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Big Beat Has “Too Much to Dream” with Two New Psychedelic Sixties Collections

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All Kinds of HighsWhen one thinks of musical psychedelia, the city that most often comes to mind is San Francisco.  That rock epicenter hosted the likes of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Blue Cheer and Moby Grape at venues including The Fillmore, The Matrix and the Avalon Ballroom.  But psych-rock exploration wasn’t limited to San Francisco, with New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Austin among the other American spots making major contributions to the genre.  The U.K.’s Big Beat label has just issued an exciting new compilation spotlighting the lesser-known contribution of the Memphis music scene to the psych movement.  Feeling High: The Psychedelic Sounds of Memphis boasts 24 songs from labels including Stax and Ardent, making the case that those venerable outfits could produce more than just stunning soul and R&B.  It makes a fine complement to another 2012 release produced and annotated by Alec Palao, All Kinds of Highs: A Mainstream Pop-Psych Compendium 1966-1970.  The latter looks at the far-out records from Bob Shad’s Mainstream label, which while based in New York, released records from locales including Detroit, Houston, Cleveland, Boston and even Montreal!

Though originally concentrated on jazz releases, Mainstream Records was sure to move with the times.  In 1966, the label announced a return to the singles market which it had abandoned a couple of years earlier, and Bob Shad made deals with independent production houses around the country to yield material for Mainstream releases.  Though Big Brother and the Holding Company and The Amboy Dukes were Mainstream’s most successful rock signings, All Kinds of Highs explores the deep pop-psych cuts by groups with names like The Tangerine Zoo, The Grammy Fones, The Tiffany Shade and The Jelly Bean Bandits.  That said, the Detroit-based Dukes do kick the exhaustive 2-CD compilation off with 1968’s “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” one of the most potent garage-psych tracks from Mainstream or any other label for that matter.  The compilation also includes the Dukes’ “Baby Please Don’t Go,” one of Lenny Kaye’s original Nuggets selections.  Houston, Texas’ Fever Tree is well-remembered for epochal recordings like “San Francisco (Return of the Native)” but Feeling High captures the band on the cusp of greater fame.  Many of the songs, bands and songwriters here are largely unknown commodities to all but the most dedicated collectors, but the anthology sets out to prove that their relative lack of fame is no reflection on their quality.  One familiar name you’ll find is Stephen Stills’, thanks to The Growing Concern’s cover of “Sit Down, I Think I Love You,” introduced by the Buffalo Springfield and also recorded by The Vejtables and The Mojo Men.

In his copious liner notes (presented in essay form, rather than track-by-track) for the 28-page booklet, Palao notes that the compilation has eschewed harder-edge rock acts, focusing “squarely and unapologetically on the pop-psych end of the spectrum.”  Houston’s Sixpentz was previously anthologized on a Now Sounds CD; their delicious harmonies reappear here on “Please Come Home,” “Imitation Situation (4/4 – 6/8 Time)” and “Tinkle Talk.”  Lush harmony vocals mark many of the productions here along with youthful energy and a desire to sonically experiment.  Nick Robbins has remastered every track here, many of which are presented in their original mono single mixes.

After the jump: onto Memphis, home of Stax, Ardent and plenty of far-out grooves!

Feeling High - MemphisFeeling High: The Psychedelic Sound of Memphis offers even more unexpected musical mayhem, however.  As Palao notes in his similarly-styled essay here, “the Summer of Love came a couple of years late to Memphis, if it truly came at all, adding that “San Francisco-style elongated improvisation didn’t go down very well in [the] Memphis [club scene] in 1967.”  And so this single-disc compilation presents that Tennessee city’s very own version of psychedelia which took in the expected influences of blues, R&B and soul in its garage rock stew.  What’s most remarkable about this new 24-song collection is that all but three of its songs have never been released until now.  All came from producers Jim Dickinson, Terry Manning and James Parks.  Dickinson and Manning, of course, are well-known for their work with many of Memphis’ most seminal acts including cult heroes Big Star.  Parks is the nephew of Sounds of Memphis/XL’s Stan Kesler, and took a number of trippy acts under his wing for a brief but blazing period of time.

Jim Dickinson and Terry Manning’s story has been chronicled in Ace’s exceptional Thank You Friends, The Ardent Records Story, to which Feeling High makes a fine companion.  From the Ardent vaults come recordings from artists including The Wallabys and The Goatdancers.  One song made at Ardent and released on Capitol comes from the pen of Ray Stinnett.  “Dancing Girl,” written by Stinnett and performed by his band the 1st Century, was overseen by Dickinson and issued by Capitol in 1968, over one year after it was recorded.  Stinnett went on to record the Booker T. Jones-produced album A Fire Somewhere for A&M Records in 1970, but the album was shelved and remained unreleased until Light in the Attic’s 2012 excavation.  Songs from the Stax library include The Poor Little Rich Kids’ “I Need Love” and “Come On Along and Dream,” as well as “Flying Horse of Louisiana” from Knowbody Else.  Stax’s Hip Records was the imprint for The Honey Jug’s Ardent-recorded “For Your Love,” one of the strangest records here and far from your typical cover of the Graham Gouldman/Yardbirds song!  Another familiar song gets an underground Memphis spin in the form of Mother Roses’ rendition of “Ticket to Ride,” produced by Parks.  Nick Robbins has remastered all tracks.

Both of Big Beat’s trawls through some of the grooviest regional sounds ever created are available in stores now, and can be ordered at the links below!  You’ll also find complete track listings by clicking on the links!

Various Artists, Feeling High: The Psychedelic Sound of Memphis (CDWIKD 311, 2012)

Various Artists, All Kinds of Highs: A Mainstream Pop Psych Compendium 1966-70 (CDTOP 2 306, 2012)

Written by Joe Marchese

January 23, 2013 at 09:04

Posted in Compilations, News, Reissues

One Response

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  1. Okay, I’m complain-y today! But fans of this genre should dig around on YouTube to hear some of these tracks before buying. As noted, the sound quality, packaging and liner notes are great on both packages, and they don’t waste a lot of space – the single CD “Feeling High” boasts 24 tracks, and the 2xCD “All Kinds Of Highs” (which has been out six or seven months; my local retailer quit stocking it because it’s no longer a new release and a rather niche title – just saying!) has 52 tracks. I found “All Kinds Of Highs” to be loaded with great tracks, but could see why most of “Feeling High” went unreleased at the time. I’m a big fan of all things Ace / Kent / Big Beat / BGP (etc), but could have done without “Feeling High.”

    But to atone for griping, I should mention that the best reggae online retailer,, now sells product from these labels, at $13.99 (in some cases, less) plus nominal shipping. That’s a fair bit better than most retailers or stores. (Though that price is for single CDs, the price for “All Kinds Of High” is $23.99, which is still cheaper than most places, but not quite as good a deal.) I’ve got no affiliation with . . . but when these labels release four to eight great titles a month, a little savings adds up. It’s a good place for reggae (including Soul Jazz label stuff, also cheap, and they do carry the non-reggae titles), but not a whole lot else. Which is why I mention them – you might not consider them for Ace / Big Beat / Kent stuff otherwise.


    January 23, 2013 at 23:39

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