Wednesday, May 29, 2013
July's sole self-titled album from 1968 has seen itself returning to my turntable (OK, CD player) quite a bit the past fortnight, and it really is an album worth your time and trouble. Originally released by the Major Minor label (now owned by the EMI corporation), the reissue I speak of was released on the fantastic Rev-Ola label about 5 years ago, and is possibly out of print, but I doubt you'll have too much trouble sniffing out a copy on the 'net. You will find that the effort was well worth it. The band was only active for two years - 1968/'9 - although the roots of the band go all the way back to the late '50s, in a quagmire of intermingling skiffle/pop/beat groups whose storyline would rival that of Spinal Tap in the annals of 1960s UK rock bands (although the pre-July outfit, Los Tomcats, sound interesting). Really, you're best off just reading the Allmusic entry on the band if the story grabs you that much. I'm more interested in the music for now. There is one band July were obviously heavily indebted to. In fact there is exactly one band whom this album will remind you of, the similarities being almost embarrassingly close, but the band in question isn't a bad template to start for British psych-pop ca. the late '60s. Oh, where was I? The band! That'd be Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd. July don't quite have the surf-guitar/Shadows twang thing happening as much as Syd - the songs veering between sweet and lush psychedelic pop and "heavy" guitar solos which employ use of the wah-wah pedal - but those two factors aside, this has Syd dementia all over it. If it wasn't done so well, it could almost be dismissed, or miscontrued, as psychsploitation fraud sign, sealed and delivered by a group of suit-and-tie studio opportunists, but July were the real thing. That first track, "My Clown", issued as a single at the time, sets the template for the rest of the record. I would say there's not a single clunker on the whole disc. July presents a beautifully haunting and eclectic brew of psych, occasionally drifting off into the aether (like good psychedelia should), but reining things back in w/ great hooks. There's 12 tracks to chew on, and this well-packaged edition has 4 bonus cuts (alternate versions) and a 7" also released at the time. The world of psych obscurities is a minefield of wrong directions and disappointments, but July and The Outsiders' CQ remain my two fave discoveries of the era in recent years. Regardless of reputation of rarity, these are records even non-collectors should get a kick out of. There's no real reason the band shouldn't have been huge, outside of bad luck and the band shuffling members and quickly calling it quits. I hear they've had tracks included on a zillion psych comps, both good and the type you'd find for sale at a supermarket in the 1970s, so I guess I'm the last to the party in heralding something of great worth in 'em. Go figure. Do it.
That's it for now. I've been too pooped lately to get wordy on the interwebz. I've been putting together a Powder Monkeys reissue which will be out next month, and I'll tell you more about in the near future (never miss an opportunity to spruik), and as an interesting, or possibly terrifying aside, depending on your opinion, I was busy last week driving Jello Biafra all over town for his recent spoken-word shows, being asked at the last minute to be his driver/assistant by the touring company who brought him out. Love him or hate him, I will say this: he was perfectly pleasant, funny and interesting the whole time (and barely brought up politics in conversation at all, contrary to what some may expect), and I'd still rate my youthful purchase of Plastic Surgery Disasters as one of those watershed moments in my musical development (if I may say such a thing), truly a before/after conversion point where all hopes of becoming a normal human being were dashed forever after being exposed to its wares. So if you wanna blame him for me, then go for it.
Below is a clip I only just discovered today. Speaking of frying minds, it's a brain-scorcher: a short French art film/extended music clip from 1973 featuring the ever-great Don Cherry. I know nothing about its history, but I shall dig deeper and find out...