The sounds of psychedelia’s peak from 1967 and going into 1968 have been well documented. Whether delving into the classics of the era or digging for obscurities, there are a wealth of great tunes to be found within an eighteen month period. By 1969, the musical tide was very much turning; British whimsy and three minute pop gems about myriad cups of tea and talking gnomes had largely been pushed aside for harder rock sounds. Various bands clung on for dear life, of course, and even well into 1969 there were bands across Britain knocking out various 7” pieces of plastic for the psychedelic cause. In another volume of musical history, Grapefruit Records have dug deep to bring three discs of interesting cuts from the year. The results are quite often less gaudily coloured, but you’ll still find a few bands sticking to familiar formulae. While at least half of the material gathered here is more of the well-honed pop/rock variety than flat out psych, the journey is one that’s still more than worth taking. Covering over seventy tracks in all, such a box set could seem daunting, but the curators have included at least ten familiar names, which actually adds to the commercial appeal without detracting from the potential obscurities and rarities.
The Great Affairs have evolved over the years. On their second album ‘Ricky Took The Wheels’ they owed a reasonable debt to The Black Crowes in terms of influence; by the following year, they were experimenting with stripped back Americana and, two years hence, their music – with a guiding hand from a new rhythm section featuring drummer/vocalist Kenny Wright – things had moved further towards gritty bar-room rock. Whatever the chosen style, though, each release could be relied upon for a handful of superb tracks.
Finding a sound somewhere between a sixties surf band, easy listening library music, Saint Etienne’s quirky instrumentals and Air, Norway’s Orions Belte make neo-psych pop and downtempo sounds that totally mess with the fabric of time. Their debut album ‘Mint’ plunges the listener into downbeat moods that seem to constantly waver back and forth between sixties kitsch and mellow alt-pop from the 90s mellow pop. Occasionally, it’s as if things are deliberately presented at the wrong tempo, but the results are always finely crafted.
Montana’s Idaho Green are a band not so much shrouded in mystery as cloaked within the obsurd. Their list of band members is obviously fabricated and their band bio partly lifted from the legend of Lynyrd Skynrd. Scraping below the surface, though, they’re not related to Steve Gaines or Ronnie Van Zant; they’re still very much alive and have been active in one form or another since 2008. They’ve been releasing material since 2012 and the ‘Rancher Bones’ EP is their sixth release and despite only being short, it shows more scope and invention than before and is certainly more varied than 2016’s ‘Fuck Yeah…We’re Idaho Green’.
The landscape of hard rock music in 1988 looked very different, in comparison, to that of a decade earlier. When Saxon began their recording career in the late 70s, rock and metal were solely the reserves of the readers of Sounds magazine, the devotees of the Radio One Friday Rock Show and festival goers. By the late 80s, it was no longer considered such a niche genre: bands like Europe and Poison had scored chart success on both sides of the Atlantic; Def Leppard‘s ‘Hysteria’ was one of the biggest selling albums of the era and Guns N’ Roses were on their way to becoming a worldwide, stadium filling phenomenon. Whitesnake‘s ‘1987’ was selling by the bucketload to a broad demographic and even Metallica – a band that only a couple of years earlier seemed entirely marginal – were on the cusp of UK singles chart success, and yet Saxon, in terms of commercial success, appeared to be floundering.