“Jack Hopkin’s Curiosity Shoppe is a bucolic place populated by gnomes and faeries, stocked with musky muskets and antiquated leather bound volumes in ancient tongues. A village green with a resident town crier (yours truly) shouting old news over the clopping cobbled streets. In other words, a column dedicated to recommendations from the peak of the psychedelic era, undiscovered in plain sight, and often fabled much like Atlantis. Make yourself at home and look among the wares on display…”
If, like me, you live in a place where Autumn doesn’t fall with a splendour of crisp ruby leaves but rather a sudden onset of dark, grey, downright Soviet conditions it may be hard to remind yourself that the flowers are still blooming. That being the case, I implore you to look to MOOF as a greenhouse, for in this vibrant floral menagerie the colours don’t mute with the passing seasons and the sunflowers only grow higher and higher, unmolested by the frosts outside. Time is very much on our side, what with the first issue selling very well and Melanie Xulu’s enchanting radio shows serving as harbingers of excellent things to come. (A further plus is that when the greenhouse windows fog up you’re more than welcome to scribble all the rude words and drawings you can conceive on the glass, no angry botanist will shoo you away.)
On the music front, I’ve been happily sifting through some wonderful sounds lately which I’ll run through in my typical ramshackle way, indeed the last vestiges of the common cold are making their last stand in the war torn ruins of the unfortunate Hopkin anatomy so blame any incoherence on the very same germs which toppled the Aztec Empire. Foremost is the Love Sculpture, a group I erstwhile knew for the dreamy popsike nugget ‘River To Another Day’. On closer inspection the group are in fact a formidable blues rock group, with their cover of Willie Dixon’s stalwart blues song ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ leaving a particularly strong impression. ‘Sabre Dance’ charted strongly in the UK in late 1968/early 1969 and offers some of the fastest guitar playing this side of Ten Years After or Gun. Their debut album, ‘Blues Helping‘, is well worth the time for any fans of British blues, whilst their Peel sessions from the same year reveals their live virtuosity.
I feel I’m preaching to the converted when I mention the excellence of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, yet ‘Jumping At Shadows- The Blues Years‘ is a vital addition to any fan of the genre, what with its suitably groovy cover art and the contents, which includes ‘I Have To Laugh’, one of the most soulful renditions of an Otis Rush song committed to wax (I may just have to cram it into the third ‘Moonlight Ride‘).
Plenty of excellent sunshine pop and light psychedelia courtesy of the Passing Fancy. The title track of their LP fully embodies the beautiful butterfly on the cover art in how it flutters and dances melodically to some excellent drum work. Also excellent are the Bohemian Vendetta, who flourish particularly on the swinging keyboard workout ‘Riddles And Fairytales.’, which recounts the tuneful organ work on the Afterglow LP. As for an anthem for the times we live in, look no further than the Free Design with their deceptively cheerful ‘Make The Madness Stop’.
‘Sleepy Hollow People’ by the Paper Fortress is a particularly wonderful record, one so evocative that if you close your eyes you can almost feel the dew on the grass beneath you in some Golden Gate Park dreamscape. The up tempo bridge conjures go-go girls to your location no matter where you are- as such it’s vital you don’t listen to it in the library or whilst attending a funeral.
I belong to the school of thought that believes that the exposure offered to Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild’ is actually to the group’s detriment as it feeds the notion that they were a mere one trick pony. Delving into their album tracks there is much magic to be found. ‘Lost and Found by Trial and Error’ is a particularly pumping organ driven track perfect for swaggering your way into euphoria and I daresay is a better song than the ones which cemented their legacy.
The debut singles by the Apple, and the Gods provide the missing link in the evolution of psychedelia into prog and beyond. The God’s ‘Baby’s Rich’ evokes early Deep Purple yet remains utterly singular with it’s operatic tone, whilst the Beatlesesque ‘Let’s Take A Trip Down The Rhine’/’Buffalo Billycan’ are both leaden with the spirit of ’67. Although I haven’t heard it myself yet, a fairy tells me their long player ‘An Apple a Day’ is very good indeed.
Scattered final recommendations to the overlooked second Tyrannosaurus Rex LP ‘Prophet Seers And Sages, the Angels of the Ages‘ and Captain Beefheart’s ‘Strictly Personal‘, both of which have provided me with so much happiness that I wish I could distribute it’s magic freely in a soup kitchen format.
On a closing note, although the world is a very dark place at present, it’s important to remember the many forces for good- too many to name. There is so much love falling from the clouds. Try your best to catch some on your tongue like snow- you’ll know when you’ve caught some because love tastes surprisingly like Parma Violets.
Be kind to the world and the world will reciprocate in turn,
Your friend Jack.