Share EASTER EVERYWHERE - The 13th Floor Elevators (Charly/International Artists)
Listen closely and try to keep up. If you don’t know who the Thirteenth Floor Elevators are, this is gonna mean dick to you. (But, personally, I haven’t got time for anyone who doesn’t place “You’re gonna miss me” at the top of their disc playing pile.) The band’s first album is a garage masterpiece; as essential a purchase as “Radios Appear”, “Raw Power” or the first Velvet Underground album. This, their second, has always been considered the plain Jane sister by comparison. Still, I’m just going to assume that you are as familiar with it as you are with the back of your hand. Do I need to mention “Slip Inside this House”, “Levitation”, “Earthquake”, “Dust” or “It’s all over now Baby Blue”? Great songs. How many superlatives can I throw in front of a description of Roky’s voice before you get the message? I’m going to treat the normal blah, blah, blah as a given. This review will merely concern itself with the two disc reissue and why you need to own it.
The story goes that the band made a tremendous stereo mix that was all but destroyed in the mastering. Apparently, International Artists blew their budget on flaky gold paint on the sleeve. The steady flow of re-releases may not have had the flaky paint but have done nothing to rectify the audio error. Frankly, it just sounded like they took a copy of the original album and copied it. And still I loved it.
I’ve had a series of copies of this since that first re-release. If anything, the sound has just got muddier. A photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. A dull circle of diminishing returns. I still kept it on high rotation but it always sounded like a badly bootlegged cassette. I imagined that this was as good as it was ever going to get. There was talk of the Mono mix that went out to radio stations and how that sounded so much better. With a market price of around $500, it was pretty unlikely I’d ever score one. Frankly, I’ve never even seen or heard one in the actual flesh.
Well, this limited edition has the mono mix and it is as fantastic as I had been led to believe. It is well worth the price of admission alone. If this had been the full extent of the re-issue, you’d still be getting the same rave review. You would have still had five bottles at the bottom of the review. The real gem, however, is the remastered stereo mix. Listen! It has backing vocals. I can hear the bass. I knew it had to be there somewhere. Emerging from the dust, plain Jane has emerged as a vision of loveliness. In audio terms, this is probably as close to a miracle as I have ever heard. Can I go six bottles?
Now comes the moment of urgency. They haven’t pressed many of these things. If you want one, you had better act now. Stop reading! I’m not going to waste your time with adjectives and smart arse chatter. You have to listen to this disc to believe it. You have to own this disc. You have to burn it directly into your brain.- Bob Short
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THE PSYCHEDELIC SOUNDS OF THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS - The 13th Floor Elevators (Charly/International Artists)
I come to praise digital media, not to bury it. But wait. It's sacrilege to buy this on CD. After all, vinyl’s the only true sounding medium, no? Despite vinyl’s return from thebrink, excessive turntable time is just too hard to broker sometimes. CDs are the product of convenience, but If it’s going to be on a shiny silver disc, it better sound half decent. The good news is that this, the first digitally mono re-issue of the Elevators’ debut LP does.
The sad fact is that in the mass-market move from vinyl to CD, there were casualties. Some great LPs suffered painful deaths. The killers were the labels that lacked the care, or skilled sound engineers, to do half decent jobs on mastering the endless stream of re-issues that came out in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Compression and too much separation are odd bedfellows but they’re probably lurking in your collection of deluxe CD re-issues to this day. Today’s CDs may not be perfect but at least they’re not MP3s.
This re-issue is a two-disc set. The first shades any other digital version of the Elevators classic by a long mile. This is the definitive shiny silver disc edition. If the digital medium is capable of radiating a glow (half the people who claim to hear warmth on vinyl can only hear turntable rumble) then it’s here. The stereo mix has a punch that stereo separation can’t replicate.
CD2 is a stereo version of the album “re-ordered in the band’s intended running order”. That’s a bit of a wank – you or I could have ripped our previously issued discs (in lossless format, of course) and bodgied up a copy of this. Producer Bob Sullivan’s original mixes of “Fire Engine”, “Monkey Island”, “Roller Coaster” and “Tried To Hide” are appended and sound marginally different to the final editions, especially in the bottom end. Only completists will notice.
Bob’s comments in the review above brook no argument here. The Elevators are godhead. For years I regarded Roky’s solo offerings as superior and I still hold a torch for “The Evil One”, but you gotta give credit to the Elevators and what they achieved. The Elevators nailed psychdelica on the first album and probably didn’t know it. Their label certainly did not. Their other tweo major works hold up: “Bull of the Woods” is regarded as a blot on the copybook, but that’s only because no-one’s heard the live disc. .
There’s a fair chunk of the 10-disc box set “Sign Of The 3 Eyed Men" now issued as stand-alone product and little doubt the rest of it is coming down the money-making pipeline. Call me a fool for buying into that but I can’t help but spruik the merits of this chapter. - The Barman
HEADSTONE (THE CONTACT SESSIONS) - 13th Floor Elevators (Charly/International Artists)
Here’s the heads up for those of you who haven’t got your heads screwed right ways; “The Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators” is the one true must-own garage album. It’s as influential as anything that came out of the '60s and that includes the debuts by the Stooges, The Velvet Underground and the Doors.
I’ll go further. It is a better album than any put out by the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. It is the kind of album they invented five bottle or five star reviews for. When your band doesn’t get a five bottle review, ask yourself this; “Is my record as good as the first Thirteenth Floor Elevators’ LP?” Your answer, of course, is “no”. Only a retard doesn’t own and cherish a copy. If you are one of those retarded people, you can stop reading this now or you can go get yourself an education. Whatever your excuse, I don’t want you hanging around this class room.
Before recording their first album, the Thirteenth Floor Elevators made an attempt to record another. The linear notes half tell a story of drug busts and bans from clubs but doesn’t really tell the story of why the album wasn’t released. This album is an attempt to restore that lost album. I’m guessing that the tapes had to be baked to get this level of restoration. There is a bit of volume drop here and there but, given the source material, the end results are pretty amazing.
It doesn’t quite live up to the dizzying heights of the legitimate debut release. The recordings are a little more pop and R & B. A lot of those "Nuggets" era bands produced a couple of great singles. They’d fill the rest of the disc with covers and inferior original material. Trust me. The Count Five may have had “Psychotic Reaction” but after scrimping and saving to buy a copy of their debut album, I played it once and tried to sell it on to the next stupid highest bidder.
This album follows that tried and tested '60s formula but still remains better than 99 per cent of the opposition. Hearing a track like “Tried to Hide” as a rhythm and blues stomper is interesting (even exhilarating) but this album would have been a less vital one than its successor. You’d be ranking it alongside the Standells and the Chocolate Watch Band. It would still be great but not as totally mind blowing. “Psychedelic Sounds” is an album that really blew minds. It sounds like some crazy narcotic etched into vinyl (as opposed to a lot of albums which sound like morons on crazy narcotics attempting to discover every note on the guitar). By comparison, “Headstone” sounds merely amazing.
But should you buy it? Let’s face it; some of us poor saps still work for a living. Should we slap down our hard earned bills on another version of something we already basically own? Roky Erikson’s vocals are astonishing. This is the voice of the man before drugs and therapies cut him down a notch or two. His banshee wails put shivers down your spine and then he turns it all around into warmth and humanity. Unlike on any other recordings, there are moments here where he seems to become possessed with the voice of Janis Joplin. It is both unusual and unsettling. It made me look sideways at the speakers.
The band rocks with a vengeance or skips lightly where needed. If you own the first album, you will not feel disappointed buying this. If you already own the first album plus the re-release of the first album with the bonus tracks then I’m sorry. You will, like me, be reaching into your wallet again. The major disappointments are that “You’re Gonna Miss Me” sounds so identical to the version on “Psychedelic Sounds” that you would suspect they are the same recording. The B side of that single, a cover of “Will the Circle be Unbroken” is not included despite being part of the Contact Sessions as listed in the album notes. (You’re expected to buy that on the collected singles album). The quality of the bonus material varies from being as good as the album proper to live recordings that make me say: “That’s pretty interesting but whose toilet was it recorded in?”
On the plus side, you get some pretty stunning alternative versions of other songs from the debut. “Roller Coaster” and “Fire Engine” are particularly brilliant even if the latter ends rather abruptly. Full blown fans will not be able resist versions of “I’m Gonna Love You Too” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”. But let’s face it. This really should have been released as a bonus disc to Charly’s recent re-release of “Psychedelic Sounds.” It’s a good disc with great packaging and notes. However, I feel like my pocket is being gouged by an unpleasant record company out to nab every possible penny. Every new track they find, they seem to want to put out another album length disc. Is it any wonder that people are switching to MP3s? I just hope the money is going to Roky.- Bob Short
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