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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sonic Cathederal - a Tribute to Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators

Tribute to Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators

Roky is one of the architects of garage punk and psychedelic rock, so his status as a true musical revolutionary of his generation is already set in stone. As a founder member and main vocalist with The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, he was responsible for some of the very first modern rock music. And the three studio albums bearing the Elevators' name still sound fresh and immediate today. What can one say about the world's first psychedelic rock and roll band? A talented group of young, brave & dedicated pioneers from Texas? Musical and spiritual revolutionaries?

In this tribute, Sonic Cathederal - a Tribute to Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, the excellent Sonic Cathedral imprint has pulled together an impressive array of artists obviously in awe of Erickson's work to create a startling tribute that collects thirteen interpretations of his most well known achievements both with the Elevators and beyond.

The opening 'Roller Coaster', a live performance featuring Erickson himself on guest vocals with The Black Angels ably sets the scene. Although over half of this album is culled from The Psychedelic Sounds... era, very few versions stick to the template of the original recordings. ‘Tried to hide’ by A Place To Bury Strangers, is probably the best of the psych-shoegaze bunch, with great sonic pyrotechnics and guitar fuzz. If you’re going to do Erickson-a-la-shoegaze, do it full-on like this! All The Saints' opulent take on 'Don't Fall Down' and Sarabeth Tucek's dreamy vocal throughout 'Splash 1 (Now I'm Home)' gracefully re-evaluate the original songs rather than simply pay homage. Likewise Lower Heaven's 'Fire Engine' and Hush Arbors' 'Dr Doom' (from 1969's Bull Of The Woods) both typify the boisterous spirit of the Elevators whilst taking on a mantle of their own.

Tim Presley’s singing for Darker My Love also stirs the soul on ‘She Lives in a Time of My Own’, a song from the Elevators’ 2nd album ‘Easter Everywhere’, woefully under-represented on this compilation and yet widely considered their best album.

Cheval Sombre's take on 'You Don't Love Me Yet' and Le Volume Courbe's reading of 'I Love The Living You', featuring contributions from Sonic Boom and Kevin Shields respectively, both illustrate the formidable aspects of Roky's solo work. Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine who chose the lesser known ‘I love the living you’ from ‘Never Say Goodbye’, an album of unreleased songs recorded when Erickson was still in hospital. Couple these with Black Acid's (aka Richard Fearless and friends) nine-minute excursion through 'Unforced Peace' and the closing I Break Horses bringing things back into 2010 with their interpretation of recent single 'Goodbye Sweet Dreams' and you're left looking at one of this year's most inspired compilations thus far, that acts not just as a fitting tribute to Roky Erickson, but also a dazzling showcase of the legacy his music has spawned ever since

The full tracklisting is:

1. Roller Coaster - Roky Erickson & The Black Angels
2. Reverberation (Doubt) - The Strange Attractors
3. Don't Fall Down - All The Saints
4. Tried To Hide - A Place To Bury Strangers
5. Kingdom Of Heaven - Dead Meadow
6. She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own) - Darker My Love
7. Splash 1 (Now I'm Home) - Sarabeth Tucek
8. Fire Engine - Lower Heaven
9. Dr Doom - Hush Arbors
10. You Don't Love Me Yet - Cheval Sombre*
11. I Love The Living You - Le Volume Courbe**
12. Unforced Peace - Black Acid
13. Goodbye Sweet Dreams - I Break Horses

* Featuring Sonic Boom
** Featuring Kevin Shields

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1 comment:

Slide Machine said...

This is a good Roky Erickson tribute album, musically better than "Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye" from 1990. It's pretty edgy for the most part, from the opening track with the Black Angels stalking Roller Coaster live behind Roky himself (who menacingly reminds us to "open up your mind") (whoa!), on through a series of Elevators tunes by the rest of the bands that mostly hold to the spirit of the original songs, but without any slavish concern. The rendition of "Tried To Hide" is the most "modernized" of the first half.
Later it shifts gears a bit especially on the Roky solo covers, and gets further away from the original material. Black Acid's take on Unforced Peace moves into drone/noise soundscapes, some of the other songs are lighter or more flighty.
The covers of Reverberation, She Lives, Kingdom of Heaven, and Dr. Doom are standouts, along with the Black Angels/Roky track. Overall it's definitely worth a listen.