Achieving "Satori" (At 192 kbps): Flower Travellin' Band and the slow overturning of the classic rock lexicon

Is it just me, or has the classic rock color guard been going into over-drive with the Top 100 All-time 500 Greatest Guitar Songs Riffs Lists of Awesome Bob Dylan Awesomeness moves lately?  Don't get me wrong, I loved I'm Not There as much as the next guy who came of cultural age in the post-1984 classic-rock-is-everything rockist landscape,but I mean, come on.  I can't be the only one who senses a certain desperation at work here: The Man can roll out all the Scorcese-directed Stones/Dylan bullshit they want in order to mythify the 60's, but good luck getting people to continue buying the re-re-re-re-remastered catalog of these old vets, esp. in the internet age.  And *especially* when Web 2.0 means that blog after blog after blog rolls out, pulling the blindfold off the classic-rock-addled newb.

I mean, seriously: do you have any idea how much awesome shit came out in the 60's and 70's alone?  And on major labels?  And in, say, Japan?  Somehow while we were forced to watch the 40 bazillionth media genuflection towards The Beatles and Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin (all awesome, don't get me wrong), due was never given to a whole world of insanely incredible music that was, say, made on major labels during the 60's and 70's but has never made it onto classic rock's15-song-a-day playlist.  Or to put it another way: why is it that I've never heard Dark of Sir Lord Baltimore on ZLX, but I heard *this* 10 times a day?

Aaanyway, the point here is that if you go to google, type in a genre of music you are interested in, and follow it with "blog" and "download", or something like that, and surrender a few hours of your life, you will soon realize a) that there are more incredible albums made in decades past than you ever had any clue, and that b) you can very easily *shhh* listen to them for free, if you want to and you are open-minded enough.  For myself, that meant not only finding out a shitload about so-called "world music" (which prior to the web I only knew as "Peter Gabriel music"), but also continually mining for 60's and 70's prog/psych/proto-stoner records.

And what I found was that, in a perfect world, my childhood obsession with Led Zeppelin should have led me to unearthing Flower Travellin' Band's Satori, or Elias Hulk's Unchained, or Buffalo's Volcanic Rock.  I dunno: it seemed in the 80's and early 90's that, Velvet Undergound aside (for some reason they were the one "obscure" act that one was allowed to know about), a typical music geek was supposed to burrow downward into the Dylan discography instead of sideways to find more and more awesomeness.  And that inevitably led to side projects of famous classic rock bands (see: Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, that sort of shit), or bands that were composed of associates of famous classic rock artists (see: you know, Gram Parsons, that sort of thing).  Again, all well and good, except that it would have been nice to know that if I liked Black Sabbath, I might have liked Lucifer's Friend and Necromandus.

Well, luckily for the budding music dorks of tomorrow's today, none of this is true anymore.  So my misspent youth caring about the Traveling Wilburys won't be repeated by today's more intelligent children, who can so easily get into the real deal stuff.  Why wasn't there someone there when I was younger to tell me "Look, I know that 'The Loco-motion' gets old really quickly, but trust us when we tell you that 'Sin's A Good Man's Brother' from Closer To Home proves that Grand Fund Railroad were one of the most righteous rock bands of all time"?

Anyway, to put this in terms that fit with the Rolling Stone hegemony, here's what I would consider the Top Eleven Albums Of Righteous 70's Rock I Discovered Within The Last Couple Of Years On The Internet That Proved To Me That I Knew/Know Absolutely Nothing About Music:

1. Flower Travellin' Band: Satori (1971)

I've said about all I have to say about this album here, but seriously: maybe the greatest rock album of all time.

2. Buffalo: Volcanic Rock (1973)

In college I had a cd promo single by the Screaming Trees that contained a hidden track (typical 90's alterna-CD-move in retrospect) that a 12-minute long jam that sounded like it was probably called "Freedom".  What I didn't know until recently was that it was a cover by 70's Australian rock gods Buffalo.  What I further didn't know was that the album that it comes from rules hard front to back, and that instead of wasting my youth listening to, I dunno, whatever CSN album "Southern Cross" is on, you know, the one with the incongruous space aliens on the cover, I should have been rocking out hard to this.  Also, "I'm a Skirt Lifter, Not a Shirt Raiser" from their next album, 1974's Only Want You For Your Body, is as awesome a song as it is a song title.

3. X: Aspirations (1978)

The rest of the stuff on this list is somewhat, how shall I say this, "hippie music".  Not this record. And no, this isn't the band fronted by Exene Cervenka featuring Howdy Doody on guitar; this is a band from Australia, and they released this masterpiece whilst that other (arguably inferior) X was getting all the headlines in the Northern Hemisphere.  Two things that rule here: 1) the first ten seconds of the first song, "Suck Suck", wherein you have a rhythm section that makes the Jesus Lizard sound like slackers led by a guitarist who makes Andy Gill sound like a well-mannered session dude, and 2) penultimate tune "Waiting", a dirge time-bomb with a mid-tune scream that, IMHO, beats "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" for best rock scream ever. Seriously, where was this album all my life.  Proof that punk hegemony is just as crusty and lame as classic rock hegemony: how many times do we need to hear a rundown of how great the Ramones and Blondie were, while records like this and The Wipers' Youth Of America are left out of print and unloved?

4. Groundhogs: Thank Christ For The Bomb (1970)

One of the most truly anarchic rock albums I've ever heard: although rooted in some kind of blues/folk idiom, when this thing runs off the rails it makes "out" bands like Hawkwind sound tame by comparison.  The title track is one of the most frizzling anti-war anthems ever.

5. Left End: Spoiled Rotten (1974)

Mid-70's Cleveland yobs who awkwardly straddle a line between hard rock theatricality and what-would-become-punk ferocity.  If you like this you'd probably like Sir Lord Baltimore, and that sort of thing.  They are absolutely ridiculous but so nasty and awesome.  Album opener "Bad Talking Lady" is just retarded, in the best possible way.

6. Cargo: Cargo (1972)

This record is all instrumental, sort of prog-meets-jazz-y, and made by Dutch people.  Oof, sounds awesome, right?  But it is!  Seriously, this is an amazingly smoking album, just some incredible guitar workouts that never veer into cheese.  It's closer to Curtis Mayfield than it is to, say, Weather Report, if that makes any sense.

7. Elias Hulk: Unchained (1970)

So many of these bands/albums I find myself describing as "retarded", is that a musical turn-off?  I dunno, I don't find any of this stuff any more lunkheaded than "The Lemon Song", you know?  Right?  Anyway, this record is fucking retarded, in the best way.  Drum solos.  Riffs on top of riffs.  Ugly British dudes back then must have felt like they were on top of the world or something.  This sounds like if the dancer from Happy Mondays went back in time and cloned himself and formed a metal band in 1970, or something like that.

9. Dark: Around The Edges (1972)

Okay, I'm fudging a little here, since this one I didn't discover through a blog recently, but through a friend that found this on cd years ago.  It blew my mind then, because it was so incredibly great, and so weird, with such incredible guitar work, and I had never ever ever heard of it.  And all I could think was "There must be ten hundred zillion records out there like this, but they just aren't on cd or anything".  And I was right.  But seriously, "Maypole" on this is the fucking jam.  Who names their band "Dark"?  So fucking genius.

9. Luv Machine: Luv Machine (1971)

Imagine if a band today could play something even a zillionth as insane as "Witches Wand", from this album?  The rest of this record has its dated moments, but holy shit when this band hits it.  The guitar playing is so weird and rumbling and inept-yet-slaughtering.

10. The Nazgûl: The Nazgûl (1976)

In the days of my youth I thought that Robert Plant knew how to make an effective LOTR allusion; of course, it hadn't occured to me then that 15-minute doom/gloom/dread ambient epics by a band called The Nazgûl was about a zillion times scarier and more awesomer. Listen to this record on headphones in the dark, if you dare...

11. Elektriktus: Electronic Mind Waves (1976)

One spends so much of one's 20's looking for music as mind-frying as possible (well, "one" does if "one" is "me")-- if only "one" had been able to find this record earlier on.  Track 3, "Power Hallucination", is pretty much the pinnacle of music-as-nightmarish-entrances-to-hell.  No drugs necessary.  The mystery of this band is somewhat diminished when you find out it's just some Italian guy from the 70's, I had an image of ten or twenty dudes in cloaks recording this in a chapel whilt wearing wire-rim glasses and slowly stroking their fu manchu beards.  Oh wait that's Tangerine Dream except they are only three dudes.


I intended this piece as a post-script of my sidebar on this Boris article, where I listed some indispensible Japanese rock albums of the past 40 years or so.  I had to leave a lot of awesomeness off, of course--especially from the 70's, where there is a literally limitless batch of awesome records: the most painful cuts I had to make were definitely:

1. Flied Egg: Dr. Siegel's Fried Egg Shooting Machine (1972)

2. High Rise: Live (1994)

3.  JA Caesar: Kokkyou Jyunreika (1973)

4. Blues Creation: Demon & Eleven Children

Also, you should definitely check out Julian Cope's Japrocksampler site, where I cribbed so much science from.

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