Burning Off The Fog
I feel kind of paralysed. Words wont come. Nothing much seems to have an impact; it's like I'm living in some half alive state, just waiting out the winter in a fug of unfeeling and unthinking. I guess this isn't so unusual. This holiday period is always the same isn't it? It always gets in the way, always feels like an awkward punctuation mark in the march of time.

So whilst there's a not inconsiberably sized pile of new records sitting on the shelf awaiting attention, I can't quite bring myself to get them out and listen. I'll probably regret it when I do eventually prise myself into action and discover something that's a splendid jewel in the mire, but I'll deal with that attack of guilt as and when it happens. For now I'm just going to stick on these new Rev-Ola purchases and float away into dreams of the late ´60s and of sunkissed Californian boulevards.

Kicking off, in no particular order, with the Deep Six, who, according to the sleeve, have their entire recorded output collected on CD for the first time. It's a good collection of carefully crafted folk pop too. Think the Mamas and Papas and the Lovin' Spoonful as obvious references of course, but think also of the Association and the luscious Ballroom precursors to the magic, mythic Millennium. It's also of interest to Glen Campbell fans (waddya mean, you're not a Glen Campbell fan?), as Glen crops up as a session guitarist on four cuts from their 1966 album. It's not exactly the kind of thing that's gonna blow your mind, and if you don't really rate that whole ´60s soft pop folk sound then this is hardly going to convince you otherwise, but if you dig those sounds and are too poor and don't have the time to root around for originals, then this is another sweet gem to add to your collection.

Ditto the Poor, who are another of those groups that are, as Joe Foster points out, one of those names that keep cropping up when you delve into the particular past of the late ´60s LA soft psyche pop scene. And you know, just thinking about it, I guess it's impossible to overstate the importance of the word ´soft' in that genre description; because whilst this is undoubtedly ´psych' music, it's seldom filled out with the kinds of overkill overdrive that you maybe associate with other psyche rock like maybe, I dunno, Hendrix, or the Doors. To me, that stuff just sounds like it's trying way too hard to be ´weird' and as a consequence it just sounds lame and tired. The soft stuff, by comparison, sounds magical and effortless, and in fact in hindsight sounds even stranger, even more as if it were beamed in from some fifth dimension. Maybe this is because it's so much harder to draw connections from it through to the present day. What contemporary sound can you point to and draw a line to from, say, Sagittarius? Or even The Byrds? Sure, there are a horde of jangle guitarists out there, but how many of them really get to the spirit of the Byrds?

Anyway, back to The Poor, a band who were so aptly named because they were always scraping around for survival on those naked city streets, as I guess did so many hipsters of the time. There's a connection from The Poor to the Eagles (Randy Meisner) but don't let that put you off, because there's also links to Curt Boettcher, Joey Stec and the Millennium and that alone should be enough for anyone to cough up the cash for this collection. And sure, The Poor sound like a horde of other acts from the same time, but you know that's part of the point; the point being that those acts all sound terrific - unasahamedly in love with what were still new possibilities in Pop, unabashedly in love with the dream.

I guess Michael Lloyd was in love with that dream too. Lloyd was this musical prodigy who had a publishing deal by the time he was 13 and by 17 had produced the soundtrack to Steven Spielberg's first short film. That's a mighty fine record for a kid. Throw in involvement in the New Dimensions and The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and you've clearly got someone worth investigating further. Thankfully Rev-Ola do just that with the release of the October Country set. Best know round and these parts for the genius of their ´My Girlfriend Is A Witch' and ´October Country' singles, courtesy of Harvey's wonderful soft pop compilation CDR of a few summers ago, this fills out the story with their entire '68 album and collected single sides. It's a genius collection, brimful of punchy baroque strings, horns and glorious harmonies all set to stun your heart into submission. Close your eyes, listen to, say, ´Painted Sky' and feel the freezing morning fog drift to the heavens leaving pristine summer skies of blue. I swear, if this kind of beauty doesn't move you then you have no soul.

Finally, there's A Gift From Euphoria. A peculiar blend of Dillard and Clark psych-country, Scott Walker orchestration and early Bee Gees lush baroque folk-pop, this is a bizarre and challenging album that I'm still undecided about. I'm not sure it really pulls all those wayward influences into anything that stands up as being more than an oddity, a peculiarly obscure fancy. Maybe for some that's enough, but for me the lack of focus throws me off and I'm skimming through tracks faster than Fernando Alonso.

Still, three out of four ain't bad, and at less than eight quid a pop, you can afford the odd disappointment, and it doesn't prevent me from thanking the lord (or at least Joe Foster) for the continued existence of Rev-ola. Now Joe, where's that promised Jasmine Minks collection?

© 2004 Alistair Fitchett