Fuzz Acid & Flowers:
This unique band were fronted by Lawrence Hammond, who was born in Berkeley, but spent much of his childhood in Nebraska. Bluegrass music was his main musical influence. The band was formed by Hammond (harp, vcls) and a series of fellow medical students (Robinson (gtr), Manning (bs), and Dewey (drms)), who all attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. They were originally known as The Mad River Blues Band - Mad River being a small tributary of the Ohio. The band, minus Manning, then moved to Washington D.C. for a while. In this period they began to write their own material and secured gigs at very disreputable dives. They then returned to Yellow Springs where Manning rejoined the band and Rick Bochner was added on guitars. In the Spring of 1967 the band quit college, headed for San Francisco, and soon became based in Berkeley. Soon afterwards Sam Silver, a friend of Ed Denson, manager of Country Joe and the Fish, became their manager. Consequently, they secured a number of gigs with The Fish. The band were befriended by Lonnie Hewitt and in 1967 recorded their legendary Wind Chimes (EP) on his Wee label (10021). It's an interesting record, not easy to obtain, which contains an early version of Amphetamine Gazelle (simply called Gazelle on the EP), Wind Chimes and Orange Fire. The first two are on the first album. Orange Fire is a non-LP track.
By the end of 1967 they had played a number of Fillmore and Avalon gigs and were signed to Capitol along with The Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Steve Miller Band. Their debut album was issued in 1968. Extremely uncommercial it was particularly noteworthy for Lawrence Hammond's distinctive quavering vocals and some superb interweaving acid guitar work (particularly on The War Goes On and Eastern Light. It has later transpired that during its making the recording and playback speeds were not the same - so everything came out higher and faster than they had played it!
Prior to the recording of their second album, Manning left the band and they got a new manager, Harry Sobol. They also asked Jerry Corbitt (of The Youngbloods), an acquaintance from their Yellow Spring days, to produce it. The album was an amalgam of different styles - short country rock tracks like Paradise Bar and Grill, Love's Not The Way To Treat A Friend and Cherokee Queen appear alongside a couple of long acid influenced tracks, Leave Me Stay and Academy Cemetery. This album was greeted with more enthusiasm than their debut by the critics, but Capitol did nothing to promote it and did not release it in Britain.
Inevitably, then, Mad River split up in 1968. Bochner went to run a homestead in Canada. Dewey worked on Jerry Corbitt's first album and later had a spell with Country Joe and the Fish, Grootna, Eggs Over Easy and Bodacious D.F.. Robinson became a building contractor and Manning did occasional work for him and some session work.
Lawrence Hammond later formed The Whiplash Band, a bluegrass/country music outfit. Supported by this outfit (Alan Lane (bs), Janet Bryson (vcls), Al McShane (drms), and James Louis Parber (lead gtr)), Hammond recorded a country rock album Coyote's Dream (Takoma C 1047) in 1976. Fellow Mad River members, Dewey and Robinson also made guest appearances on the album.
As tor Mad River - their output is essential for any collector of psychedelia.
Merciful Monks (Lawrence Hammond) (3:39)
High All the Time (Lawrence Hammond) (4:07)
Amphetamine Gazelle (Lawrence Hammond) (2:56)
Eastern Light (Lawrence Hammond, Gregory Leroy Dewey) (7:58)
Wind Chimes (Mad River) (7:15)
The War Goes On (Lawrence Hammond) (12:25)
Hush, Julian (Lawrence Hammond) (1:11)
Paradise Bar and Grill (Lawrence Hammond) (3:39)
Love's Not the Way to Treat a Friend (Richard Brautigan) (2:02)
Leave Me/Stay (Lawrence Hammond) (7:11)
Copper Plates (Lawrence Hammond) (2:32)
Equinox (Rick Bockner) (1:51)
The They Brought Sadness (Lawrence Hammond, Gregory Leroy Dewey) (4:53)
Revolution's In My Pockets (6:07)
Academy Cemetery (Mad River) (3:12)
Cherokee Queen (Carl Oglesby) (4:08)
Rick Bockner (Vocals)
Gregory Leroy Dewey (Drums)
Gregory Leroy Dewey (Recorder, Vocals)
Tom Manning (Bass, Vocals, Guitar (12 String))
David Robinson (Guitar)
Psychedelic Shark :
Mad River only existed for about 4 years, in which time they made 2 albums. Later, Lawrence Hammond made a solo album. That and the second album (Paradise Bar and Grill) are forgettable, but the debut was a superb slice of psychedelia.
Originally released in 1968, due to a mastering error the resulting vinyl played back faster than it was recorded. Speedy enough to begin with, this made it a tough album to listen to. The CD reissue on Edsel rectified this error, and if you can find a copy the effort is well rewarded. The main reason for the band’s drop by Capitol records was the surreal, druggy lyrics, and psychotic sound. A clue to what to expect. They are actually one of the most psychedelic sounding bands of the era. At times they are a bit like Quicksilver, at others like Big Brother, but imagine either of those groups playing much more tightly arranged, faster tempo, lyrically complex compositions and featuring a demented vocalist and you’re getting close. Berkeley neighbours of theirs were
the legendary Frumious Bandersnatch who are also worth checking out. Merciful Monks opens with rocky riffs and frantic part play, strained vocals and lyrics like: "Didn’t you say I could hold a broom and sweep the burning nostrils into the sea?” There’s a guitar solo that leaps and
twists everywhere, threatening to descend into chaos but never quite losing it. "High All The Time” is next, with a fade-in start. As you can imagine this song is about taking certain substances, and Lawrence sounds suitably stoned. Great big movies inside your head, your mind's
eye is just a camera taking photographs. The track has great fuzz guitar licks all the way through, as well. Amphetamine Gazelle opens with Hammond stammering and muttering in imitation of a speed freak, and then the song rattles along with more crazy lyrics and high octane guitar work.
Eastern Light is a sentimental, bluesy ballad with a sad, moody bridge and a wistful climax. For me the only slightly weak track on the album. The side 2 opener is "Wind Chimes,” and it starts with wind chimes tinkling in the breeze. It is an instrumental that builds and builds. Gentle harmonics and rhythm guitar are overtaken by panning distorted lead that develops into an eastern sounding jam of power, complexity and stunning beauty with an almost Bach-like quality at one point, followed by a tattoo of a drum climax from Dewey and a gentle subsiding afterglow. Next the 12-and-a-half minute War Goes On screeches, rattles and squeals its way into your consciousness. This sounds like a Vietnam veteran’s nightmare, a grinding, screaming, angry horror story of a song; you can almost taste the napalm. The final track is the brief, acoustic lullabye, Hush Julian.
Actually, the Edsel CD was at the same wrong speed as the Capitol LP and you can even hear a couple small scratches since it was mastered from vinyl. I am told that the Edsel vinyl LP was at the corrected speed but I haven't heard that. I have the original LP and an EMI Germany reissue which is also at the wrong speed. The Collectors Choice reissue of both albums had the first album at the wrong speed, intentionally, since they beleived people were used to it and wanted to hear it that way.
The second album has some great songs. Leave Me/Stay could easily fit on the first album, it's pretty psychedelic. The Hammond album is not psychedelic but I think it's a very good folk/country oriented singer songwriter album and has one of the spookiest ghost story songs I've ever heard (my copy is in storage but I think that song was called "Pale Eyed Companion").
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