Various Artists – The Dawn of Psychedelia (Cherry Red Records)
Two-disc set giving an insight into the ideas that informed the psychedelic revolution of the ‘60s, with some of the artists that influenced the likes of The Beatles.
With the term ‘psychedelia’ being bandied about freely in certain sectors of the current indie scene, it makes sense to have a dig into its origins, and the sources of ideas that paved the way for the likes of Revolver, Forever Changes and Piper At The Gates of Dawn. This 2-disc set, which comes with extensive liner notes, is an insight into not just the music that inspired The Beatles, Pink Floyd or Love; its aim is to capture the essence of psychedelia as an art form. There are no rock bands on Dawn of Psychedelia, and its contents may not have obvious connections to the aforementioned bands or albums. And this is a very different beast to the much-loved psych compilation series such as the Nuggets or Rubble.
Instead, the focus on Dawn of Psychedelia is turned to jazz, spoken word, Indian classical music and more besides, proving that psychedelia is a state of mind rather than a musical genre, just as punk has always been an attitude and not a trip to the fancy dress shop.
The musical selections here are all instrumentals, sandwiched between spoken word from the drug gurus, artists and thinkers who led the way. With titles such as Aldous Huxley’s “How Often Have You Taken Mescalin Yourself?” and “Recipe For Hashish Fudge” by Alice B Toklas (which “might provide an entertaining refreshment for a ladies‘ bridge club“), you get the picture. We all know about the ways in which The Beatles shaped the counterculture movement of the ’60s, and George Harrison’s love of the sitar bringing it into the world of rock & roll, so it’s essential to have his influences included here, the most obvious artist being Ravi Sankar. (Raga Jinjhoti is included here). More meditative sitar pieces are also included, the other stand-out example being Raga Yaman Kalyan Teen Tala by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Revolutionary jazz pioneer, Sun Ra is represented here with Ancient Aiethyopia.
As a set, it’s not an easy listen all the way through. Sanctus by Missa Luba and Integrales by Edgard Varese could work just as well in a black & white horror film, but the collection as a whole sets the scene and points out the elements that informed the psychedelic music forms, which have been pulling in several directions since the mid to late ‘60s. It’s always been evident that very opposing musical styles can fall under the psychedelic banner, and Dawn of Psychedelia expands on this notion.
For more info about the album or to buy a copy visit Cherry Red Records.
All words by Arash Torabi whose author’s archive can be found here (but bear in mind this Arash’s first writing for Louder Than War).