The Report Card
Fri., Aug. 14, 2009
Disc 1: Headstone: The Contact Sessions
Opening, as it should, with "You're Gonna Miss Me," these sessions were the first recorded for an album on the label Contact and notable for the inclusion of covers such as Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" and Buddy Holly's "I'm Gonna Love You Too." While those titles may seem odd wedged between psychedelic manifestos such as "Where Am I?" and "Roller Coaster," they are a reminder that the Elevators came from and played on circuits that demanded knowledge of popular dance tunes of the era, as illustrated on the set's three live discs.PRIME TRACKS:
• Track 14 is the only true stereo studio version of "You're Gonna Miss Me."
• Track 17 is a version of "Tried to Hide" performed by the Bad Seeds, featuring future Bubble Puppy top dog Rod Prince.
• Track 18 is a hidden track of an alternate vocal take of "You're Gonna Miss Me," with just Roky and his harmonica.
Disc 2: Live in Texas
Compilation live disc with recordings from the New Orleans Club in Austin, on Dallas TV show Sumpin' Else, and La Maison in Houston. Once again, a preponderance of covers dominates, as demanded by audiences who mostly wanted to dance. Still, the fans' approval of originals is evident as "Fire Engine" and "Tried to Hide" are layered among the chart hits.
Their live version of "Gloria" wasn't around for Patti Smith to have heard when she deconstructed the Van Morrison classic, but both of them come from the same whirl of delicious rock & roll abandon. Three different versions on this CD alone frame it as an audience favorite.
Disc 3: The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (Mono)
Disc 4: The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (Stereo)
Released in 1966, this album is ground zero for psychedelia, the ultimate marriage of music and consciousness according to the Elevators' manifesto. Unlike the Contact session covers, this is all 'Vators-written music (plus running buddy Powell St. John's). The mono disc is the preferred recording for its purity and includes single versions of "Fire Engine" and "Reverberation." The stereo version is reconstructed using alternate and remastered mixes overseen by original engineer and producer Walt Andrus and offers three alternate backing tracks plus a live "Don't Fall Down" from the Larry Kane Show in Houston.
A version of "Reverberation" from an unreleased acetate shimmies and levitates on its own.
Disc 5: Live in California
Swedish Elevators scholar and collector Patrick Lundborg donated the recording of this Avalon Ballroom show from 1966. Previously released and heavily bootlegged, this clean version is considered among the best live recordings of the San Francisco psych era. It's another mix of originals and dance-floor favorites, goosed by the electric vibe of mid-1960s California.
On this live "I'm Gonna Love You Too," Erickson has Buddy Holly's hiccupy gulp down pat. That and his vocal interpretation of the Beatles' "The Word" are examples of his very well-developed voice, capable of primal screaming, soul shouting, and ballad crooning in the same song.
Disc 6: Easter Everywhere (Mono)
Disc 7: Easter Everywhere (Stereo)
The anticipation of excellence in the well-documented Easter Everywhere was rewarded with the lyrical and melodic tour de force "Slip Inside This House," the song that made the Elevators poster children for the path of enlightenment. The shift of personnel in the rhythm section redirected the music favorably as Stacy Sutherland began to emerge from the creative ranks. Like Psychedelic Sounds, Easter uses alternate takes to re-create the album in stereo.
On the mono disc, single versions of "Levitation" and "She Lives (in a Time of Her Own)," just as they were played on the radio in days of yore. On the stereo disc, Erickson and Clementine Hall crooning "Splash 1" accompanied only by acoustic guitar and harmonica is bittersweet, vulnerable, tender. The connection the two had as friends and confidantes is palpable here.
Disc 8: A Love That's Sound
The most revelatory of the discs, this replicates the "lost" third LP known as Beauty and the Beast. Jugmaster Tommy Hall still guided the band's philosophy during these dark and drug-fractured post-Easter sessions, while Erickson was the voice and figurehead and Stacy Sutherland was the melodic heart of the band. The tracks feel unfinished, yet "Sweet Surprise" is straight instrumental blues-rock, funky and very danceable. A Love That's Sound gets its four-star rating for the arrangement of track four, a languorous, five-minute-plus full take of "Livin' On," the Easter lineup's last recorded song as a group and uncharacteristically acid-free. An inferior arrangement of the song was the showpiece for Bull of the Woods, but this one's deserving of being considered the third chapter.
"Livin' On." Danny Thomas' drums and Danny Galindo's bass intertwine lovingly, driving it with the same pulsing urgency as "Slip Inside This House," fueled by Stacy Sutherland's guitar, dreamy with reverb. Roky Erickson's voice is strong, clear, and confident. Bluesy, Hendrix-esque "It's You" and Sutherland's driving "Moon Song" are simple and uncomplicated blues-rock tracks typical of the period and a pleasure to hear.
Disc 9: Bull of the Woods
Remastering helped restore some of the luster to this tarnished and ill-executed 1969 vinyl release, patched together after the Elevators had effectively disintegrated. Overdubbed incongruously with limp horn parts and clearly recorded by different configurations, it was a shock to fans who weren't expecting so many of Sutherland's vocals, serviceable but incomparable to Erickson's otherworldly pipes. This version of Bull of the Woods is of notably higher audio quality than the vinyl.
"May the Circle Remain Unbroken." The title says it all.
Disc 10: Death in Texas
A patchwork 15 tracks from live shows in 1967 and various reunions in 1973 and 1984, this is the least of 3 Eyed Men's 10 discs but closes appropriately with "You're Gonna Miss Me." Even as footnote material, it holds value as an aural historical document, especially of the Elevators' last performances. These bands featured Erickson, John Ike Walton, and Ronnie Leatherman from the original lineup plus auxiliary Elevators.
A Roky Erickson-composed oddity called "Stumble (Smoke the Toilet)."