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Category Archives: folk

As can be gleaned from the cover of her one and only record, Linda Perhacs was a stunning, beautiful love child. Anyone who spent the $200-400 necessary to obtain copies of the original vinyl could attest that the music she made was comparably stunning and beautiful, infused with all the trappings of being a late-sixties love child (in the best possible way).

Ace of Discs reissued her album after unsuccessful attempts to track her down, mastering from a poorly pressed vinyl copy. For whatever reason, the first issue on CD was completely unlistenable on headphones, although delightful in the open air. Since that first go-round, Perhacs has come out of her obscure Pacific Northwest woods with quarter-inch reels of the sessions, and now that Ace of Discs comes round again with a vindicating, expanded reissue, the tray card photo reveals: she’s still a babe.

Anyway you eye it, this is a magical, sublimely singular piece of gentle folk-psych that belongs with those lone album classics by folks like Skip Spence or Vashti Bunyan (or the countless other souls that only released one record before disappearing into history’s communal farms or funny-farm madness, like Elyse). It is a sound so personal and intimate that I can only hear it in the privacy of my own room. Although it’s been near-impossible to gain biographical information about her, the experience of hearing her music reveals so much about her soul and mindset at the time that I really don’t think I could share it with anyone else.

As mentioned above, she’s a love child in every sense, a young woman blossoming into her sensual world. Of the elements, every song culls its images from her forest environment, permeating down into her own physical core. “Chimacum Rain” is not only the forest’s silence and that sound of rain washing over her, but the palpable sexual presence of her lover, too. In almost every evocation of a tactile natural image, there is a mysterious man who physically embodies these characteristics, a tension courses through her body as she sings about these near-deities. And as she reaches the bridge with lines such as “I’m spacing out/ I’m seeing silences between leaves…I’m seeing silences that are his,” her voice begins to echo within itself, and her sung notes assuage open the aural synesthesia of the words. The diaphanous taste of lysergic acid creeps to the fore, and what was once a moderately played acoustic song about the forest expands into a hallucinatory clearing as her multi-tracked held tones meld with the infinite. As her voice dilates, so does the background, now all electrically-processed source sounds like xylophones and wind chimes, and all is enveloped by a low, distorted drone that would one day sound like Phill Niblock, created by– as the liner notes so baldly state it– “amplified shower hose for horn effects.”

It’s nothing compared to the album’s peak, “Parallelograms”. Perhaps you fantasize that Joni Mitchell teaches painting and pottery at your high school, or that Chan Marshall mumbles about the Apocalypse poets during English class, but Perhacs teaching geometry is tantrically hot for teacher. To just read the lyrics of “Quadrehederal/ Tetrahedral/ mono-cyclo-cyber-cilia” is to miss how she and producer Leonard Rosenman assuredly layer her heavenly-sung rounds in concentric circles over a cycling guitar-picked figure, a cumulative effect that reveals a dimension scarcely achieved anywhere else in the world of music. Closer to the Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria or Tim Buckley’s cellular self-choir “Starsailor” than Melanie or Linda Ronstadt, Perhacs drops us into drifting clouds of reverberating bells, echoing flute, and ghostly effluence, her throat outside of time. That a dental assistant in Northern California could more effectively convey the psychedelic experience through the use of the technology of experimental effects, be it early Pink Floyd, Fifty-Foot Hose, or Buffy Saint-Marie’s electroacoustic Illuminations, is, in every clichéd use of the word, mind-blowing.

Other songs deal with girly things like brawny mountain men, dolphins, moonbeams and cattails, the pastel colors of dawn, and the recently-unearthed “If You Were My Man” reveals that she could’ve gone pop with a Karen Carpenter wispiness. Listening to her home demos and studio notes to Roseman though show that she was cognizant of the sound and vibration she wanted. The tape collage lobbed from “Hey Who Really Cares?” is competent– if in hindsight, passé– all disembodied, television voices and a telltale heart beat leading into its pastoral prettiness. Her most folky tunes stand up to the times too, but it’s the fact that Linda Perhacs’ entire cosmos (and whatever those times entailed) could inexplicably fit inside the confines of Parallelograms that remains the true testament to her beauty.

-Andy Beta, pitchfork.com

DOWNLOAD:
Linda Perhacs-PARALLELOGRAMS (1970)
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Given the late Fred Neil’s near mythic reputation as a songwriter, singer, environmentalist, and recluse, the reissue of his 1965 album Bleecker & MacDougal is of historic importance. But rather than being an artifact of the man who wrote “Everybody’s Talkin’,” “Other Side to This Life” (which appears here), and “Dolphins,” this album is made of the material that gave Neil his enigmatic presence. This is a highly evocative and emotionally charged set of material, nearly all of which Neil composed. The lineup on the album was similar to his previous outing with Vince Martin, and featured John Sebastian on harmonica, Felix Pappalardi on bass, and guitarist Pete Childs (who also played dobro and electric on the date — the latter was heresy for a folk record), with Neil playing 12-string. The pace of the set is devastating, from the greasy blues of the title track to the strolling darkness of “Blues on the Ceiling,” the jug band stomp of “Sweet Mama,” and the balladic heraldry of “Little Bit of Rain,” a dynamic Tim Buckley would bring his own magic to as he emulated it a few years later. In addition, there’s the tough Chicago blues meets California swagger of “Country Boy,” which Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield would perfect two scant years later. “Other Side to This Life” is its own elegiac painting in sound, with glistening dirge-like textures caressed by Neil’s baritone. The tough, battered “Travelin’ Shoes” is an early example of folk-rock with a big accent on the word “rock.” Yet, on the album’s lone cover, a gorgeously wrought and multi-textured rendition of “The Water Is Wide,” Neil added spare, haunting jazz overtones to the arrangements, transcending the folk coffeehouse prison the song had been encased in for a decade. In fact, if one listens to Bryter Layter by Nick Drake, it would be easy to hear the connection. The album closes with the winding dobro that sparks “Gone Again,” underlining the album’s feeling of rambling transience and willful acceptance of both the graces and hardships life offers. In 13 songs, Neil transformed the folk genre into something wholly other yet not unfamiliar to itself, and helped pave the way for an entire generation of singer/songwriters who cared as much for the blues as they did for folk revival traditions. This is — more so than his fine compilation The Many Sides of Fred Neil (also on Collector’s Choice) or his debut Capitol album, Tear Down the Walls — the Fred Neil record to have.

For many, the name Fred Neil will be familiar only as that belonging to the songwriter of the modern classic “Everybody’s Talkin’,” or perhaps “Candyman,” “The Dolphins,” or “Other Side of This Life,” songs that Roy Orbison, Tim Buckley, and the Jefferson Airplane, respectively, recorded. However, Neil’s influence extends much farther. John Sebastian, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Bob Dylan all claimed him as an influence, since he blended traditional and contemporary folk, blues, rock, gospel, Indian, and pop influences into a distinctive, idiosyncratic style. His music was not only influential, it was quite rich on its own terms and some of the best music of its era. Unfortunately, since Neil chose a life of seclusion in 1971, disappearing from both recording and performing, his work was neglected. Remedying the situation, The Many Sides bypasses his Elektra material, instead offering a complete summary of his Capitol recordings, including his three albums for the label (Fred Neil, Sessions, Other Side of This Life), both sides of a non-LP single with the Nashville Street Singers, and six unreleased cuts. It’s a long overdue compilation and one that certainly stands as a definitive portrait of an influential and criminally underappreciated folk-rock figure. After listening to The Many Sides of Fred Neil, it makes sense that Neil turned into a recluse — this is moody, haunting music, unlike much of the work of his contemporaries. In particular, his eponymous album boasts challenging, innovative arrangments that remain fresh and startling to this day. The rest of his work may be a little uneven in comparison, but it’s frequently compelling and often matches its heights. Most importantly, The Many Sides of Fred Neil grants Neil his proper place in folk-rock history, confirming his unique vision and talent.

-Thom Jurek, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
Fred Neil-BLEECKER & MACDOUGAL (1965)
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Fred Neil-THE MANY SIDES OF FRED NEIL (1998 compilation)
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On her second album, Bridget St. John expanded her arrangements from the acoustic guitar of her previous effort considerably, with the aid of producer Ron Geesin. While these took the risks of sometimes bathing the songs in too much fruitiness, in general the added cellos, flutes, bassoons, violins, horns, and backup voices did much to add welcome spice to a sound that had gotten a little numbingly similar over the course of her debut. The songs, too, were a little more playful and melodically interesting, though they retained the reserved, even-tempered pastoralism of her prior work. She still sounds like a challenge to raise either a smile or a frown out of most of the time, like a hermit determined to stay out of the city at all costs. It’s pleasant if not penetrating rainy-day folk/Baroque, breaking out of that mood with “Seagull-Sunday” (which certainly sounds influenced by Joni Mitchell) and Donovan’s “The Pebble and the Man” (with some almost comically eccentric, operatic male backup vocals). She never sounded more like Nico than she did on the too-short 42-second closer, “It Seems Very Strange,” with its doom-struck harmonium.

-Richie Unterberger, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
Bridget St. John-SONGS FOR THE GENTLE MAN (1971)
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