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10 Jun 2017

Roky Erickson And The Aliens ‎"Roky Erickson And The Aliens" 1980 reissued as the 15-track “The Evil One” US Psych Rock













Roky Erickson And The Aliens ‎"Roky Erickson And The Aliens" 1980 reissued as the 15-track “The Evil One” US Psych Hard Rock
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Roky Erickson was very much a changed man when he re-emerged on the music scene in the late '70s after a deeply troubling stay in a mental institution following an arrest for drugs in 1969. The graceful but energetic proto-psychedelia of Erickson's music with the 13th Floor Elevators was replaced by a hot-wired straight-ahead rock sound which suggested an updated version of the teenaged garage pounders Roky recorded with his early group the Spades, and the charming psychobabble of Tommy Hall's lyrics with the Elevators gave way to twisted narratives documenting Roky's obsessive enthusiasm for cheezoid horror movies of the 1950s. It wasn't until 1980 that Erickson released his first solo album, and that disc has had a rather eventful history. Stu Cook (ex-Creedence Clearwater Revival) produced the sessions over a period of two years, and the album appeared in Europe as Roky Erickson & the Aliens (released by CBS in England, making it Roky's only major-label release to date), while in America it came out as The Evil One on the San Francisco indie 415 Records. The British and American releases featured different track lineups, and each version featured songs which didn't show up on the other; to complicate matters all the more, early versions of three of the songs were released on a small-label EP in France. His band, the Aliens, are in sharp, precise form; Erickson's vocals confirm he's a blues-rock belter of the first order (even when he's raving about creatures with atom brains, two-headed dogs, or the Evil One himself), and if the songs are a bit odd lyrically (which you would expect from the titles), the tunes are clever and punchy and rock on out. While the serene and evocative folk-rock of All That May Do My Rhyme represents Roky Erickson's strongest solo work, The Evil One shows just how strong a rocker he could be -- and how good a band he could put together. Great stuff, and certainly the best representation of Roky's "latter-day punk" period........by Mark Deming ..........

Celebrating a creative purple patch by a singular performer, Light In The Attic is to reissue the three albums issued by Roky Erickson in the 1980s: The Evil One (LITA 097), Don’t Slander Me (LITA 098) and Gremlins Have Pictures (LITA 099). Together, they’re a chance to pick up a missing jigsaw piece in the history of American rock ‘n’ roll in deluxe packages.

As the core member of the 13th Floor Elevators and an undisputed pioneer of psychedelic rock, the ’60s were thrilling times for Erickson. His band riding high in their native Texas and beyond, the howling single ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ was his calling card, but Erickson’s ‘60s ended in the stuff of nightmares. Under sharp scrutiny by the authorities due to the band’s well-expounded fondness for psychedelic drugs, Erickson was found with a single joint on his person. Pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to avoid prison, he was sent to the Rusk State Hospital for the criminally insane, where he was ‘treated’ with electroconvulsive therapy and Thorazine treatment. Erickson pulled through his three and a half years at Rusk, and even put together a band while incarcerated. The Missing Links contained Roky plus two murderers and a rapist.

Released from the institution in 1974, Roky found his legend had grown while he’d been away – not least because ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ was included on 1972’s Nuggets compilation. He formed a band, the Aliens, and set about honing a hard rock sound that placed the psychedelic garage blues of the Elevators firmly in the last decade. Though it was produced at a time when Roky was struggling to cope with drugs and life on the outside, he hit form on his first post Elevators album-proper, 1981’s The Evil One. Produced over a period of two years by Stu Cook, from Creedence Clearwater Revival, it’s a masterful collection of songs about zombies, demons, vampires and, yes, even the ‘Creature With The Atom Brain’. These tracks, inspired by schlock sci-fi and horror movies and colored by Roky’s distinctive, high-pitched vocal and squealing guitar, are among the maverick performer’s best.

At the time, Roky explained the album this way: “It’s gonna go back to the ferocious kind of rock ‘n’ roll of the Kinks, the Who and the Yardbirds. It’s the kind of music that makes you wish you were playing it or listening to it for the first time ‘way back when.’” But the record would not reach the mass audience of those bands, its success hampered by erratic release schedules and disastrously awkward press interviews. A year after its release, Erickson would become convinced that a Martian had inhabited his body. He would soon become obsessed with mail, and take to taping it, unopened, to his bedroom walls. Many of Erickson’s demons were yet to show their faces. But the B-movie demons he exorcised on this record gave us one of hard rock’s strangest, most inventive albums................

Erickson, the bleating voice of psychedelic pilgrims the 13th Floor Elevators, was only a few years past a ruinous stay in a Texas mental hospital when he made this improbably magical 1980 LP, first issued in the U.K. (as Five Symbols) and produced by Creedence Clearwater Revival's Stu Cook. The songs are rife with specters that stayed with Erickson – paranoia, ghouls, bloody retribution – and his third-eye way with syntax and pre-acid roots: the delirious-Buddy Holly bop "Mine Mine Mind"; Erickson's boogie with the devil, "Don't Shake Me Lucifer." His band, the Aliens, had the Elevators' surging glow, too – a most welcome spirit.......Rolling Stone review.........

It’s been quite the trip – lately – with all these Roky Erickson reissues, first Don’t Slander Me and then Gremlins Have Pictures and now The Evil One. (Actually, they all arrived at once, I’m speaking about how I received them). The Evil One was first released in 1980 in the UK as a 10-track album called Five Symbols. It was re-released a year later under the name The Evil One with five songs replaced. This version gathers all 15 songs from the sessions between 1977-79 as overseen by Stu Cook (yes, he of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame).

The three albums together – these three recent reissues – are all telling versions of the same story; of a creative patch in Roky’s life following his release from the Rusk State Hospital for the criminally insane in 1974. In the early 1970s the inclusion of You’re Gonna Miss Me on the Nuggets compilation had proved prophetic; had seen Roky’s legend grow.

Roky’s obsession with demons, ghosts, vampires, aliens and other creations of myth and fiction saw an album of songs devoted to Halloween and horror themes; an album inspired by sci-fi and horror movies.

As with the other albums from this reissue series there’s a clear hint of influence on Frank Black – here it’s even in the songwriting material as well as the delivery.

Of the three albums to be reissued this is the one that actually – perhaps ironically given its false-start/re-write on original release – plays out the most like a complete album, a collection of themed songs grouped together with reason. I Think of Demons is a highlight and sounds – almost suspiciously – like the material Lindsey Buckingham was creating at the time, as both solo act and with Fleetwood Mac.

Creature With The Atom Brain and Don’t Shake Me Lucifer are further highlights. So often here Erickson is simply rewriting the rock’n’roll of his youth with his own horror-movie dreamscape lyrics.

It’s been a strange trip working through these albums. And a total blast. They’re worth hearing – they’re worth having.................

There are many Roky Erickson albums, but "The Evil One", originally released by CBS Records in Europe in 1980, was the first of them, and many would say, the best. This re-issue also includes the five additional songs contained on the 1981 US release of "The Evil One" on San Francisco's 415 Records, and thus contains all of the Roky Erickson material from these great recording sessions produced by Stu Cook for Orb Productions from 1978 to 1980. For the first time included on this reissue are additional bonus tracks, including earlier versions of "Mine Mine Mind", "Two Headed Dog" and "Click Your Fingers Applauding The Play", previously released by France's Sponge Records in 1976..............

Roky Erickson, for those uninitiated, is an Austin TX music legend that first gained musical prominence in 1966 when his band The 13th Floor Elevators had a top 40 hit with their single “You’re Gonna Miss Me”. The Elevators were one of the first true psychedelic rock bands. They were involved with LSD and drugs from the onset, something that had them in and out of trouble with the law in their home state of Texas throughout their career. When singer Erickson was caught with a marijuana joint by some Texas police officers, he pleaded insanity instead of guilt and spent more than three years in a Texas mental institution, where he was forced to undergo electroshock “therapy” to try and cure him. The results have impacted his life ever since, with Erickson having lived a somewhat tortured existence, while also creating some absolutely incredible music.

The Evil One, as reissued recently by Light In The Attic Records, is the first full-length album that Roky would record after his release from the mental institution. It was the culmination of nearly five years of writing and performing in both Austin and in Northern California, originally under the wings of Texas troubadour Doug Sahm, but later one in sessions produced by former Creedence Clearwater Revival member Stu Cook. The story of how this all came to be is a fascinating one – as well as being far too long to tell here in a record review – but through Sahm bringing Erickson to open for him in California Erickson managed to find a manager and get to rehearse and later record this album at Cosmo’s Factory, which was once CCR’s own practice and studio facility.

As an album The Evil One is quite a remarkable debut. The band that Erickson fronts on the album features an electric autoharp as well as dual guitars, so the sound is a pretty noisey one that is harder hitting than his previous recordings with the Elevators. Thankfully, the electroshock treatments didn’t affect Erickson’s amazing singing voice, which is somewhere between Little Richard’s howl and a Texas twang. He’s in good form throughout the record, although as the extensive liner notes essay explains, most of the vocals had to be painstakingly pieced together on the fly by Cook, as Erickson was often quite erratic and off the wall when in the studio to record.

Some of Erickson’s greatest solo songs are found on this album, including the opening “Two-Headed Dog”, “I Walked WIth a Vampire”, “Creature With The Atom Brain” and “Bloody Hammer”. A lot of the lyrics deal with horror movies and comics, an obsession that Erickson has had for years. The backing band, dubbed the Aliens, do a great job backing Roky on the fifteen songs up for offer here. This is a strong collection of songs that works well despite the fact it is really two albums made into one.

The first time this album was released it came out in the UK under the title Five Symbols back in 1980. That album is contained in its entirety on the first record. One year later, half of that album was released in the USA alongside five more songs from the same sessions as The Evil One. Light In the Attic have combined the two versions for a three sided double LP, with the fourth side having an etched drawing of, naturally, a two-headed dog. It is presented in a heavy duty gatefold cover which opens up to show a beautiful black and white press photo of the band from around the same time these sessions took place. The album also contains a very nice LP sized booklet that contains a twenty-page essay by Joe Nick Patoski chronicling the years before and up to the recording of this album and many previously unseen photos.

The layout of both the booklet and the front cover obi-strip that surrounds the spine were handled by award winning designer Henry Owings, who also runs the Chunklet Magazine empire. Everything about this record was done the way you want a reissue to look. It looks right, it sounds great and it is about as informative as it could be. This is an excellent reissue, one of three Roky Erickson albums to be unveiled by Light In The Attic, and is highly recommended. It’s also Erickson’s personal favourite of his recorded career, so if you are curious it is arguably the best place to introduce yourself to an enigmatic, somewhat damaged visionary that hasn’t let up for nearly fifty years..........

To this date, I haven’t really acquaintanced with the 13th Floor Elevators’ work, apart from the Nuggets-made-famous “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, so I can’t really compare Roky Erickson’s style with his new ‘band’ with that one. Based on the description of his previous works, however, this could not be a hell of a stylistic change, there are still traces of garage rock sounds, coupled with typical seventies hard rock/roots rock style.

Despite being released in 1980, a quick listen to the album’s sound shows that this record still belongs to the seventies: just a typical garage band with guitar-bass-drums and minimal amount of electronic keyboards. To go with the new sound, apparently Roky made himself a formula: typical mid-tempo/fast hard rock with loud riffs, powerful screaming and a couple special effects thrown in for a good measure. The melodies are not really memorable; even if there’s an attempt to catch the listeners in, be it by a couple vocal hooks, sometimes going for different grooves, different tempos, etc., yet I have a hard time telling the songs from one to another. Okay, so “Two Headed Dog” may be one of the most memorable here, underpinned by a riff similar to the one found at the Kinks’ “Set Me Free”. There’s also an unexpected shifts in moods, to the cheerier one, like the CCR-esque “I Walked With a Zombie” (I wonder if the sound has got anything to do with Stu Cook producing?), or the more upbeat “Mine Mine Mind”.

The rest of the album, however, are rather difficult to go in one sitting, at least for me. There’s nothing really offensive to be found–yet it sounds way too formulaic to catch my attention throughout. I guess repeated listening will do the trick, as I haven’t subjected this to more than one proper listen; in the end, this could be recommended to any Elevators’ fan looking for more products, or any typical seventies garage/hard rock fans. Don’t expect a mind-blowing masterpiece, though.....by....Irfan Hidayatullah.................

Stu Cook (bass on number 6 and 14)
Roky Erickson (vocal, guitar)
Duane Aslaksen (guitars)
Bill Miller (electric autoharp)
Andre Lewis (electric keyboard)
Steven Morgan Burgess (bass)
Fuzzy Furioso (drums)
Scott Matthews (drums on number 15)
Link Davis jr. (Organ on number 11)
Jeff Sutton (drums on number 6 and 14)

Tracklist
Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)
I Think Of Demons
I Walked With A Zombie
Don't Shake Me Lucifer
Night Of The Vampire
White Faces
Cold Night For Alligators
Creature With The Atom Brain
Mine Mine Mind
Stand For The Fire Demon

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