Arthur Lee of seminal Sixties psychedelic rock band Love, was born on this day, March 7th, in 1945. Lee passed away from Luekemia on August 3, 2006. If you don’t own a copy of Love’s 1967 album Forever Changes, then you are seriously missing out.
A perfect – wait, make that ideal – live music experience, for me, includes a few personal preferences such as a venue close to my home that offers seating, reasonably priced drinks and maybe a menu of snacks that won’t break the bank when added to the price of the ticket. It’s a lot to ask, I know, but that is how I roll. Of course, it’s a given that the band on the bill has great songs and is able to reasonably replicate its recorded sound in a live forum while also improvising and “riffing” freely enough to add a personal vibe to the performance. On a recent Saturday night in the East Village, that perfect storm of a concert experience happened at Drom Lounge on Avenue A when psychedelic folk rock band, The Wyld Olde Souls, celebrated the release of its new CD, Ensoulment. It was an evening I won’t soon forget.
Ten years in the making, Ensoulment includes fourteen songs (13 originals and one cover) that prove the long wait for this album was well worth it. Often compared to acts like Fairport Convention, Joan Baez and Donovan, The Wyld Olde Souls are perhaps NYC’s best-kept secret. Fronted by lead vocalist/songwriter and guitarist Ivy Vale, The Wyld Olde Souls includes Vale’s husband Rick Reil (vocals/guitar/sitar), Kristin Pinell Reil (vocals/guitar/flute) – the former both members of the legendary Grip Weeds — vocalist Melissa Davis and tabla player Naren Budhakar, who is such a perfect addition to the band for his ability to really capture the middle eastern spirituality inherent in its music. The band’s lyrics are often romantic and whimsical, offering a welcome respite from the angst and anger in much of today’s pop music, while the lush, layered instrumentation on the album – which includes flute, orchestral strings and mellotron – solidifies The Wyld Olde Souls as a band that expertly takes the act of homage into the realm of a truly unique, original sound.
At Drom, the band opened the show with “Give it to You,” the second track off Ensoulment and proceeded to hold its audience in thrall for the remainder of the tight, 13 song set. Although the band performed in an almost “unplugged” setting (save for Pinell and Reil’s guitars) every song sounded amazing. In addition to Vale’s rich, resonant vocals, Davis’s mellifluous backing vocals create a transcendent aural experience against the Souls’ spot on instrumentation (Rick Reil and Kristin Pinell also handle lead vocals on select songs). The set included many songs from Ensoulment including “Take Me There,” “Undertow” and “Maybe” but also featured a little known George Harrison song, the chant “Gopala Krishna,” which the Souls also performed at George’s Birthday Tribute show (featuring headliner Roberta Flack) this past winter.
Band members joked with each other and the capacity audience while telling stories about their music and influences between songs, which kept the crowd engaged and anticipating what might come next. A few of my favorites included “Love Song” and “Wyld Maiden” as well as the instrumental “Love in Transition” and an Improvised Raga that showcased Budhakar’s expert tabla playing. As the performance came to a close with “Where There is Light” and “Sun God” (a track from the band’s debut CD) I felt very fortunate to have been part of such a fun and entertaining live gig. Ensoulment is already in the running for a top spot in my year-end Top Ten CDs of 2011, and I recommend you pick up a copy either via CD Baby or as an MP3 Download at Amazon.com. The band does not perform live very often but you can friend them on FaceBook to be kept in the loop about future live dates.
As the past is reinvented to serve present needs, modern pop music continues to suffer from an absence of historical revisionism dating back farther than last Tuesday. It’s not such a mystery why anyone over the age of 17 (wait, make that ‘anyone with taste,’ which is not always a given) would probably rather listen to music from 20, 30 or even 40 years ago than anything currently stagnating on “the charts” – which haven’t been interesting or relevant since you were an egg. That’s why it’s so refreshing to be able to moderate my regular listening sessions of Love’s Forever Changes and Mania, the lone album by Australia’s The Lucy Show (remember them?) with liberal doses of New Jersey’s best, not-well-known-enough band, The Grip Weeds. A rocking quartet comprised of brothers Kurt and Rick Reil (drums and guitar respectively), lead guitarist Kristin Pinell and bassist Michael Kelly, The Grip Weeds play psychedelic garage rock in the vein of classic sixties icons such as Love and The Byrds, while one-upping modern genre revivalists like The Three O’Clock, Jellyfish and The Smithereens. And, lucky you, they have newly released a double CD called Strange Change Machine, which is crammed with awesome songs to make your head spin and your heart skip a beat.
A double disc release is a rare thing these days, especially one as strong as Strange Change Machine, which contains a stellar selection of 24 tracks – all but one original compositions! We’re talking all-killer-no-filler here: a phrase I don’t think I’ve used since Queen was putting out new albums. The lone cover, a faithful interpretation of Todd Rundgren’s classic “Hello, It’s Me” adds a layer of lushness while maintaining the original’s understated, bittersweet melancholy. I was fortunate to catch a live gig by the Weeds a couple of weeks ago on the Friday that also happened to be the birthday of Sir Paul McCartney and they totally kicked ass. I know I’ve already declared MGMT’s Congratulations to be the best album of the year, but I’ll readily add now that Strange Change Machine is riding that CD’s coattails for how much it is loved and enjoyed by me. Making for excellent summer listening, I strongly recommend adding this gem to your collection as soon as possible. Strange Change Machine is available from iTunes and for download or purchase at Amazon Dot Com.
On This Day In 1967: The Beatles released the groundbreaking concept album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album was a worldwide critical and commercial success, spending a total of 27 weeks at the top of the UK Album Chart and 15 weeks at number one on the American Billboard 200. A defining album in the emerging psychedelic rock style, Sgt. Pepper was critically acclaimed upon release and won four Grammy Awards in 1968. Often recognized by prominent critics and publications as one of the most influential albums in the history of rock music, Sgt. Pepper frequently ranks at or near the top of published lists of the greatest albums of all time. In 2003, the album was placed at number 1 in the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.