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Second Hand - Death May Be Your Santa Claus   CD (album) cover

DEATH MAY BE YOUR SANTA CLAUS

Second Hand

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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4 stars On the WTF?/Whacked-out scale this album doesn't just rate a 10+++......its off the charts. One of the most insane, out-there, and seriously disturbed/disturbing records you'll ever hear in the 'mainstream' of progressive rock, although this is really more of a late psychedelic album. Undoubtedly made under the influence of a LOT of drugs, and probably best heard in that state. If not, it will make you feel that way! Definitely an altered-state inducing recording. From the time it was released in the early 70s I found this record very inaccessible. I loved the title track with its great catchy organ riff and crazy Arthur Brown-like vocal. I really WANTED this record to be good and live up to its even-then legendary status. But beyond the title track I found I couldn't just drop the tone arm down onto any other song and get the same immediate impact, although 'Lucifer and the Egg' comes close.

What nobody seemed to know then, and even now, which makes it easier to sit through the entire record from front to back, is that this is actually a SOUNDTRACK for an equally obscure and bizarre film of the same name. This explains the unusual structure ( lack of) pervading the entire album, and the surreal dreamlike/nightmare qualities throughout. Yes, many of the hallmarks of traditional 'prog' are here: organ (the chief melodic instrument), odd time signatures, classical sounding passages/quotes. But the vocals are about as 'unprogressive' as you can get and are actually 'punk' in most cases (save for the Beautiful 'Hangin' on an Eyelid'), with heavy doses of near-psychotic levels of emotion; a kind of prog/punk 'expressionism' if you want a label. Singers like Maynard Keenan from TOOL and Mike Patton from Faith No More/Mr Bungle would probably worship this record if they knew about it. Its only now, thirty five years after it first came out, that I'm really getting into this completely one of a kind album that stands totally. Think of Pink Floyd in hell and maybe you get an idea. Or the track actually entitled 'Hell' from the first Gracious album...except that on this album there is a lot of humor and fun in the overall vibe too.

You get the feeling these guys were stoned out of their minds and in a Zap comix kind of space when they recorded this insane masterpiece, which, typical for the period and the 'stoner' mentality, has plenty of carnival funhouse kind of moments and left-to- right panning of the channels. Wow man, heavy!!! Where's Julian Cope? Not surprisingly, this band changed their name to 'Chillum' (a dope paraphernalia-related moniker...of course!) and did another stoner sounding record before totally going off the rails and becoming the outlandish Seventh Wave. Savor this bizarre album lying on your back with the black/strobe light handy. Be forewarned: this is certainly not an ACID friendly or chick-friendly record. And remember: Death May be YOUR Santa Claus!

Report this review (#157224)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The second album from Second Hand is from 1971 and is called Death May Be Your Santa Claus, itīs a very tripped out and strange album but I think it is excellent. Itīs not very often you come across a band like this Iīll promise you that.

The music is dominated by Ken Elliottīs organ and mellotron playing, especially his organ is omnipresent. It has a very cool sound and with his occasional use of the mellotron this makes for an exciting listen. Lead singer Rob Elliot is also a real asset to Second Hand. He is a very diverse singer and a real entertainer. His vocal style ranges from manic distorted singing to mouse like singing in the vein of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. On Baby R U Anudda Monster he even does a really good Captain Beefheart impersonation. In many ways Death May Be Your Santa Claus reminds me of Arthur Brownīs Kingdom Comeīs album Galactic Zoo Dossier which is also from 1971. Death May Be Your Santa Claus is a lot better though. There are slight Gentle Giant influences in the instrumental interplay too.

Second Hand could have been in the RIO/ Avant genre with all these strange influences. All is not well though. The first 6 songs are superb examples of Second Handīs sound and style, but suddenly from song number 7 Cyclops through to song number 9 we are treated with some organ instrumental songs which I personally think is a waste of time. But with the last three songs Second Hand get back on track and treats us with some good songs, even though the last 3 songs never reaches the hights of the first 6.

The production is very good. I really enjoy the sound quality here.

My final evaluation will be 4 stars even though it is only about half of the album that is good. But the first 6 songs are masterpiece class in my ears and deserves more than a 3 star rating. I find this album highly recommendable even though there are flaws.

Report this review (#162262)
Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Second Hand were a rather obscure psych-prog band form London who released this strange little album in the early 70's. I will admit right up front that I don't know a ton about this strange band but I do know that I really like this album. This album was recommended to me by a faithful reader of this website and I am very pleased that I picked it up. Musically this band would be a mix of Atomic Rooster, Arthur Brown and Brian Auger with the zaniness of Zappa tossed in for good measure. This album is loaded with lots of great keyboard work (organ, mellotron, piano) as well as bass and drum interplay. I would not recommend this album for the novice prog/psych head but for those who are looking for something completely different then you may want to track this rare gem down.
Report this review (#223868)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Dobermensch
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is something of mental recording. One of the queerest rock albums I've ever heard and unless I'm much mistaken, 'Hanging on an Eyelid' is used in the excellent Donald pleasance horror film 'Death Line' Who are these people?... Are they completely mashed?...Which bands are they related to? I'm left with nothing but questions. There's bits of Beefheart, Out of Focus, Arthur Brown and early 70's Krautrock present - but it's got that indefinable British quirkiness about it that only they can do. It's colourful, cheery and downright weird in parts. It's also very difficult to describe. Such a pity they only recorded one dreadful album under the name of 'Chillum' after this.
Report this review (#295595)
Posted Saturday, August 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I read somewhere that SECOND HAND named their album "Death May Be Your Santa Claus" after hearing about the underground film with the same name which was made by none other than Frankie Dymon Jr who is on this site for his music. Man this is one strange album that touches on Avant-Garde, Symphonic and Psychedelic music. There is a strong Proto-Prog vibe here(tons of organ) and the singer Rob Elliott was a big fan of Arthur Brown's vocals which certainly is obvious at times. While listening to this I thought of bands like Captain Beefheart, GENTLE GIANT and Frank Zappa. Besides the usual instruments we get mellotron on four tracks along with violin and vibes. It's so cool that Lol Coxhill guests here playing some disturbing sax(haha). This is an original, one of a kind listening experience, I'll say that. It took many spins to absorb and appreciate what was going on here but it was well worth the time.

"Death May Be Your Santa Claus" has a drum/ organ intro as these bizarre vocals that are quite wild come in. I'm thinking Krautrock for some reason. Love when the mellotron and those Arthur Brown-like vocals take over as these two themes will be contrasted throughout. "Hangin' On An Eyelid" might be my favourite track. This is brighter at first with vibes, bass and drums standing out then it picks up and the vocals join in. So good! The mellotron really impresses me here as it comes and goes. Piano and drums standout before 4 minutes as the vibes return as well.

"Lucifer And The Egg" is an uptempo organ driven tune with bass and a steady beat as the vocals come and go. I really like the instrumental section from 2 1/2 minutes to 5 minutes with all that atmosphere as the organ, drums and bass lead as they seem to jam. It turns experimental after 5 minutes, very psychedelic and strange as spoken words join in. Pulsating organ and vocals later on. "Somethin' You Got" really reminds me of GENTLE GIANT both vocally and instrumentally. Another favourite. Some fuzz in this one as well beginning before 2 minutes. Crazy vocals and vocal expressions follow.

There are two bonus tracks and I don't usually comment on bonus material unless I'm impressed but they've put these two tracks in back to back right in the middle of this recording which I haven't seen very often. First is "Dip It Out Of The Bog Fred" which is really out there with nature sounds and a multitude of weird samples that come and go. Adventerous for sure. Dissonant sax late. The other bonus song is "Baby R U Anudder Monster" with those silly Zappa- like vocals. They are replaced though by vocals sounding much like Captain Beefheart. A zany tune in many ways.

"Cyclops" is a fantastic tune and it's my co-favourite along with the second track. This is darker with organ at first before this thick and dark atmosphere invades the soundscape. Organ returns along with marching styled drums. Man it sounds incredible after 2 1/2 minutes, like experimental Krautrock really. Some faint violin before 4 1/2 minutes then the organ proceeds to dominate as the drums shuffle with bass helping out as well. "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" is a short haunting piece with a variety of sounds coming and going.

"Revelations Ch.16 Vs 9-12" features some cool sounding mellotron flute along with an experimental soundscape. It is quite majestic at times even though the subject matter from these versus is very bleak. "Take To The Skies" is another cool soundscape with an urgent rhythm with plenty of organ. "Death May Be Your Santa Claus(Reprise)" is longer and different sounding from the first track it's named after. Dramatic spoken words with a freaked out soundscape as mellotron also helps out. It kicks in before a minute to an uptempo groove. Mellotron flute later. "Funeral" ends it all and it's really orchestral sounding to start but it settles when the vocals join in. It picks up and it's quite catchy here as those orchestral sounds return.

Well if you want innovative and adventerous look no further than this album. It has to be heard to be believed. Not for the faint of heart. Great album!

Report this review (#1632458)
Posted Saturday, October 15, 2016 | Review Permalink

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