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PLAYS

Pussy

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I kind of wondered when this was going to pop up.

It's one of those "Rare and collectable" albums, which , usually means that the music itself does not stand up to the hype surrounding it, e.g. Catapilla, Leafhound and Kaleidoscope.

Sure, these bands produced good albums, but none good enough to justify the astronomical price tag of an original. In fact, I would suggest that there are a mere handful of these "Lost Classics" that really deserve the title, e.g. Arzachel, White Noise and Angel Pavement.

And so it is that Pussy's one and only release on Morgan BlueTown records, which tends to exchange hands for £500 among collectors, is a good album on average - great in places, but not really mind-blowing enough for the average Progger.

There is, as with many of the "Lost Gems", an air of mystery around this LP, as no-one knows who the band personnel were, apart from the credits given to the songwriters on the labels, the stand-out name being one Danny Beckerman.

My research shows that the project was formerly known as Fortes Mentum, who released some nice psychedelic singles - but I'm unaware of any album by this incarnation. Beckerman's name appears as songwriter for several Morgan BlueTown releases - one assumes that the band were mainly session musicians, as they are not named on the album sleeve - but biographical data seems next to impossible to find. More music penned by Beckerman can be found on the Morgan BlueTown compilations.

Fortunately, Arkama have released an authentic package with which to sample the music contained herein - and for £10, it's worth it - for fans of late 1960s Psychedelia and Proto- Prog, that is.

On to the music:

The album grabs the listener's attention with a synthesised cat sound. From this opening, it's pretty clear that this is not an album to be taken particularly seriously - indeed, much late British psychedelia carries a tongue-in-cheek humour with it that really should have been there in some of the earlier releases.

From here it's into the single that I believe was only released in Italy; "Come Back June", a delightful Small faces meets Traffic with a dash of Shocking Blue - an infectious dancy psych/pop number with sumptuous washes of Hammond and slick arrangments with an almost archetypal late sixties sound.

The flip side follows; "All of my Life", which has a quite wonderful little Prog-flavoured introduction, opening into a Traffic-like section before moving to something that more resembles the 13th Floor Elevators. An unusual construction, with a nice guitar/keyboard solo section that still comes closer to Shocking Blue than King Crimson - but is none the less enjoyable. The band obviously had a little fun with studio effects in the outro.

"We Built The Sun" sits more in Kaleidoscope territory, with maybe a sprinkling of early Pink Floyd. There are some really nice arrangement touches, such as the female backing vocals, piano and (presumably) Mellotron lines, but some of the picked guitar lines are decidedly iffy, and the vocals occasionally drift flatwards.

"Comets" is the stand out-track from side 1, being more in Twink/Deviants territory, with slowed-down taped vocals and flying Theremins to kick us off, tempo changes, and a well- constructed psychedelic jam that is much more firmly in Prog Rock territory. It does get a little old, as the timbres don't change, and the jam riff hardly ever lets up - but I'd suspect that in the right "frame of mind", this'd be a bit of a freak-out, man.

"Tragedy in F Minor" is a simple little piece really, but definitely Proto-Prog with wonderful textures created by fairly dense yet ephemeral layers with drifts of Mellotron, Spanish style guitar and Satie-inspired piano melodies that are minimal, but carry a similar melancholy to the composers' works, and as such are very successful. The same Rondo- type structures are used instinctively throughout, with some lovely restrained improvisation putting the icing on the well made cake.

"The Open Ground" is another fairly derivative track - but well crafted enough and with a rather disturbing original flavour. The same inspirations come back - Kaleidoscope, Traffic, possibly Spooky Tooth, Twink - but some might find the poetry disturbing and dark, others who have heard some of the more obscene Death Metal bands might even revel in the use of words like "festering" and "pus-ridden". Still others might find it unecessary schlock - but it's creative psychedelia of the Bad trip variety and intriguing for that, with hints of Michael Morcock.

"Everybody's Song" features what I consider to be a misplaced bass line - a little hook that is overplayed to my taste - and flat to boot - and the whole song comes across as disctinctly amateurish because of it. "This is the turkey track", although there is still stuff to like and a progressive feel to it. I would suggest that this is not a song for everybody despite the title.

"G.E.A.B" rounds off the album with more flat bass. I guess that electronic guitar tuners were yet to be invented... Washes of a somewhat tired sounding Hendrix style riff (half of the riff from "Foxy Lady") topped off with sumptuous but mechanical Hammond make for a real dirge that wakes up a little and trundles around a few solos, but makes for a disappointing ending to an album that had some potential.

It's not quite the very end - but I'll leave that surprise unspoiled!

It's quite easy to see why this languished in the bargain bins back in 1969 - there were so many better albums around, yet "Plays" has its high points, as I've covered above, and is an interesting document of the transition from psychedelia and heavy blues to Progressive Rock.

All in all, an album for the Collectors of Proto-Prog and psychedelic/hard rock of the late 1960s/early 1970s generally. Not for the average Prog fan though, I would suggest, and certainly not for those with more "eclectic" tastes.

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Send comments to Certif1ed (BETA) | Report this review (#77443)
Posted Monday, May 08, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Indeed a very hard to find album in its original form. Anything on the Morgan BLuetown Label tended to sell in tiny quantities. Fortunately this one has been re-issued several time on vinyl and CD, so an online search for it would be no problem at all!

More of a bona-fide psych album in my view than prog. Sounds more like it could have been recorded a year or 2 before '69. Regardless of the year, I've always found the music on this one very enteraining. Although the musicianship isn't what you call virtuoso, there are some very cosmic and atmospheric passages throughout. A particaular highlight in The Open Ground. Featuring spoken word verses, lots of wha wha guitar and swirling organs, ingredients for a psych classic! The opening track reminds me a little of very early DEEP PURPLE. Nice also hear a touch of mellotron here and there. An instrument that was not used enough during this period.

If your a fan of psych, this is a must for your collection!

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Send comments to kingdhansak (BETA) | Report this review (#104142)
Posted Friday, December 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars Previously known as Fortes Mentum, this album was fetching monumental price because of its scarcity. Objectively no album is worth the fortunes they were fetching before small labels reissued them in CD format: here the Background label, also responsible for the superb Sindelfingen and first Raw Material reissue. But Pussy's sole album is one of those small gems hovering on the border of Psychedelia and Progressivia, frontier between two musical realms that was anything but hermetic.

Still entrenched in the 60's, the five-piece group (no complete line-up is known) develops an intermediate sound with fuzzed-out guitars and organs (All Of My Life) along with some spacey Theremin-like synth layers (on the superb and aptly-titled Comets which starts with a cow meowing ;-), some RnB traces (the opener), great piano and violin interplay (on the slow-starting We Built The Sun) and echoed piano (the great emotive Tragedy In F Minor) and more.

From the original Meow of Come Back June to the closing Meow of the very good G.E.A.B, the album is a great trip on the afore-mentioned border on the great psych, while remaining very accessible, even a bit commercial (even if it failed to sell), but retaining a certain 60's naÔve spirit. Reference-wise, Vanilla Fudge, early Moody Blues/Rare Bird, Touch sometimes coming to mind.

Good album, very enjoyable, but hardly essential, but I guarantee you that when I make a Pussy meow, she will say that it is not only essential but the Essence of Life Itself. To each his own meows.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#115040)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Dude, is there anything left in that bong? Here the most likely answer is 'maybe' and if you can make it through the billows of smoke, past the liquid slide projector and the dancing, beaded, bleary-eyed hippie chicks, I suppose this is a reasonable psych album with the earliest glimmers of primordial prog rock. But other than a few drawn-out passages and the occasional rhythm alteration or odd instrument, Pussy's Plays is blushingly typical late 60s psych. Not that there's anything wrong with that - being the cradle of some very important things and having a guilty pleasure all its own - but you know the drill; The Byrds, early Floyd, Yardbirds, Mamas&the Papas, Doors, The Nice, Traffic. You name it, they're all here. Just not as good. But hey, someone had to open those gigs. To keep the crowd entertained before the acid kicked-in and the headliner's coke dealer had arrived.

That said, this little record is considered a bona fide classic among psychrock enthusiasts, so far be it from me to question its validity. The earthy vamp of an ancient bass opens dance party number 'Come Back June' carried on with Peter Whiteman's strong Hammond on background, followed by scornful and heavy 'All of My Life' and absolutely dreary 'We Built the Sun'. 'Comets' rocks the house and sports a sloppily-played Theremin, 'Tragedy in F Minor' speaks for itself with a distant bar piano and dusty acoustic guitar (all penned by arranger Danny Beckerman). 'The Open Ground', the only track written exclusively by the band, is no more distinguished than the other material, and things end with plodder instrumental 'G.E.A.B.'

I can't in good conscience give this one more than two stars but I know it holds a special place somewhere. I'm just not sure where that is, or if I want to go there too often.

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Send comments to Atavachron (BETA) | Report this review (#292779)
Posted Friday, July 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Despite the scandalous (for 1969) title, this is a fairly pedestrian pop-psych album by a band whose reputation has persisted far longer than they have. The original Morgan Blue Town vinyl release is considered quite a rarity in collector circles and brings high three- figure prices, although thanks to a mid-90s HBG reissue on CD along with several subsequent releases the music itself is pretty easy to find today.

The band members themselves have been considered a mystery for years despite the names of several of them being identified in the songwriting credits, including Barry Clerk (guitars), Ron Regan (bass) and the late Danny Beckerman (piano). The band photo on the cover reveals the rest are most likely Keith Giles (drums) and Rod Creasy on organ. The record is an offshoot of the b-list band Fortes Mentum, who apparently issued a handful of singles back in the day before going their separate ways.

The music itself is prototypical psych of the latter sixties with bleating organ, a persistent bass line, somewhat fuzzed guitar and spaced-out, abstract lyrics. For the most part I'd place this closer to much of the heavier pop music of the day than progressive or even very serious psych, although there are some notable moments. The opening "Come Back June" for example includes a tasty organ break that is punctuated by Berckerman's quite competent piano tinklings, and the laid-back "Tragedy in F Minor" features a lengthy treatment of muted saxophone that offsets the (electric?) piano quite nicely.

Elsewhere there are Sgt. Peppers-influenced moments including the trippy "We Built the Sun" and "G.E.A.B.", along with heavier stuff like the fuzz-drenched "Comets" and "The Open Ground" (which includes spoken-word passages made popular by the Moody Blues around the same period).

The band dips ever-so-briefly into prog territory with a tempo-shifting psych dirge on "Everybody's Song", but otherwise this is mostly 'traditional' post-beat psych delivered by fairly savvy journeymen musicians.

And while I have to admit to shotgunning a bit of reefer into my cat's nostrils back in the seventies, I would have never considered getting a feline as hopped up on acid and/or shrooms as the one drawn on the cover appears to be. While the album title would have raised eyebrows back in the sixties, today the animal abuse suggested in the sketch would certainly draw the ire of Sarah McLaughlin at least. That's one messed-up kitty!

In all this its a decent period piece, but given that the music has been made widely available in recent years it no longer has the ability to hold the sort of mystique that surrounded it back in the days when discontinued albums has to be found in their native form to be enjoyed. Worth three stars out of five for sure and still recommended even if it isn't a lost masterpiece, for the fine quality of play and decent engineering if nothing else.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#359541)
Posted Tuesday, December 21, 2010 | Review Permalink

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