Chariot Rising Remastered Edition
Released 27 October 2017
Newly re-mastered recordings of cult Psychedelic act Dantalian’s Chariot, including their Madman Running Through The Fields single and all their 1967 studio recordings…..Ian Canty looks at a band who may have been Psych-chancers but still cut the mustard………………….
The story of Dantalian’s Chariot is a relatively brief one: they only lasted around about a year and in their life-span only released the one single. Looked upon as Psych opportunists by the media at the time, as the years went by their stock has grown and that one single is now regarded as a classic piece of Psychedelia. In fact, they packed an awful lot into their 10 months or so in existence. It was just most of it was away from the public eye.
First we need to take a step back to Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, a very popular live attraction in the middle part of the 60s. Bournemouth born Money (George Bruno Money on his birth certificate) had set up the group in 1961 and they were for a time the main attraction at the famous Flamingo Club. Specialising in Soul and R&B, the Big Roll Band’s leader was up there with the likes of Brian Auger and even Georgie Fame with his manic personality and keyboard dexterity. Though never quite cracking the charts (though in 1966 Big Time Operator got into the UK Top Thirty) they nevertheless were very well-liked. With Zoot himself being a charismatic presence and built-in self-promotion machine, this ensured the band were regulars in the music press and maintained a higher profile than their record sales would have led you to expect.
By 1967 R&B was looking a bit “old hat” in the face of the ultra-modern Psychedelic explosion. Seeing the writing on the wall Money chose to retire the Big Roll Band name and instead labour under the more trendy sounding Dantalian’s Chariot. Keeping his ear to the ground he was well aware of the likes of Pink Floyd, with their drawn-out jams and extraordinary light shows. He sought to furnish Chariot with similar accoutrements. Maintaining the same personnel as the last Big Roll Band, the change was wholly stylistic. Their lighting display would trump Floyd’s as Money went back to the source and got the best one he could find one from San Francisco, where the whole Flower Power scene was taking off from. They decked themselves out in all white outfits which made the lights all that more impressive to the stoned watcher. The band was quickly snapped up by Columbia Records on the back of the well-received live shows and Money’s talent for self-generated hype.
All looked bright and the Madman Running Through the Fields/Sun Came Bursting Through My Cloud single soon was issued in the late stages of the Summer Of Love, September 1967. Though having plenty of plays on pirate radio and garnering good reviews, the 7″ did not make the charts. Undetered the Chariot set to work on their debut album….which is where the problems started.
It seemed like Columbia’s (and that of the CBS off-shoot Direction Records, which the band was moved across to) interest quickly cooled on Dantalian’s Psychedelia and the label began to reject the band’s recordings, condemning them to languish in the vaults. In fact that single was the only recording released by Dantalian’s Chariot in their existence, the band splitting in April 1968 after less than a year. Money and guitarist Andy Somers (who as Andy Summers in ten years time would become one of those bleached blonde spikey tops of unspecified vintage, the Police) joined up with Eric Burdon’s new version of the Animals, who covered the Dantalian single in their live set. But as for the band itself, that was it.
Some of the lyrics don’t bear close scrutiny if I’m honest, being very much of the time Flower Power/Love and Peace style nursery rhymes. But the music carries things. Interestingly, apart from that classic trippy single, the Chariot seemed to look more towards the American version of Psychedelia with a pronounced Folk Rock tinge coming to the fore.
The album remained in the can and a re-mastered version is what we have here (Wooden Hill originally released it in 1996). Though there have been suggestions that the band was a mere cash-in the flipside of that is they were already highly drilled musicians who could easily turn their hands to any musical form and make something interesting from it. And so it proved. Though the content was not really all that Psychedelic apart from the single tracks (as stated above they tended towards Folk Rock and even straight late 60s Pop), they more often than not came up with the goods and Chariot Rising does hang together like a good album of that era.
Madman Running Through The Fields is all sweet guitars, pulsing beat and Rick Wright organ squeals, but it all works wonderfully, with a couple of lovely pastoral middle sections into the bargain. As a contrast the flipside Sun Came Bursting Through My Cloud’s laidback, sunny ballad feels a real tonic, listening to it in the present day’s autumnal chill. Moving onto the material of Dantalian’s that got left in the can, Fourpenny Bus Ride is in the classic Kinks-style character study mode, wedded to a sturdy 60s Pop backing. World War Three, in subject matter and sound was far more in the UK Psych mode, is set at a “Taxman” type tempo and this one rocks a bit harder than the rest of their oeuvre. Recapture The Thrill is a very pretty piece of blissed-out Folk Rock expertly handled, contrasting with This Island being actually bit spooky sounding.
The mood piece Soma, is a bit ‘of its time’ with separate sitar and flute sections but it’s full of atmosphere and Four Fireman is an oddly unsettling piece of angst Psych Pop. Occasionally Zoot’s vocals aren’t quite able to match the pitch of the songs, but he gets through somehow with a cracked-sounding charm.
Though Dantalian’s Chariot’s career was brief, the scant 10 track legacy that has been left with Chariot Rising is one worthy of reappraisal. The sound is clear on this re-mastering job so we get to hear what DC had to offer in detail. Though viewed a little as a ‘bandwagon’ group at the time, their single was memorable and evocative of the times and the unreleased tracks show a band of considerable skill. In the final analysis, all these years on, it doesn’t matter a jot whether they were a bogus outfit or not – their music was more than good enough for the rapidly changing 60s scene and good to listen to now too.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here