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Fifty Foot Hose - Cauldron CD (album) cover


Fifty Foot Hose

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
3 stars Released in 1967 'Cauldron' belongs to the very early output of this genre and is characterized by the experimental approach of mastermind Louis 'Cork' Marcheschi. He developed instruments on his own with different components and the album is full of electronical gimmicks. So to say avantgarde psychedelic music coupled with a special emphasis on electronics.

Some shorter songs, or maybe interludes, are completely occupied by Marcheschi's uncanny weird tones. Others are mellow early psychedelia drenched with charming male and female vocals. For example If Not This Time which is anything but simply structured with excellent guitar work and accompanied by twittering synths. The Things That Concern You on the other hand is an example referring to the good old beat music era which was gradually fading away at that time. This could be treated as popular if there weren't Marcheschi's weird contributions and the highspeed end to which the song finally develops.

When Nancy Blossom sings I'm immediately reminded of the early Jefferson Airplane - but this is all presented in a more sophisticated way. The long track Fantasy might be the highlight of the production. Starting with repetitve playing instruments and then changing to an excellent more accessible jammming part. Last but not least a weird section follows with crazy female voices. And not to forget the title track Cauldron which is spiked with mysterious tones and samples plus deformed vocals sounding like they are on an hallucinogenic trip.

Some re-issues are existing in the meanwhile with bonus tracks. Remakes of two songs were added, released in 1990 as a single production for the first time. And Bad Trip was the first song Marcheschi ever had produced before Nancy and David Blossom joined his project. This uncanny song is pointing to his experimental approach as no other based on diversified electronics and a deep-toned bass line.

A very interesting production and differing to other genre output because of an avantgarde attitude not only caused by Cork Marcheschi's unusual electronic goodies. Ahead of time. Open-minded fans of early psychedelia output can grasp firmly if they dare to leave the familiar paths - 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#198469)
Posted Sunday, January 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An important historical document

Fifty Foot Hose entered the bourgening arena of psychedelic rock in its US epicentre, San Francisco, in 1967 with this debut that was mind-blowing at the time, and remains mind-blowing to this day.

The principles were already established; Louis 'Cork' Marcheschi had already attempted to lead his old R&B band, The Ethix into strange and exploratory musical directions with the bizarre 1966 single Bad Trip, which could be played at either 33 or 45 RPM, and had been recorded with each musician in different rooms playing simultaneously.

Cork, like Frank Zappa, had been influenced by the works of Edgard Varese - Cork had witnessed a performance of Varese's Poem Electronique in 1962, and it was this rather than large quantities of lysergides that influenced his musical directions. Fifty Foot Hose are often cited as being unusual among the psychedelic bands in that they weren't particularly psychedelic. Listening to the music, you could have fooled me.

The methods of producing musical sounds were certainly new to pop/rock music, and seem to have been unique to Fifty Foot Hose in 1967 - a variety of home-made synthesisers hooked up to a giant speaker, and electronically modified guitars were the core of their arsenal, for a blend of rock and electronics that predates the more famous United States of America album. The only comparative album I can think of is Pierre Henry's Messe Pour le Temps Present - which kind of comes to rock from the opposite direction, as Henry was a composer of musique concrete, an approach not dissimilar to that used by the Beach Boys in their hugely influential Pet Sounds album.

Here, though, Fifty Foot Hose were not attempting to simply create comfortable music using familiar sounds, but rather to create experimental music using experimental sounds, so that everything sounded new (and possibly uncomfortable). The record company, Limelight, however, needed something that would actually sell, so this recording remains a compromise between their wild live experimentations and the crowbarring of that into a more accessible format.

You could write a whole essay based on the nuggets that surround the album - so I encourage you to explore it further and dig up more fascinating gems. There are plenty.

The Music On to the music - I'll ignore the bonus material, as it comprises remixes, and Bad Trip, both at 45 and 33 RPM - spot the difference?

Red the Sign Post is probably the stand out track, not least because the riff is that used by Ritchie Blackmore for Space Truckin. More than that, it's extremely catchy, yet otherwordly and surprisingly fresh-sounding.

The album opens with deep, deep rumbling - at first, you might be tempted to think that something has gone wrong with your system - but no!

The electronics slowly take off, and the second track, If Not This Time becomes the first song proper, and extremely catchy it is, if a bit disturbing, with Nancy Blossom's Slick-lite vocals echoing continually across the stereo picture.

The music is in a kind of Jefferson Airplane on acid style, but with more bleepy and wooey noises. It reminds me a bit of White Noise's debut in terms of atmosphere - although White Noise supercharged the electronic ambience. The bridge is a wierd but short kind of off-kilter jazz-style trip. Very strange, but one of the most accessible pieces.

The next catchy track is The Things That Concern You - although I can't help cringe at the lyrics, which are very much of their time, and rather trite, the music is pretty good for early psychedelia. It's the sudden change for the bridge and burnouts, which are the really interesting bits - and make you wish that Limelight had had the guts to allow the band to just let rip, as they are much tighter than more glorified acts such as Country Joe and the Fish, whose Electric Mind for Body and Soul album, so widely hailed, pales into insignificance beside the music here.

I've already plugged Red the Sign Post, but a mention should surely be given to Nancy Blossom for the complete change in vocal style to something more akin to Jim Morrison, with savage, slashing vocalisations.

Things calm down nicely to a kind of soft-jazz flavoured piece, which epitomises acid rock without being a complete stereotype - not least because the musicianship shows none of the signs of excess you find in bands like The Chocolate Watch Band. All the band members perform superbly here creating a satisfying and enjoyable (if somewhat dated) soundscape for Cork to paint electronic noodelry all over. Indeed, if one wasn't taking into account that this was all completely new, one might get a bid fed up with the buzzing, screeching and warbling noises that persist in polluting the soundtrack... but let's be generous!

Fantasy is the piece of interest, coming in around 10 minutes - it seems to have been fashionable to have at least one long track on an album at this time, and has a structure not dissimilar to Pink Floyd's A Saucerful of Secrets, and many sonic features that remind me strongly of some of Floyd's earliest material, including the wierd bit at the end of Bike. A very strange hotch-potch, but not one entirely without purpose or form, and certainly not one for the musically timid.

Back to the soft jazz - and then some for God Bless the Child, a Billy Holiday song in which Nancy Blossom again gets the chance to show off her under-exposed vocal talents. For my taste, she's much too far back in the mix - but I understand that there were real problems recording the synthesisers, which held no sympathy for 1967 recording technology. Absolutely wonderful little song.

And so the album comes to an end, with a startlingly futuristic jolt. Blossom again utilising her phenomenal vocal talents, with more whooshes, bleeps and other odd noises per second than the average Hawkwind or Tangerine Dream album - not to mention all the special effects and overdubs. This was clearly the band having a lot of fun in the studio, using it as an instrument in much the same way that the Beatles did when making Sgt Pepper.

Although still heavily rooted in the psychedelic experimental styles of the time, it is highly likely that you have never heard anything quite like the title track of Cauldron, even if time has not been fantastically kind to the rest of the album.

Influences and Influencees Influences on Fifty Foot Hose include the Merry Pranksters, Alan Watts and Sun-Ra - so I suppose the end result is not so surprising.

Bands the Hose influenced are many and varied, as they were name-dropped as influences by Throbbing Gristle, and then there's the matter of a certain song by a band of a less experimental nature - not to mention almost anyone that's ever used an oscillator or two and created bleepy and wooey noises in the context of a rock band.

Summary Sadly, Cauldron is not truly a masterpiece - although it is very good, especially in context - there's no real flow to the album, the pieces feel a bit contrived, and a bit more engineering time could have been spent harnessing the wild electronic voices and getting the sounds to work together, as it tends to feel like a bit of a lash-up a lot of the time.

However, patient listening pays dividends. It's not a comfortable experience, but that's not what Progressive music is about - if I wanted nice, comfortable songs, I'd go and listen to Coldplay or Keane.

I think it's essential to hear this album AT LEAST 10 TIMES (preferably on different days, months apart), and to read (and digest) as much as you can about it.

It's that important - while 3 stars is a fair award for the music, I'm pushing it up to 4 to reflect that.

Report this review (#199014)
Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Psychedelic experimentation, this is what I think about this. And final rating depends on this. As an innovation to this genre, this is great album. Short tracks changing place with long ones, not so common in these years, but that's obvious, when I call it innovative. Most of songs sounds like psychedelic jamming, or sometimes even hits the blues note. I can say that these hypnotic riffs are not my own, I don't like them at all, but here, even I have to admit, that they're well suited into entire composition. And exactly this kind of guitar sound I expect from album like this, true sound of 60s with new ways of doing things. Second longest track, Fantasy. Very promising album.

4(+) because of prog.

Report this review (#238995)
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Imagine Jefferson Airplane jamming with Silver Apples and Karl Heinz Stockhausen and you have the cult - and very strangely named - 1960's group Fifty Foot Hose and their debut(and only) recording 'Cauldron'. Released to little fanfare in 1969, 'Cauldron''s status in the rock world has grown slowly but steadily over the decades. Now, in 2010, it's branded as one of those 'lost classic' albums that reissue labels just love, and, though it is not by any means the 'classic' album it's label says it is, 'Cauldron' is a rather interesting and forward-thinking curiosity that mixes west coast acid-rock and primitive electronics with genuine enthusiasm and creativity. Strange, dated and slightly bizarre, Fifty Foot Hose's one-and-only album is an ecletic addition to the Psychedelic rock canon. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Report this review (#282957)
Posted Friday, May 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
4 stars Outsider

Flipping through the American side of my record collection, I keep realising just how many underground and slightly left-field albums those Yanks produced during the late 60s/early 70s. Many which, listened to with foreign ears, sound remarkably close to what one would hear oh so far away in the experimental German scene, that later on was dubbed 'Krautrock'.

The first couple of things flying through my mind when I initially heard this album was: Amon Düül ll? From The States? 1967? What.......? Those same see-sawing rhythm guitars, raw and fabulously simple yet played with a delightful arrogance and nonchalance, that works oh so well with the rhythm section. Together these two pieces of the puzzle create a melodic, often late 60s inspired psychedelic rock, that could've been taken right out of Jefferson Airplane's most wondrous take offs. The female vocals fall smack in the middle of Grace Slick and Renate Knaup, so again, it seems like the two main influences should be out in the open by now.........or one would at least think so.

First of all Fifty Foot Hose were far too experimental for ever rightfully to be compared with The Airplane. Not even during their wildest rides did they sound as off kilter and unhinged as the scattered make shift synthesiser sounds that wreck havoc all throughout this debut entitled 'Cauldron'. Secondly, the way the blues is implemented in the back beat of this thing makes it an altogether different beast than what you hear from those crazy Germans. On here you feel as if you're listening to musicians who've been exposed to the blues since their early childhood years. Like I said, it's only accentuated in the back beat and the walking bass lines, but other than that - there's really no adept description of this thing.

The electronic device, that for some remarkable reason is able to mimic robotic birds, deep underwater chirps, disco rattlesnake jitters, disturbing animal mating screeches and other such mad buffoonery, is in fact made of various parts taken from a theremin, fuzzbox, a cardboard tube and a speaker from a World War II aircraft bomber. This facet of the music takes the sonic imagery close to the early electronic rockers, like The Silver Apples and perhaps even more so, White Noise. If there's anything remotely close to the synth experimentations on this baby, then it's probably the pioneering sorcery of one Delia Derbyshire.

Consisting of Louis Marcheschi (synth mad hatter and if I am not mistaken, inventor?), David and Nancy Blossom (guitars, piano and Nancy on the mic), Larry Evans (guitar), Kim Kimsey (drums) and Terry Hansley (bass), Fifty Foot Hose neatly taps into the prevailing psychedelic whims of the season, yet with a dirty thrust here and a highly evocative and brutish synthesiser bleep there, you're never as warm and cosy as you'd like to be. Don't get me wrong, this record is chuck full of the kind of music coming out in the late 60s that just hits the nostalgia button like the proverbial shiyiait hits the fan. Twangy surfer guitars and a breezy note to the proceedings, and suddenly you could swear you were listening to some of the more experimental parts of Brian Wilson's bastard child 'Smile'.

Personally, I think 'Cauldron' deserves far more attention from the old school proggers here on PA, as well as those who feel compelled to hear one of the coolest early American outsider sounds. It's certainly one of the very first American albums to merge the European electronic avantguarde feel with psychedelic rock and jazz. Oh yes, I almost forgot to tell you, right on the ridges of this band's sound - right there in the sweet pocket, right there you get a distinct whiff of the infinitely nimble and always infatuating softness of the old school jazz spirit. It's only a whiff, but it's there.

I keep this close to the stereo, just in case it snows, or the world explodes, or the rain stops - I always want to be in the vicinity of those trusty 'albums to put on in case of emergency'. You just know in your heart, that it's albums you never tire of, and that they're always safe to revisit. 'Cauldron' reminds me of high school and all those young hot freak chicks listening to the sounds of the 60s. Only this is the 60s with an electronic snarl to them. One I've loved since first listen.

Report this review (#1112037)
Posted Friday, January 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars As the San Francisco Bay Area reflects upon the past five decades and pinpoints its gaze upon that fateful and most psychedelic year 1967, the so-called Summer Of Love when disillusioned youth turned hippies from across the globe descended on the unsuspecting Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, we are presented with only a partial snapshot of that era in time that unfolded like a hazy dream shrouded in the mystic madness by Pacific Ocean fog. While one's mind naturally gravitates towards the likes of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Janis Joplin as Summer Of Love royalty, there were in reality a ridiculous number of other local bands who were active and while not quite catching the popular music scene as the aforementioned, still left an imprint on the psyche's of those lucky enough to remember their experience once the party accoutrements had worn off.

The era consisted of myriad bands like Moby Grape, It's A Beautiful Day, Electric Flag, Dream Merchants, The Great Society and the list goes on into the hundreds, however one band was far and away THEEEE most bizarre and experimental of all. That honor goes to the ahead-of-their-time FIFTY FOOT HOSE which was the brainchild of the eccentric whims of founder Cork Marcheschi whose dual interests in the avant-garde and R&B came to head on the one and only album CAULDRON. Marcheschi started his career playing in less adventurous bands beginning with the Hide-A-Ways and ending with The Ethix which found him unleashing his first taste of the wild and unstructured when he released one twisted single called "Bad Trip." As a session musician he was introduced to guitarist David Blossom and his singing wife Nancy and then joined drummer Kim Kimsey and guitarist Larry Evans. The true psychedelic treat of 1967 was about to be released.

Marcheschi claims that his interests were more attuned to the avant-garde experimental worlds of Edgard Varèse, John Cage or Terry Riley rather than with Jefferson Airplane, but nonetheless, Blossom managed to tame his wild inhibitions with fairly catchy beatnik folk rock songs that Marcheschi would embellish with swirling swooshes of his homemade electronic instruments as well as pairing them up with theremins, fuzzboxes, a cardboard tube and even a speaker from a World War II bomber. Dave Blossom brought a psychedelic jazz guitar approach that incorporated a little of the Miles Davis cool jazz sound while Nancy played her role much like the more familiar contemporary Grace Slick. CAULDRON is aptly named as it is a boiling pot of eclectic influences all cooked together in one of the earliest musical bowls of gumbo in all the U. S. of A. In fact, i do believe that CAULDRON could very well be the first progressive rock album to emerge on the North American continent. If there are any comparisons to be made it would have be with the other California based band The United States Of America who similarly took the psychedelic folk rock sound of the day that embellished healthy doses of experimental electronica in completely revolutionary ways, however FIFTY FOOT HOSE didn't just stop there and totally went for it with one of the strangest albums to emerge in the entire 60s scene.

The head scratcher begins with the opener "And After" which is a creeping ratcheting up of woofer abuse and was how they would start their live shows which would get everyone's attention as the low bass tones would vibrate the entire building. It is a contemplative piece like drifting through space aimlessly, tension building as if the vessel had lost control and free falling into oblivion. An unlikely precursor to the more time period "If Not This Time" which despite the early avant-prog riffing that begins it, turns into a more normal folk rendition of psychedelic rock that finds the electronic sounds bending and sputtering around like a rabid animal let loose in a shopping mall.

The short electronic "Opus 777" cedes into the other psychedelic pop track "The Things That Concern You" which finds Larry Evans on the vocals while Marcheschi taking extreme liberties with the electronic accoutrements. The second short electronic track "Opus 11" ushers in the most hippie sounding rock song on the track, "Red The Sign Post" which is the closest thing to be heard on CAULDRON that resembles a true 60s psychedelic rock band with bluesy guitar licks, groovy bass and Nancy Blossom's wild and woolly vocal freak outs. The third electronic intro "For Paula" whizzes by and yields to the jazzy guitar lounge lizard exotica sounding "Rose" which gives the listener a final taste of musical sanity before the true freak out is unleashed with the mind blowing "Fantasy." This track literally is the definition of progressive psychedelic rock as a single bass line begins a multi-part journey into the unknown. As the bass reverbs in an ostinato stroll, the electronica grow more restless as do the frenetic drum rolls as your mind melts and cedes to the hypnotic groove with electronic chaos chirping around it like maddened birds. After two minutes it abruptly changes into a bluesy psychedelic rock guitar segment which lulls the listener into a comfort zone for a while before mellowing out and Nancy finally joining in after six minutes to sing about her sanity before the acid finally hits and the track literally goes nuts!

After the unhinged ending of "Fantasy," a short tribute to Billie Holliday with a cover of her "God Bless The Child" which is fairly faithful to the original minus the electronic whizzing effects. The wildest sonic experience by far is the final title track which finds total musical breakdown and the avant-garde is allowed off its leash as chimes keep an angular rhythm while Nancy erratically sings about who knows what. Her vocal style in this track reminds me a lot of the avant-prog styles ranging from Henry Cow to Thinking Plague. A jazzy bass line often punctuates the back masking of the electronics and someone having a very bad trip can be heard in the background. This must have been far too freaky for anyone really tripping during the day. My remastered CD is fluffed out with two versions of "Bad Trip" by the Ethix and several demo tracks and alternate versions. Some of these appear on other compilation albums such as "Ingredients."

Needless to say, these guys were faaaaaar out, man! Somehow they had their pulse on the psychedelic scene and prognosticated it by several years beating the German band Amon Duul II to the punch with some of the trippiest music of the decade. The electronic rock hybridization of FIFTY FOOT HOSE has been cited by many a band including Perl Abu, Chrome and Throbbing Gristle as having been the primary influence in their respective musical sounds. As with any music so bizarre and unstructured, FIFTY FOOT HOSE saw very little success during the day but they did have a small cult following. The deal knell came to the band when all the members except Marcheschi were lured away by the promise of a lucrative paycheck and joined the cast of the musical production "Hair." Marscheschi on the other hand forfeited his musical career but went on to become a world renowned sculptor. Interest in the band resurfaced during the 90s and the band has released a few compilations and live albums but CAULDRON is their swan song that went way beyond anyone dared at the time. Not quite the masterpiece some make it out to be since it has far too much of a mishmash feel to it but although it may require a few listens to sink in, this is certainly one of the most unique albums of the era that deserves more recognition than it's gotten. I've grown to really dig it!

Report this review (#1743475)
Posted Friday, July 14, 2017 | Review Permalink

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