The Hairy-Chested Comedown
I’m not a big fan of multi-artist compilations. Not because I don’t like music and not because I don’t like diversity, but mostly because whenever there is this kind of collection, it’s inevitable that some of the songs just aren’t as good as others. Whether that’s because of a difference in taste and style between the bands, or because the compilers have to fill space and are limited by whatever is at their disposal (supporting their particular label roster, a theme they have chosen, etc.), it doesn’t matter. I always leave a little happy, a little disappointed.
Let me tell you what has not disappointed me yet, and that’s the magnificent Brown Acid series by Riding Easy Records. First off, we don’t have the problem with limited means and limiting themes. Their mission is to put to wax (again) some of the greatest lost hard/garage/acid/proto-stoner rock that was around in the late 60’s through the early 80’s. There is no effort here to support only bands on their label. The folks at Riding Easy have only one concern, and that’s to rock your bobby-sock’s off.
The first two albums were excellent and I was skeptical they could pull it off a third time. After all, how much was truly out there left to mine, and of what was left, could it be of the same, excellent quality?
The answer comes quickly, with (literal) screamer “Scream (It’s Eating Me Alive)” by Grand Theft (Seattle, Washington, 1970). It starts off with the sound of an acid trip gone wrong that is just beginning to spin out of control. Fast and furious and mean, we get slapped in the face right away that the comedown is coming, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
Song after song follows, pummeling you into submission, like a bully in middle school teaching you the ropes about how things are gonna be from now on, kid. We get schooled in all kinds of hard rock, each song uniform in its greatness.
Chook (Australia, 1971) shakes off some of that trippy 60’s acid rock with some thrusting bass, ripping chords, and hungover vocals that sort of lurch along, slightly demented, just enough to make you worry a little about your journey and just how inebriated your driver is.
The Lindholm Brothers (Barrington, Illinois, 1976) jump in after you get left by the side of the road and reassure you with some prime boogie rock, if said boogie rock was performed by some Midwestern boys who had just swallowed speed for the first time.
Diehard (Hollywood, California, 1970) come next, putting it into cruise mode, sweeping you along with some chords and organ that play together to let you know everything is going to be okay. They’re like that friend that mops your forehead after you’ve vomited; they’re there for you. But you also wonder, in the back of your mind, if they’re not secretly making fun of you when you’re not around.
Last song on Side One is the track that is my favorite, a masterclass of 70’s rock that was recorded in 1982. No wonder Blown Free and their song “The Wizard” didn’t go anywhere when it came out. This song belongs circa 1972, with its trippy jams and the way guitar chords provide a solid rhythm and the lead just sort of lead you into outer space. The vocals roar in and take charge. You know immediately you’re in the hands of people who know what they’re doing, and you wonder why these guys never made it big. And then you remember, this came out in 1982, for God’s sake, when synth rock was everything. These guys must have sounded like they came from another planet at the time; an awesome planet full of rock guitars and good, rockin’ hearts.
Side Two opens with a thunderstorm blowing across the ocean, as Factory (East Sussex, England, 1971) sets a dark mood and then rips into some prime early-70’s riffing. You can almost feel the engine of your muscle car open up and accelerate down the highway, pausing to shift gears when needed. “Time Machine” is everything later stoner bands would strive to be, trippy and distant and yet immediate.
Inside Experience (Fremont, Ohio, 1967) pops up next with “Be On My Way,” the oldest song on the comp and yet one that sounds like it came from the mid-70’s. Only the echoey vocals sound of their time. This is like if the Animals decided to be dirty and sinister, less pop and more rock. A nice, distorted guitar solo is the cherry on top of this Vanilla Fudge sundae.
Boogie rock returns with Cold Sweat (Denver, Colorado, 1979) and their song “Quit Your Foolin’.” It’s almost like the guys in Foghat decided to put out a song under a different name just to see what would happen. This song is all-American, though, just as much out of the summer rock playbook of Edgar Winter as it is from those limeys across the pond.
And why not start a “Highway Song” off with a reverberating bass and a slight, slow build, only to crash into chords that at once threaten and comfort. This is the track by Elliott Black (Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1978), a dark take on the Nuge with some flute (yeah you read that right) that comes right at you, delivers it’s punch to the nose, and cruises out like a champ, hands raised in victory, slamming the door behind for good measure.
First State Bank (Dallas, Texas, 1975) push that door back open and tell you that, “Before You Leave,” you’re gonna have to sit back and listen to some vintage Dillinger-style riff rock that’s going to make you smile and shuffle your feet, all while you enjoy that can of cheap beer and the young hotties that just showed up to party.
Last song by Flash Beverage (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1980), “The Train,” growls like Lemmy with a rumbling blues backbeat. This song is a gutful of beer sloshing around your insides. You know it’s going to end bad, but still, it feels good. And when you crawl out of the party, too many cigarettes smoked, too much whiskey guzzled, and a sore on your lip from the herpes you probably got making out with that trashy chick you’d never met before, you smile, knowing you had a damned good time.
Lance Barresi from Permanent Records and Daniel Hall from Riding Easy Records have put out another masterpiece. Go get yourself a copy, sit back, and enjoy the ride.