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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Album Review: 13th Floor Elevators Live

13th Floor Elevators Live
13th Floor Elevators Live

Here's a very interesting review of the (much hated) 13th floor Elevators Live album (click on image to read it huge). It encapsulates my feelings about this, much maligned, album and it touches upon my feelings that the "Psychedelic" label for this band stems from a great part to their lyrics.

International Artists released this live album of outtakes and alts. with applause dubbed over the beginning and end of each track, in 1968. At this point the 13th Floor Elevators were going through their well documented breakup due to drug complications and other legal disputes. New material was short, and International Artists knew this, so a live album must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time; it would satisfy hungry fans of the group and fulfill contractual obligations. In the end the above LP didn’t sell but for the Elevator fan this disc is mandatory listening.  It’s a solid album with quality performances and five songs that are unique to this disc only.

People have badmouthed `LIVE' for not being "the genuine article" but to be serious the aforementioned debut album is hailed as a garage rock classic, but was it 'really' recorded in a Garage? Should we refer to another release by another popular band from the same decade - was 'Party' by the Beach boys 'really' recorded at an actual party?. Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde is considered a high point for those who like the space rock phase of the Byrds, but was it really recorded in space? I could stress this point even further but it serves no legit purpose. No matter what the songs included on Live with or without the extra tracks present on this edition I own really speak to us in a way, that it is plausible indeed to suggest, that all these tracks would've been part of a live set, if this was taped at a real concert,

This can be said even if we as avid fans of the elevator know according to history the album was actually a studio LP and not a live LP. Considering the fact that the group was on the verge of breaking up, at time, considering the demise of Ericksons' mental health et al. Point is all things considered it's dynamite in it's own right.

'Actual Review'

'Live' doesn't have to be compared to the other albums. However, I will be more than happy to let `Live' spin on the turn table, time and time again when I'm in a swinging 60's mood. The material here is presented in a more effortless manner, and even if I am a fan of the more delicate laid back, and to me somewhat otherworldly nature of `Bull OF The Woods' I must say it's just to get used to Erickson's wailing, and all because this really isn't a bad album.

That's right, you heard me! `Live' is not a bad album, in fact it's great. There is Bo Diddely material, Buddy Holly material and for us who have this edition with tracks unlisted on RYM, there is Chuck Berry and even Ray Davies and Van Morrison material included. Truth be told I bought this album to complete the collection and to finally get to hear the full version of their take on `Everybody Needs Somebody to Love' which by no means is a track unique to their rep. Pete Best Combo also recorded a version (mid 60's) and I don't think I have to inform you about the Blues Brothers cut from early 80's. among others. Those of you who always suspected a very telling influence of the same Ray Davies on the Elevators from early on, especially if you have heard the Kinks/Beatles Mash up with distinctive Elevator edge
that is ` I've Got levitation' then you will be pleased if you get a hold of the pressing with this track ` You Really Got Me' ending the set as for Roll Over Beethoven,

Byrdmaniacs know it was a part of Byrds rep around this time (Live in Stockholm 1967) but it is still a wonderful track, and Elevators really make it their own.

Speaking of which Elevators had a lot of the same approach to music as did Byrds, i.e. a well rounded structure, and a nice set of jangle and twang. The garage edge, they put into the mix was however all theirs. While the Byrds had the sense of refinement and delicacy in their sound, Elevators took such influences and made the sound their own. If you are willing see to it to compare a track like `I See You' from 5D (1966) with say the version of `Tried to Hide' included here. The wholesomeness may be the significant trademark of anything Byrd.

This sense of edge the Elevators brought in to the mix, was something unique only to them. However clear it still may be that they probably were under a Byrds influence at the time, they cannot be considered copycats.. If now you are still insisting the `Bonus tracks' are not to be considered because they weren't there to begin with then I must tell you something. Even if you take away the actual tracks of Van Morrison, Ray Davies and Chuck Berry tracks out of this set list, the influence of these said greats - along with that of the Byrds aforementioned is still there,

You just can't take that away in trying to get the whole idea of what this album was about, if not `the genuine article' it still works as a concept album named 13th Floor Elevators (as if they were) Live!

Now when I finally have it and on vinyl turning back to the 60's catalog in my collection I will probably listen to this more than Easter Everywhere or Psychedelic sound. See it like this, if Bull of the Woods their best LP, (got it on vinyl together with this one) Live! Is quite unlike it, but it is still right on Elevators and is a definite easy listening release, you don't have to be initiated in the inner circle of elevator fans to 'get it' as may be the case with Easter Everywhere or Bull of The Woods (an acquired taste)!

If you like Hamburg scene sound-era Beatles (songs like My Bonnie or Cry for a Shadow) 5d era Byrds (songs like 2-4-2 foxtrot, I See You or Hey Joe) or Head era Monkees ( songs like Circle sky or Long Title: Do I Have To Do This Over Again) then you will be no stranger to the sound you hear on Elevators (as if they were) Live! Why keep on the argument, it's swinging 60's all the way, giving the rockabilly and Buddy Holly and the crickets influence a front row seat come unexpected to some and take away the fascination of Elevators as an Underground band. frankly I like it, it's one of the main attractions to seek out and find this release, they never did another one like it.

'The Final Say'

Aye it may be controversial to state that 'Live' is my favorite album of theirs, but I do not see anything wrong in more people actually having the courage to say they like it, for what it is, Don't expect a sonic revolution. I think this album is lo-fi for a certain reason.

13th Floor Elevators Drummer, John Ike Walton, read this blog post and wrote me this:

Here are the facts about the live album.The first time in the studio to record for IA we cut 12 songs.They said they were getting levels,so we did what we had played at the jade room.We were surprised when it was released.that album was our first album except for a few cuts Lelan added. Roky was red hot! The hit cut of your gonna miss me was also recorded then.

John Ike Walton

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