! I for one (and I might be alone, but for once, I doubt it), would like to hear whatever else exists from that ill-fated period (of course, with the help of Doug Sahm, Roky would spearhead his solo career in 1975, while other members turned up in largely folk and Country-Rock bands, though Stacy's interesting late 70s Hard Rock recordings can be heard on his myspace). A version of "You're Gonna Miss Me " from the 1984 "Reunion" (which was more of a Roky show, but the rest of the band, consisting of Ronnie and John Ike, plus Craig Forrest, mentioned earlier, went on severely under-rehearsed, and found themselves playing mostly Roky songs, and covers like Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me.” "It could have been good music,” Roky later said, "But it was slow moving" (Roky, for one, was screaming hellfire and unleashing savage guitar skronk almost like never before, to say nothing of his hilarious stage patter, but while no one would argue that it was The Elevators reborn, it was a noble effort, nonetheless). The original band, despite their dalliances with LSD, which led to more damaging drugs, could still deliver the goods, live, as evidenced, here.. Perhaps the band didn’t change man's thinking process, as Tommy Hall insisted they could, but they WERE a great Rock n’ ' Roll band, and they did change the way we look at music.
"The Psychedelic Sounds of Sonic Cathedral-A Tribute To Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators" is an extremely limited edition (just 200 copies on bright yellow vinyl. I grabbed it, believing I wouldn’t see it again. But I did. And I will) tribute to The Horror Rockin' Horror Rock King, The Emperer of Ice Cream, and, of course, that Little Ol' Brain-Scorching Band From Texas, has been getting rave reviews. I'm sorry, this isn’t one of them. I'm sure the latter day Psych cognoscenti would label me a square for not knowing about, nor fully appreciating, the latest Psych/Noise/Drone guitar bands, while I cut my teeth on Lithium Xmas and The Peyote Cowboys, who could've eaten any of these bands for breakfast. Now, this was a labor of love on the musicians' part, and the proceeds are going directly to Roky's trust fund, and God knows it's better than "Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye,” which contained, MAYBE, five standout performances, and that's if you really stretch it. Heaven knows I'm going to work at liking this, it wasn’t exactly cheap, and, well, I'm stuck with it, aren’t I? It reminds me of a funny story that Chris Connolly told me. When he was a wee small lad in Scotland, he had just enough money to buy one album a month. One time, went to Woolworth's, and purchased what he thought was a Deep Purple LP. It turned out to be one of those studio exploitation LPs that actually became very popular in The UK in The Seventies. On top of that, the band in question was Thin Lizzy! Should have been the saving grace, right? Nope. Connolly told me it was still crap, but he was stuck with it, so he FORCED himself to like it. I kind of feel the same way, now. That's not to say it's all bad, or even inaccessible, it's just that parts of it make me feel better about my own musicianship. Some of this stuff recalls Spacemen 3, whom I liked all right, save for the Heroin vibe. Besides Roky himself (who appears here, with The Black Angels, doing a live version of "Roller Coaster"), I was familiar with almost none of the acts on this comp. The Black Angels played out for a time with Roky, giving him some challenges like dusting off some Elevators' classics, and some lesser-known originals, but I was never blown away by what I'd heard from them, personally. Their version of "Roller Coaster" is faithful, if buried in screech and feedback (as are MANY of the tracks featured here). Roky's voice is deeper and more gruff-sounding (though he's never had a hard time with the high part of his voice, nor throwing in his trademark scream, when I've seen him, I've noticed, lately, that his voice sounded overwrought on some of the You Tube clips I've heard), though his phrasing is impeccable. He is in control. The Strange Attractors (not to be confused with sometimes Roctober contributor, Soul Rebel's, band) don't add a lot to a heavier version of " Reverberation (Doubt),” though, at times, it sounds like it's going to segue into "T.V. Eye,” which might have actually worked, at that. I'm reminded a bit of Deniz Tek from Radio Birdman, on a night drenched with humidity and the smell of Fosters. All The Saints' "Don't Fall Down,” which prominently features a Dentist's drill drum machine, which gave me a headache, but could become an international dance floor hit for all I know. Hush Arbors had the right idea, at least, by tackling a song from the grossly underrated Third Elevators LP (there are only three. I repeat: the bogus "Live" LP doesn’t count), "Dr.Doom.” They really tried to get inside a rather complicated song. I'd like to see somebody do a Stacey Sutherland tribute album, with highlights from "Bull of The Woods,” the only recently released gems that led up said record, and Stacey's 70s band, which can be heard on myspace. Dead Meadow's version of "Kingdom of Heaven" is slow and plodding (but so is the original, and writer Powell St. John's own version, recorded a few years later with Mother Earth) with some nifty wah-wah guitar work thrown in for good measure. Darker My Love's "She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)" (have you noticed The Elevators had more songs with two titles than half the Country and Western charts in their day?) sticks to the basics, throwing in some nice harmonies, disjointed guitar parts and "Sister Ray" keyboards. Sarabeth Tucek's "Splash 1 (now I'm Home)" is probably going to be huge with Hipsters who've long since shed their Rockn’'Roll fur, and speaking of fur, it is as warm and cuddly as a kitten, though, for all it's loveliness, it's not one I'll find myself rushing back to. Sonic Boom, late of Spacemen 3, puts in an appearance with Cheval Sombre on another one of Roky's celebrated love songs, "You Don't Love Me Yet" (one of the greatest denial songs of all time). They seem to be giving the song, an overhaul by way of The Elevators' "May The Circle Remain Unbroken" (which was Roky's last recording to be released for a long time. Too damn long). Eerie, discordant (there's even cricket sounds!), but not overly cluttered. Lower Heaven's "Fire Engine" contains some decidedly understated vocals (which is actually not a bad thing), and is one of the more "Psychedelic" sounding performances contained herein. In truth, it brings to mind The Jesus and Mary Chain, way back when you could only find their records as obscure imports. Le Volume Courbe's take on "I Love The Living You" (One of many songs Roky wrote, and secretly recorded, while still an inmate at Rusk) sounds not unlike a late 70s Marianne Faithful record, if only for the raspy, sometimes broken, vocals of Charlotte Marionneau, but it's in keeping with the less abrasive tracks on this album. "Unforced Peace,” which also dates back to Rusk, goes into an overlong, "Leaning on the keyboard,” sound, while the melody is contrary to the original, but I'm not hearing much, there. It's also the longest track on the album. The closer, "Goodbye Sweet Dreams" (Performed by I Break Horses, almost the best band name on here, but that honor would have to be A Place To Bury Strangers, a band name worthy of T. Tex Edwards) manages to be sweet and abrasive at the same time. Again, this album was made for all the right reasons, I can't fault anyone for that. But for all the hype I bought into (also nobody's fault but my own), if it turns out, by some fluke, that they really did press only 200 copies (Like I say, I've seen it more than once), you may see my copy turn up, gently used, very shortly, though, the rare Roky track makes that less likely. There are certainly highlights, but overall, I was left wanting. I mean, REALLY wanting, like the time I went to this Bar B Cue place in Dallas, with a smokestack billowing the essence of 'cue, only to find out they'd been closed for an hour. If Roky's track had been released as a 45 with just about any of these tracks as the "B" side, I'd be shittin' in tall cotton, hoss. Now on to the real deal: Roky Erickson with Okkervil River’s
"True Love Cast Out All Evil.” First of all, when Roky's first album in 15 years was in the planning stages, different ideas were being batted about, mainly the idea that Billy Gibbons, who'd been sitting in at several of Erickson's recent gigs, had tentatively signed on as producer. But details surrounding the making of this album were slow in arriving. Roky's privacy is respected by his friends and his true fans alike, so, one could only speculate on who would and wouldn’t be involved. The Explosives would have, should have, had the chance to do their very first studio recordings with Roky, after an ongoing relationship of over 30 years, but Roky and The Explosives parted company before recording had begun. The Explosives ARE Roky Erickson's backing band, whether they ever work together again, or not. I'm not taking anything away from The Aliens, The Nervebreakers, The Resurrectionists, The Evil Hook Wildlife E.T. or The Roky Erickson Band, but The Explosives put in the time, and sounded just as tight and hard-rockin' in 2008 as they did in 1979. I'm just saying, there have been, and will be, other bands, but I say, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, give The Explosives theirs. That said,I was just as excited as you by this release, probably more so. Advance copies sold out on Record Store Day, but I was able to locate a single copy on the official release day, after a lengthy search. The gatefold packaging is impressive (taking a tip from the bootleggers, and from Sympathy For The Record Industry), but I'm sorry, Roky looks better today, than the cover photo would suggest. A minor gripe, I suppose...the photo's not bad (as in "Live in Dallas 1979"-bad) or anything. It's a very good photo. It just makes him look older and more dissheveled than he actually does in person. Anyway, it had been implied that Roky was developing some new material for the album. It's understood, however, that he hasn’t shown much interest, lately, in writing new songs (though he's been playing the organ a great deal at home, which might be VERY interesting to hear). In Roky's world, if it ain't fun, it ain't worth doing. It's possible that he'll arrive at the conclusion that writing new songs CAN be fun, yet. It's probable that, for all the people who've probably suggested that he get back into songwriting, it still has to look like his idea. The songs on this album, it turns out, were originally written while Roky was a prisoner (I mean, "patient") at The Rusk Institution For The Criminally Insane from 1969 to 1972. Easily, half of these songs have been legally released in some form. One, "Please Judge" was on his last studio album, as well as on an accompanying single (In the form of a home recording). I'm not complaining about the content. These may be some of the only original songs that Roky still owns. Last time around, he was only believed to hold the publishing on a half dozen songs. Real Roky fans, of course, don't mind having multiple copies of the same songs. It's just somewhat anticlimactic, in this case. But you take Roky Erickson on his own terms, or not at all. In other words, it's fun for you, or it's not. Devotionals CAN be fun (Have any of you been to a Virgen De Guadalupe parade in Mexico? THAT'S fun). One of the best-known song/poems that appeared in "Openers" (the collection of poems written while Roky was still at Rusk. An excellent, updated version was published by Henry Rollins, with most of Erickson's known songs and poems), "Devotional Number One,” opens this collection, but it is the actual recording, made approximately 40 years ago, in secret, with a hand held microphone, at Rusk. As such, it's a rough-sounding, though historically important, recording. The words are lovely, whether Jesus is your Homeboy or not (though, there's a passage about The Devil tempting Christ which did not appear in this version, and some of the phrasing is different than the printed version. ), then we move on to, perhaps, the most famed verse to appear in the entire printed collection, "Jesus is not a hallucinogenic mushroom.” One could argue that such a proclamation borders on sacrilege, or is just an attempt to bring some levity to an otherwise solemn and sincere tome...or even, possibly, a reference to said fungi being used in Native American religious ceremonies. Listen carefully, though, when you actually hear him sing the line, that angelic quality in Roky's voice leaps out of the below-fi recording like a pop-up greeting card. "Please Judge " is as good as, maybe, on some level, better than, the version that appeared on "All That May Do My Rhyme" (though it has that "Forever Changes" orchestral quality in it's favor). To minimal backing, Roky sings, in a subdued manner, as though you're sitting in the room with him, and the lights are turned out. But this time, he's not telling ghost stories, but singing of the real-life horrors of jail and the institution. "Goodbye, Sweet Dreams" (which closed out his documentary... The fact that Roky consented to sing ANY song, particularly, an untested song, at that time, on camera, would have come as a welcome, almost unbelievable, surprise, had I not seen it after the fact that Roky's truly miraculous comeback was already well underway). Anyway, this recording sounds like it could be a minor hit, or, at least, a favorite on College and Public radio (Is there still such a thing as a minor hit in this brainwashed, second run movie house-free society?). Moderately Psychedelic-sounding, a light in the darkness. Looking for your Hard Rock Roky kicks? There aren’t many of those, though the studio rendition of "John Lawman" is not too far removed from the live version Erickson used to perform with The Explosives. An almost Sabbathoid rocker, ala "Bloody Hammer,” with Roky getting in his first good screams for the day. They're really the only ones to be found in this intimate setting. The arrangements Okkervil River have built around Roky's overworked, though still husky-sounding voice, crown him with their subtlety. If you're looking for a latter day Texas Psych feedback freakout, you won't hear much of that. What you will hear is a relatively varied bag of Folk-Rock, with occasional scattered showers of Hard Rock embellishments. Make no mistake, the studio recordings aren’t hurting for sheer rawness. Even the accompanying Chamber Orchestra reflects Roky's intuitivenes. "True Love Cast Out All Evil,” "Think of as One" and "Birds'd Crash " are further odes to salvation through love, something Roky's generation spoke of freely, though Roky held on to that thought in his darkest hour. "God is Everywhere,” another field recording, accompanied, appropriately enough, by live birds ("The birds sing. Isn’t this a lovely way to accompany The King?"), closes out the set. As Roky's discordant (in a cool way) acoustic Guitar fades into the distance, beautiful, newly recorded, strings flourish, if only momentarily. A light goes off, "Goodbye Sweet Dreams.” For Roky and Dana. What God himself has brought back together, let no man tear asunder.
Thanks to Nardwuar, The Human Serviette, for mentioning me in his recent interview with Roky Erickson.
"Doot Doodle Doot Doot....”... "UH-HUH..”