Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fear Itself - Fear Itself (1968 us, awesome heavy acid psychedelic blues, World In Sound issue)



A late sixties San Francisco outfit, whose album is full of fuzz-blues material sounding rather like a psychedelic Groundhogs. Its more psychedelic tracks included Underground River and For Suki. Only two covers are present, a bluesy version of The Letter and Born Under A Bad Sign, both were chosen for their 45. The album is now a very minor collectors' item and was produced by Tom Wilson.

The album was originally released in 1969 on Dot-Records but didn?t receive too much attention - maybe it appeared as a too freaked out heavy version of Jefferson Airplane or Big Brother & the Holding Co. The group started back in Atlanta Georgia in 1967 as a quartet with 2 guitars and played true psychedelic sounds, recorded at the Record Plant in NYC, and moved to Woodstock (NY).

Their 5 original tunes, 2 arrangements of traditional tunes and 3 others are electric heavy blues with a strong Hendrix feel with duelling guitarwork, an outstanding female voice/vocals/screams...lots of intense stereo effects. They performed at Woodstock Festival in 1968 (one year before...) and at the hottest locations of NYC such as Filmore East.

Ellen McIlwaine, the founder of the group made an international solo career as blues-singer and slide guitarist sharing the bill with Jimi Hendrix, Laura Nyro, Howlin' Wolf, Weather Report, Taj Mahal, George Thorogood, Tom Waits, Chicago, Bruce Springsteen and played a series of concerts with Johnny Winter. This release, is issued with stunning sound quality and includes a great booklet with pictures and biographical background. - For all 60?s collectors who are not familiar with this masterpiece - it?s a must - there a not many groups that were able to present the freewheelin? live on stage feeling on their studio album!
World In Sound
Tracks
1.Crawling Kingsnake (J. L. Hooker, B. Bassman) - 3:20
2.Underground River (E. McIlwaine) - 3:23
3.Bow'd Up (E. McIlwaine) - 1:41
4.For Suki (E. McIlwaine) - 2:47
5.In My Time Of Dying (traditional, arr. E. McIlwaine) - 8:48
6.The Letter (W. C. Thompson) - 2:08
7.Lazarus (E. McIlwaine) - 5:46
8.Mossy Dream (E. McIlwaine) - 2:49
9.Billy Gene (E. McIlwaine) - 3:06
10.Born Under A Bad Sign (B. T. Jones, W. Bell) - 3:33

Fear Itself
*Ellen McIlwaine - Vocals, Harp, Rhythm Guitar, Organ
*Chris Zaloom - Lead Guitar
*Bill McCord - Drums
*Paul Album - Bass

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4 comments:

  1. Prized among fans of the LP old play, the American band combines elements of blues and rock with a hint of heavy psychedelia and female, strong vocals.

    Fear Itself was the best rock album ever released on the usually lame Dot Records label and arguably one of the finest from any record company to combine blues and psychedelic rock as major ingredients. The comparisons of Ellen McIlwaine to Big Brother & the Holding Company-era Janis Joplin are, of course, inevitable as are the approaches of the supporting musicians. While both bands were undeniably heavy and quintessential products of the 1960s, their singers serve as a study in contrasts. While Joplin frequently comes off as abrasively screechy and undisciplined, McIlwaine's husky vocals sound pleasantly earthy but never out of control. Moreover, the latter possesses far greater skill as an instrumentalist as demonstrated by her impressive contributions on rhythm guitar, harmonica, and organ throughout the proceedings. "Crawling Kingsnake" and "Born Under a Bad Sign," blues standards that bookend the LP, rank among the better white interpretations of these songs that you're likely to hear, although they also might suffer a bit from overfamiliarity. "Underground River" is a superbly unique McIlwaine original featuring excellent guitar interplay between her and Saloom in addition to lyrics that are evidently about Jimi Hendrix. "Bow'd Up" sounds like a tongue-in-cheek ditty that is antithetical to the strong personality that I imagine the singer to be. "For Suki" contains more impressive fretwork that finely complements McIlwaine's powerful vocals. Judging by its title, I'm guessing that it must have been dedicated to someone she knew in Japan. As was the custom of the day, labels often gave bands an opportunity to stretch out and "do their own thing" on one album track. In this case, that particular piece is a rendition of the old gospel tune "In My Time of Dying" (recorded in the 1920s by Blind Willie Johnson as "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed" and Charlie Patton as "Jesus Is a Dying-Bed Maker") that clocks in at eight-and-a-half minutes and blows Led Zeppelin's better-known version clear out of the water. Although the cover of the Box Tops' "The Letter" is merely competent, the following cut, "Lazarus," qualifies as Fear Itself's masterpiece. Once again, a vintage spiritual serves as source material, but the psychedelic haze that envelops it transforms the piece into an exercise in first-rate mind expansion. I can't say enough good things about this track. "Mossy Dream" comes out of nowhere featuring Procol Harum-like arrangements, with McIlwaine's stately organ playing to the fore. "Billy Gene" is another song that could have only come from her fertile imagination, and as such, defies easy categorization. At one point in the performance it sounds like McIlwaine goes into her singular take on scat singing (including Japanese syllables, no less). It must have been a favorite of hers because it reappeared with a slightly different title ("Jimmy Jean") on her We the People LP from 1973.

    Thx Marios!

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  2. Hi, Mario
    Please restore link for this gem!
    Thanks!

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