Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Various Artists - I'm a Freak Baby: A Journey Through British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock (Grapefruit/Cherry Red, 2016)

This three disc collection with the provocative name is a Nuggets like various artists compilation of mostly obscure British rock 'n' roll from the turn of the 1960's. Whereas Nuggets and its many offshoots looked at the garage rock aspects of psychedelia, this collection filters their trippy music through a hard rock, proto-metal filter with their touchstones being the emerging heavy riffing British bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. There are a few well known bands on this collection with Deep Purple's "Fireball" and The Yardbirds "Think About It" represented, but mostly it is made up of largely unknown groups that made just one LP, or in some cases just a few acetates of demo songs. The deep research into the music pays off, and the collection features far more hits than misses. The hippie aesthetic is clearly waning and the music is becoming quite visceral as can be heard on Hawkwind Zoo's (they would soon drop the Zoo) "Sweet Mistress of Pain" and the Deviants "I'm Coming Home", while the unknown Wicked Lady provides the compilation it's title with the formidable single "I'm a Freak." Some bands are in a period of transition as can be heard in The Move's "Brontosaurus" and Fleetwood Mac's "The Green Manalishi" which move away from the pop and blues of their past into nearly progressive rock territory. Although it seems like every single seven inch from an obscure band must have been collected by this point this compilation does a fine job of providing a representative sample of the music of the UK underground in the period when the music was evolving from the psychedelia of the UFO Club and turning toward riff based hard rock that would dominate the rock 'n' roll scene for years to come. The set comes with a very extensive and well written booklet packed with information about the music and the evolving music scene it was springing from, and puts everything in context. For music fans looking to make a deep dive into the music of the period, this makes a fine starting point. I'm a Freak Baby -

Send comments to Tim.