Various Artists: Follow Me Down; Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era 1966-70 (Vanguard/Border)

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The 31st of February: A Nickel's Worth of Benny's Help
Various Artists: Follow Me Down; Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era 1966-70 (Vanguard/Border)

Fact is, if  -- as the cover title suggests -- the psychedelic era was "lost" to anyone during the four/five years on this collection, it wasn't to the label's tripped-out audience at the time.

It was perhaps to the label itself.

Vanguard released many psych-albums including the exceptional debut by Country Joe and the Fish, Electric Music for the Mind and Body. They also released psych-singles (as did Moby Grape, Jefferson Airplane, the Steve Mller Band and other SF-LSD bands) by the likes of 31st of February, the Vagrants, The Third Power and Frost which -- for reasons I cannot and will not explain - I actually heard at the time in this far-flung corner of the planet.

I have no idea why or how this music arrived in my 16-year old world in Auckland, New Zealand . . .  but I suspect I would happily shift the blame to "American Bill" who ran the Psychedelic Shop on Mt Eden Rd (where I bought Big Brother posters before I'd even heard a note they played).

It was near the "Murder House" dental clinic of my impressionable years.

0139Jeez: bad and good trips  . . . within a few yards.

And I have one of those original Bill posters (Moby Grape etc, right) framed on my wall to this day [US$400 on e-Bay I believe].

This 77 minute collection effectively captures the hippie era in songs which have sinuous, sometimes Indian-influenced guitar or organ solos (The Serpent Power's tripped-out 13 minute Endless Tunnel), allusions to drugs, post-folk rock and occasionally some seriously heavy rock.

The opener by The Third Power is another reminder of how noisy bands from Detroit have been.

It also is indicative of how widely Vanguard listened at the time: here are artists from Florida to Boston, Philadelphia to Berkeley.

And many of the musicians came from, or went into, other bands: The Serpent Power had members from the Grass Roots; guitarist Dave Perry in The Far Cry was taught by the then-unknown Carlos Santana; the Hi-Fives were signed to a management deal by Brian Epstein (who promptly died on them);  Drew Abbott of The Third Power joined Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band; Dick Wagner of the Frost from Michigan later worked with Alice Cooper, David Bowie and Lou Reed; Jerry Jeff Walker was in Circus Maximus which had orignally been named Lost Sea Dreams (think about it) . . .

Yes, there's a bit of "don't be uptight" scattered around and certainly you are invited to free your mind and be shown "where it's at" . . .

But this collection is like a Nuggets for acid heads: a trove of stuttering and slippery guitars, driving bass holding down everything while singers or soloists take flight, some delightful folk-influenced rock (Jeff Monn's I Can Understand Your Problem) and brain-fried garagebands extending themselves (Circus Maximus' Travelin' Around which is an acid-infused cross between McCartney's I'm Down and an explosion in a guitar factory).

Collections like this open minds as much as doors, although you have to be cautious: there are songs here from obscure albums that make you want to chase them down through an expensive e-Bay trawl.

As I am doing . . . 

Like the sound of this? Then check out these connections to psychedelic music of many persuasions at Elsewhere

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