Richard Norris is a man of many psych talents. With Erol Alkan he makes up The Wizard’s Sleeve and alone he’s the talent behind Time & Space Machine. Here he runs down his all-time greatest psychedelic albums.
Arthur Lee’s startling, revelatory classic highlights the extremes of the psychedelic era. It’s joyous, uplifting and sweet in parts, while at the same time menacing, introverted and paranoid. I don’t want to spoil it if you’ve never heard it before, so all I’ll say is if you haven’t heard it, you need to. It’s unreservedly recommended as one of the all time greatest albums.
When Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye complied this primo selection of US psych and garage, he set the benchmark for all future compilations in the genre. The 1972 double album influenced punk – one of the first mentions of the term was in the sleevenotes – and reaffirmed the rock and roll agenda in an era that had been hijacked by concept albums and overindulgent head music. ‘Nuggets’ showcases perfect teenage kicks, from out and out bubblegum to unhinged primal screaming fuzz tone.
Cheaply recorded over four days in 1966 New York, the debut Velvet’s album is pop art incarnate. It may be hard to think of anything fresh to say about this iconic, Warhol sleeved and financed set, yet John Cale’s dense layering of sound and deft arrangements make it is easy to hear something new in the recording each time you spin it. I never tire of this record.
The debut, Syd Barrett-infused Floyd album is a stone cold UK psychedelic killer. Whimsical in places, riff-heavy in others, any album that features ‘Lucifer Sam’, ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ and Barrett’s idiosyncratic ‘Bike’ has to be pretty high up any all time psych list.
5 13th Floor Elevators, ‘Easter Everywhere’
“The Psychedelic Sounds Of’ the 13 Floor Elevators was a debut set that was probably the first album to include the ‘P’ word to a soon to be turned on public, but it was the band’s second set, ‘Easter Everywhere’, that really drove the lysergic message home. Roky Erickson’s soulful Texas wail over Tommy Hall’s electric jug on ‘Slip Inside This House’ is a classic eight minute psychedelic mantra, as covered by Primal Scream.
Bam Caruso’s ‘Rubble’ series was the UK’s answer to ‘Nuggets’. The lovingly compiled series features twenty albums of unhinged British 45s, mainly recorded by bands who recorded a handful of singles, at most, before sinking back to obscurity. ‘The Psychedelic Snarl’ was the first, and best Rubble compilation, choc full of freak beat gems from the Open Mind, Wimple Winch and the Craig. Hunt down the CD box set.
Can kickstarted their long career in 1968 with this highly influential four song set. Ranging from the punk rock howl of ‘Outside My Door’, which predates punk by a decade, to the twenty minute hypnotic epic ‘Yoo Doo Right’, ‘Monster Movie’ is a fine introduction to the range and scope of Germany’s greatest experimentalists. Watch out for the soon to be released box set of Can outtakes.
8 The Pretty Things, ‘S.F. Sorrow’
Predating ‘rock opera’ sets such as ‘Tommy’ or ‘The Wall’, the Pretty Things song cycle ‘S.F. Sorrow’ was recorded at Abbey Road and released in the same week as the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, but never reached mega platinum status. A pity, as it’s finer and far less ponderous than the endless flabby prog rock concept works that followed in its wake.
One of the first psychedelic albums to come out of San Francisco, and one of the best. Pretty much the house act at SF hangouts the Avalon and the Fillmore, the band’s interplay of treble heavy organ and fizzing fuzz tone is a primary psychedelic noise. Check out ‘the Masked Marauder’, add a few oil wheels and you are good to go.
“What, no Beatles or Stones?|, I hear you cry? Sure, they recorded some of the all time greatest psychedelic songs, but neither really floats my boat when it comes to maintaining a mind opening tone over the length of an entire album. This, on the other hand, Talk Talk’s slow burn late eighties masterwork, does exactly that. Recorded over an entire year, pieced together from endless jams, this is a phenominally dynamic, wide screen work.