Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Zerfas - Zerfas (1973 us, delicate artificial post psych flutter, Radioactive issue)

Brothers Dave and Herman Zerfas started their professional recording career as members of the Indiana-based band Jubal.  By 1973 the band had morphed into Zerfas, in the process recording an album that I'd easily categorize as a true lost classic.  Released by Moe Whittemore, Jr.'s 700 West label, 1973's "Zerfas" stood as one of those rarities - an album that came close to living up to the collector hype surrounding it and probably one of a handful of albums that I'd consider paying the asking price in order to own an original copy.  

Produced by Whittemore, Jr. with four of the five members contributing material, the album's gained a Beatlesque reputation over the years.  That's normally a mixed blessing and while not entirely accurate in this case, the Zefras brothers had clearly listened to their share of mid and late-era Fab Four.  The album's also regularly slapped with a psych label which I find somewhat misleading.  

I've listened to the album dozens of times over the years and while 'The Piper' is psychedelic and there are occasional psych studio effects including the opener 'You Never Win' which started with an interesting bit of backward tape manipulation before kicking into the tuneful organ propelled garage rocker, the bulk of the set has always struck me as being surprisingly commercial.  So what were the highlights?   Six of the eight tracks were exceptionally good.  With a dazzling fuzz guitar and inspired lead vocal from bassist Mark Tribby (who was supposedly reluctant to sing lead) 'The Sweetest Part' demonstrated the band were equally comfortable working in a country-rock arena.  

Apparently written during their Jabul days, 'I Don't Understand' started out with a slice of studio insanity before switching over to a pretty, if stark Badfinger/Emmitt Rhodes/McCartney-styled ballad.  The song was also worth hearing for what may have been the album's best guitar solo. With a killer melody, glistening group harmonies and a touch of studio experimentation (I've always loved the way the cheesy synthesizer snuck in) the side one closer 'I Need It Higher' found the band taking a stab at a more commercial sound.  You had to scratch your head and wonder how this one wasn't a major radio hit.  

Best of all was 'The Piper' which actually managed to mix pop, rock, psych, and progressive moves into a wonderful slice of music.  That left one track up in the air (the experimental 'Fool's Parade' - complete with 'mushroom soup' belches) and two tracks that were marginal - 'Stoney Wellitz' which sported a bouncy melody, but was plagued by a cheesy synthesizer and an irritatingly whiny lead vocal. Complete with ocean waves sound effects, 'Hope' was a mid-tempo piece that simply didn't make much of an impression on me one way or the other.  Those minor criticisms apart, as I said earlier, a lost treasure and one of the few LPs I'd even think about awarding 5 stars on my lame grading scale.
1. You Never Win (David Zerfas, Herman Zerfas) - 5:14
2. The Sweetest Part / I Don't Understand (David Zerfas, Mark Tribby) - 8:39
3. I Need It Higher (David Zerfas) - 4:48
4. Stoney Wellitz (David Zerfas, Herman Zerfas) - 6:30
5. Hope (Bill Rice, Herman Zerfas) - 7:44
6. Fool's Parade / The Piper(David Zerfas, Herman Zerfas, Steve Newbold) - 8:39

*Bill Rice - Bass, Backing Vocals
*Steve Newbold  - Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals
*Mark Tribby  - Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals
*David Zerfas  - Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Guitar
*Herman (Brian) Zerfas  - Vocals, Keyboards, Bass, Guitar

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Krokodil - An Invisible World Revealed (1971 swiss, great acid-laden guitar heavy psych prog and exotic instrumentation, extra tracks release)

The perfect album reminiscent to, Twenty Sixty Six & Then, Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. Huge, juicy, psychedelic sounds, a lot of groovy moves of guitars, solid rhythm section and the addition of even a sitar! And for the record, this is Swiss band.

If you never thought a harmonica could solo on top of a mellotron and sound as cosmic as the best guitar solos from early 70s,of original experiments and sonic juxtapositions prepare to be surprised.
Krokodil were constantly promoted by the labels they signed to as a Krautrock band, yet though they had the spirit of Krautrock in their veins, the truth was that they were Swiss! Naturally, Liberty tried to present them as the Krautrock answer to The Groundhogs.

Well, Krokodil did have blues origins, they really knew how to rock-it and had a flair for the experimental, so they did have the same sort of attitude as The Groundhogs. But, all that aside, Krokodil were innovators in their own right, not at all copyist, except for maybe their John Mayall type roots. Like most Swiss bands, Krokodil were an unlikely combo, mostly of German-Swiss extraction, with one Englishman: Terry Stevens. Early on, the quoted "Swiss Bob Dylan" Hardy Hepp seemed to be in control, his softer folk and blues mix, and Mojo Weideli's harmonica, gave them a more down-to-earth sound.

After Hardy's departure for a solo career, Krokodil really blossomed with the extraordinary AN INVISIBLE WORLD REVEALED, an album that took on all sorts of ethnic and fusion elements, becoming like a hybrid of Amon Düül II, Man and Third Ear Band, all mixed into that unique Krokodil style. Ethnic elements had figured in earlier Krokodil recordings, but not so much as here, where the sitar, tablas and flute are heavily featured. Krokodil had become the finest of Swiss Krautrock bands.

A change of label, to Bacillus, their next album GETTING UP FOR THE MORNING offered a similar blending of rock, blues and ethnic styles, though in a more condensed and song-based concoction. The double album SWEAT & SWIM, though it had a couple of duff tracks, also contained some of their best, not least so the 17 minute cosmic-ethnic trip "Linger" recalling the masterworks of AN INVISIBLE WORLD REVEALED.

On his records combined the blues rock sound of the sitar, harmonica and violin. It is thanks to an interesting instruments they managed to create a somewhat otherworldly, hypnotic oriental atmosphere. Krokodil - An Invisible World Revealed from the first sounds of Lady Of Attraction invite us to your climate lakes. Climate reminds a little of the first Hawkwind album, which has not yet been recorded in space. Acoustic sound, "from afar" vocals and rich instrumentation opens the album perfectly.

One of the most interesting tracks on the album is a fifteen-minute Odyssey In Om. If you like the sound of the first hypnotic CD Santana, George Harrison experimented with sitar or dreamlike flute or saxophone - beginning of the song is for you. After nearly six minutes there is hard rock guitar and harmonica along with the rhythm section and endow us a real departure. One of those brilliant moments when you can listen to the disc fragment without end. In addition, we have a lot of electric guitar and blues-based rock songs (Last Doors, Looking At Time), more or less zakradających towards psychedelic sounds, also feel the harsh climate of Crocodiles recordings krautrock.
by Adamus67
1. Lady Of Attraction (Anselmo, Durst, Stevens, Weideli) - 4:21
2. With Little Miss Trimmings (Anselmo, Durst, Stevens, Weideli) - 1:42
3. Oddyssey In Om (Anselmo, Durst, Stevens, Weideli) - 15:19
4. Green Fly (Anselmo, Durst, Stevens, Weideli) - 4:23
5. Looking At Time (Terry Stevens) - 14:03
6. Last Doors (Walty Anselmo) - 4:00
7. Pollution (Walty Anselmo) - 3:04
8. Krokodil-Session Part 1 (Anselmo, Durst, Stevens) - 11:24
9. Krokodil-Session Part 2 (Anselmo, Durst, Stevens) - 11:42
10.Don't Make Promisses (Tim Hardin) - 3:58
11.Hurra! Allive (Walty Anselmo) - 3:04

*Duede Durst - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Walty Anselmo - Sitar, Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Terry Stevens - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Mojo Weideli - Harmonica, Flute, Percussion

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