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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - The Zodiac - Cosmic Sounds CD (album) cover

THE ZODIAC - COSMIC SOUNDS

Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)

 

Various Genres

3.95 | 33 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The 60s, of course, was a time of extreme experimentation. A time in music, when after decades of fairly streamlined music pumping out of studios worldwide, was suddenly let off its leash and became quite en vogue to create imaginative and even compellingly complex concept albums. Inventive developments such as progressive rock were led by the likes of The Mothers Of Invention, Procol Harum, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and The Beatle's famous "Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Heart Club" album which catapulted experimental rock into the mainstream, however even within these rich and fertile times, a few albums emerged that remained enigmatic and utterly unique even within the creative outbursts that began around 1967 and has been churning on ever since.

Of these musical anomalies that emerged was the collaborative effort called THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS which was a collectively constructed concept album about the, you guessed it, 12 astrological signs that represent the ecliptic paths of the planets, sun and moon. It was a clear sign that record companies were becoming more adventurous in their marketing strategies as this musical eccentricity was released on the Elektra label which formerly was known primarily as a catalog for folk recordings and folk rock hybrids such as Love, Judy Colins, Tom Rush and Tim Buckley amongst many others. However, Elektra owner Jac Holzman struck it big by taking a chance on a fledgling new band called The Doors which showed him that risk could indeed be a very profitable endeavor.

THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS was unlike anything else of the time period. This was not an album initiated by any particular artist but rather commissioned by Elektra owner Jac Holzman himself who clearly had his fingers on the pulse of the burgeoning flower power hippie movement that gained significant popularity in the Summer of Love and whether you call it psychsploitation or just brilliant marketing, it's pretty much agreed upon that this one fell outside the parameters of pretty much everything else that came out of the era. At first glance, the album art connoted more of a hippie jam sort of album with its gaudy paisley cover art and the back sleeve that advertised in capital purple letters that this album "MUST BE PLAYED IN THE DARK." Add to that the colorful font and overall cosmic vibe, THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS really couldn't have come out in any other time than when it did.

Predictably the album is divided into 12 tracks that cover each astrological sign at the beginning stages of the psychedelic rock years where such occult subject matter was becoming quite mainstream in the tune out / drop out counterculture. Musically this was quite unlike anything of the era as well. A queer mix of psychedelic rock and Moog rich keyboard electronica were tenderly teased out into symphonic semi-classical constructs that only The Moody Blues would also engage in on their landmark "Days Of Future Passed" which emerged a mere month later (some claim this album influenced some of the material on that one.) This was truly a collaborative effort with disparate talents finding themselves working together for the first time.

The album was produced by Alex Hassilev who worked with Mort Garson and Jacque Wilson who constructed the 12 tracks. Garson would create all the music while Wilson would create the poetic lyrics that were not sung but rather narrated by Modern Folk Quartet vocalist Cyrus Faryar. While Garson would be the sole writer of the musical aspects, the instruments were performed by some of the 60s top session musicians who were quite prolific on the Los Angeles scene. This included bassist Carol Kaye, drummer Hal Blaine, bass flautist Bud Shank, keyboardist Mike Melvoin, electronic wizard and Moog player Paul Beaver alongside Emil Richards handling the exotic percussion and Cyrus Faryar's often flowery poetic prose. The album floats by on gentle mode with slow tempos and instrumentation that weaves their magic into a greater sum of the parts.

While THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS may be completely unlike anything of its era, in a way it's the absolutely perfect representation of where the Western culture especially in the US was at in 1967. Don't bother using Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix or The Mamas and the Papas as your reference to the counterculture hippie movement that emerged at the time. This uncanny collaboration captures the zeitgeist of the peace and love era more than any other album i've heard as it marries the musical ingenuity of what came before and contorts the traditional into a contemporary relevancy that captures society's interest in all things cosmic in a rather naive yet charming manner. While some albums that emerged at the time resonate as timeless classics that don't carry the baggage of their time period, THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS is the exact opposite and could not be mistaken for having been released in any other era except the late 60s which it represents perfectly.

While some may find this cheesy and tacky, i find that the naive charm of the goofy lyrics along with the innovative symphonically driven psychedelic rock and electronica takes me like a time portal to the very year it was released. So period dependent is this one that i can easily imagination this as a secondary soundtrack to all those wild days in an Austin Powers movie. The music is as Austin would say, "Groovy, baby!" Yeah, the whole thing sounds a little farfetched and full of itself but that's kinda what the era was all about now, wasn't it? While the album didn't exactly match the success of Elektra's superstars The Doors in terms of sales, it did generate enough interest that would allow Garson and Wilson to expand the idea so that a series of 12 albums would be dedicated to each astrological sign. While that might be overkill for all those except the most hardcore lovers of everything 60s, this one compilation that introduces the idea is refreshingly unique and charmingly delivered.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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