Sunday, December 3, 2023

Tractor - Tractor (1972 uk, rough and raw acid folk psych space rock, anniversary special edition)

Coming on like Hawkwind’s ‘You Shouldn’t Do That’ with tone generators and bleeping underground noises, ‘All Ends Up’ crashes in with a massive Phil Spector-type buzzsaw guitar rhythm undercut by more splatter-clatter drumfills from Steve Clayton, before setting off on a super-paranoid tale of The Man and how to avoid him. Suggestions for not getting ripped off: don’t remotely engage The Man, don’t even step into the portals of his office, don’t believe his words whatever they are, and you’ll be safe. Ish. Funnily enough, I know from experience what they mean and they were right, though staying in Rochdale and doing an LP every few years throughout the coming 70s and 80s on a tiny independent label does seem like a pretty bleak alternative to me. Whatever, ‘All Ends Up’ has that insanely claustrophobic and hugely over-dubbed sound that (experience tells me) you can only get from working in studios with huge limitations. Excellent indeed, and really one of the best ways to achieve high rock’n’roll magnificence.

Although the epic eight minutes of ‘Little Girl in Yellow’ kicks off like the heads’ answer to Jake Thackaray (complete with a fey acoustic northern-accented tale of fairies and goblins) it’s soon blasting into a grim reaper scythe-wielding territory of 6/4 electric guitar rhythms and we could be in the middle of one of those epic Krautrock LPs by Kalakackra or their ilk. Is this the best piece of music on the entire record? Probably! Massive solo guitars undermine everything but the rhythm of the hi-hats and the sound gets more heavy rock than any heavy rock band on a major label ever could or ever did. Think of the ever-changing sound on Speed, Glue & Shinki LPs or even 1969’s somewhat similar Saint Stephen LP, wherein everything temporarily disappears down a shock corridor before emerging blinking and bleary-eyed in the cold light of day. This is a severely psychedelic mixing desk freakout in the best Dieter Dierks-stylee, and could only have increased in massiveness by lasting for the whole of the side.

Unfortunately, this otherwise monstrous and mind manifesting LP finishes disappointingly, without style or consideration of any kind, first with the acoustic drivel of ‘The Watcher’ (‘he knows that willingness in others is a blessing’? Even in 1972, oh puh-leaze!) followed swiftly by the cod electric blues of ‘Ravenscroft’s 13-Bar Boogie’. The first mentioned could have been on THE WAY WE LIVE and is trite shite indeed, whereas the final track at least has the charm of being acceptably generic boogie of The Yardbirds’ ‘Nazz is Blue’ variety. However, as this Album of the Month only achieves its place because of the sad death of Tractor’s mentor John Peel, let’s offer up a bit of compassion and state this – when six of the eight tracks are as good as those offered within these grooves, it would take someone more churlish than I to (in these circumstances) give the final two under-achieving tracks a merciless kicking. Instead, let’s just blank them out and pretend the whole LP is a riot from beginning to end, and hope that M’Lud John ‘Ravenscroft’ Peel is currently spinning his favourite vinyl for the angels and devils of both heaven and hell as we speak. Because we have kenned John Peel all these past years, and we have listened, learned and been changed forever. Hey John Peel, wherever you are, we salute ye! U-Know!
1. All Ends-Up - 6:50
2. Little Girl in Yellow - 8:12
3. The Watcher - 2:00
4. Ravenscroft's 13 Bar Boogie - 3:26
5. Shubunkin - 3:08
6. Hope in Flavour - 2:47
7. Everytime It Happens - 5:58
8. Make the Journey - 9:52
9. Siderial - 5:20
10.No More Lies - 5:29
11.Mr. Revolution Man - 3:08
12.Everytime It Happens - 4:02
13.The Storm - 2:44
14.The Watcher - 2:23
All songs by Steve Clayton, Jim Milne
Track 9 Recorded Live At Glastonbury Festival 2002
Track 10 Recorded During 2001/2 In Various Studios
Tracks 11-14  Demos From Jim Milne

*Jim Milne - Guitar, Bass, Vocals
*Steve Clayton - Drums, Percussions, Bass, Backing Vocals
*Thomas Hewitt - Guitar
*Nik Turner - Saxophone, Flute

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