7. Thank You All Very Much - Endle St. Cloud Through acid-folk, oddball saloon piano (featured on every other track) and a general campfire feel, Endle St. Cloud produced the strangest record on the famed Texas psych label International Artists. There's an unsettling schizophrenic musk here - pianist Endle St. Cloud bounces across identities on several interspersed monologues - that evokes the same feel-good cultism that made The Wicker Man so illogically grotesque. Granted, it's not all spiraling pinwheels and eerie exoticism, there's an enchanting Kinks-like pastoral quality as well, but one can't shake the obtuse modernism that underpins Thank You All Very Much, a feature that makes it one of the most distinctive artifacts in the history of psychedelic rock.
6. Up through the Spiral - Playboys of Edinburgh Classic psychedelic rock unwittingly laid the groundwork for contemporary psychsters Spaceman 3; a group whose anthem was "Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to." That is, traditionally, psych rock aimed to emulate and enhance the hallucinatory conditions brought on by psychedelic drugs. What P.O.E did with Up Through the Spiral is altogether more bizarre than that. This is what it's like to be hypnotized by a snake oil prophet. As the liner notes read: "The lyrics in this CD were inspired by the philosophy in the Edgar Cayce Readings. It is hoped that these concepts will provide stimulation for thoughts and possibly insight into man's attempt to understand himself." Concept and lyricism: needlessly weighty; music: stunning. Anchored by an Abby Road era Beatles aesthetic and a liberal slathering of reverb, the songs soar and break, wane and wax, doing what only the best psychedelic rock records can: balance camp with authenticity.
5. Dead Man - Josefus Dead Man is fuzzy proto-metal flecked with enough THC to give you a contact high. It was released on a label called 'Hookah Records,' and it has a skull on the cover. Thankfully, it sounds just as you would expect -- like shrapnel guitars produced on gravel 8-tracks and played by Syd Barrett's inner circle. And I don't mean those dunces that left him for cash and fame, I mean the loyal reptilian critters that made up his headspace; ya' know, those space cadets that etched 'Masterpiece' all over The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. In a stroke of genius these Houstonites slapped a 26:00 minute live track right on the end of the album; good thing, because music like this always finds its stride in boiling blood and waves of sweat.
4. Flash - The Moving Sidewalks
Despite opening for both The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, The Moving Sidewalks are best known for guitarist Billy Gibbons, who went on to form ZZ Top. Heady blues and smoldering guitar-play should have been their legacy, and for my money I'll take these cuts over the ZZ Top discography any day. On their sole release, the group are admittedly a few fro's short of full-on Hendrix plagiarism ("Pluto Sept. 31st" is basically Jimi's "Fire") and the set is uneven to say the least, but the tracks that hit true sink deep. The organ-led "You Don't Know the Life" is gorgeous and languid, wilting as it blossoms, echoing romanticism and fatalism all at once. "Crimson Witch" is a slow-cooked garage number that opens into stoned vistas with flights of watercolor guitar. And "Joe Blues" sounds like the emotionally panged Dylan/Hendrix collaboration that never happened. The set closes with a two-part sound-collage (tape effects, cubist edits, etc) that wears Lenon's stamp like a merit badge, but the result is so delightfully twisted it's dazzling all the same.