Various Artists – Psychedelic Jazz & Soul From the Atlantic & Warner Vaults

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1. Title’s misleading: there’s hardly any soul to be found here at all, ‘cept for Black Heat’s “Check It All Out,” which is marred by some really trite lyrics.

2. The only artists I heard of before hearing the compilation were Sun Ra (whose spacey “Spontaneous Simplicity,” shortened here from 1971’s Pictures of Infinity), is a highlight; hardly simple but definitely spontaneous in the sudden freak out), Rahsaan Roland Kirk (“Freaks for the Festival” appears on the underrated The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color) and Freddie Hubbard (more on his contributions later). Only both of Yusef Lateef’s contributions did nothing for me: “Back Home” was mostly a time-waster and “Raymond Winchester” was worth hearing once to hear what sounded like a man squealing/screaming into a kazoo to get mental help before never hearing again.

3. Other highlights: Gary Burton’s explosive jazz fusion “Vibrafinger” (screaming psychedelic rock guitar and funky bass – I don’t hear any of vibraphones so the title seems misleading); Freddie Hubbard’s “This Is Combat I Know”’s haunted-house piano before the demons all reveal themselves to be real; Charles Lloyd’s “Sorcery” after it abandons its veil of normalcy and becomes an avant-garde piano and flute workout; Charlie Mariano’s “Mirror,” which contains contributions by Asha Puthli (whom you might recognize as on Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction); Eddie Harris’ “Smoke Signals,” which is one of the few truly psychedelic experiences from the album – like hearing a saxophone player trying to find his bearings while surrounded by a haze of drugs and women.

4. Worth getting its own paragraph/point: Freddie Hubbard’s “Threnody for Sharon Tate,” which closes the compilation, is Throbbing Gristle, except a) done about 6 years earlier than Throbbing Gristle and more importantly, b) done better. I mean, as opposed to “Slug Bait (ICA)” (and other TG songs like it), it’s not just the shock value of hearing a woman reciting her murderous intents, but the more frightening electric guitar burst that punctuates those thoughts (“Give me love because I can … kill !!!!!!”) and the sheer effect of hearing the trade-off of the voice going from “I know I can hold a guitar” in one channel to “I know I can hold a knife” in the other, and then the thin string line rising immediately after. It’s not even 2 minutes long and it’s one of the best and most revelatory songs about the package, because I wasn’t aware that relative straight-shooter Freddie Hubbard was capable of something like this. I’m actually upset that the Hubbard discography I torrented omitted Freddie Hubbard’s work with Ihran Mimaroglu, which resulted in 1971’s Sing Me a Song of Songmy (where both of Hubbard’s numbers here can be found). Note-to-self: find and consume immediately.

B+

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