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Smell Of Incense

Prog Folk

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Smell Of Incense A Curious Miscellany album cover
4.00 | 6 ratings | 1 reviews | 33% 5 stars

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 2010

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Smell of Incense (4:56)
2. Why Did I Get so High? (2:13)
3. (I Wanna Live in the) Golden State (2:39)
4. Witch's Hat (4:57)
5. Swami (4:26)
6. Coming Down (long version) (6:18)
7. If Not This Time (3:26)
8. Christopher's Journey (demo) (4:04)
9. A Visit With Ashiya (3:56)
10. Varulv (2:48)
11. Tread Softly on my Dreams (5:57)
12. I'm Allergic to Flowers (3:51)

Total time: 49:21

Line-up / Musicians

- Lumpy Davy / guitar, vocals, sitar, tamboura
- Ernie Chung / guitar, vocals, mandolin
- Bumble B / vocals, violin, viola
- Han Solo / bass, vocals
- Cool Kat / drums

Releases information

LP September Gurls 7326 (2010) EU

Thanks to clemofnazareth for the addition
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SMELL OF INCENSE A Curious Miscellany ratings distribution

(6 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(33%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

SMELL OF INCENSE A Curious Miscellany reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars As advertised, this album is both a bit curious and is filled with a miscellany of Smell of Incense recordings. Those who are familiar with the band won't find a lot new here. For those not into them, understand that the band makes mostly poppish pysch music that tends to be heavy on covers of obscure sixties psych one-hit wonders. That and occasionally they throw in some recorded sounds, synth or drone just to mix things up. In all their music is entertaining when they are on their game, and mildly annoying when they aren't. You take the good with the bad.

The opening track gave the band their name, and comes courtesy of sixties nut-job Bob Markley and guitarist Ron Morgan of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. "Smell of Incense" was also a minor hit for a band named Southwest F.O.B., a Texas-based pysch group best known for launching the late Dan Seals and John Colley, the duo who later achieved major commercial success as the soft-rock duo England Dan and John Ford Coley (remember "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight"?). Of the three versions I like this one best, mostly because it benefits from modern production (both the original and F.O.B. versions were recorded in the sixties). Also, as with so much of their music Smell of Incense have this way of taking rather dated psych guitar chord progressions and presenting them in a new light, vibrant and accessible as opposed to the sometimes turgid fuzz guitar sounds that dominated late sixties psych music.

"Why Did I Get So High?" is another cover tune from 1967, in this case from Peanut Butter Conspiracy, another band nearly lost to history but who comes up in trivia settings from time to time for having given Jefferson Airplane their drummer (the late Spencer Dryden) after Skip Spence went wacko. In this case the original is a better tune as it was (at the time) a rather serious psych anthem while the Smell of Incense take appears to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek. This was the band's second single back in the mid-nineties, appearing on that disk with Fifty-Foot Hose's "If Not This Time" and "Coming Down", a tune recorded by the United States of America for their seminal self-titled album. "Coming Down" also appears on this compilation (an extended version, not the one from the original Smell of Incense single), and is another case of a decent cover but not up to par with the original which was penned by psych icon Joe Byrd. Anyone who's ever tripped out to the United States of America album would almost surely agree.

"I Wanna Live in the) Golden State" is one of two original compositions for the band, and along with "Christopher's Journey" (both appear here) were among the band's first serious demo recordings in the early nineties. Both are decent but with fairly sparse production and clearly not of the caliber of most of the songs they cover here. Neither lives up the band's potential either; the band would deliver a much-improved version of "Christopher's Journey" with more complex percussion and stronger guitar work for their debut full-length album, 1994's "All Mimsy Were the Borogoves".

And speaking of that album, the next track "Witch's Hat" appears there as well, this is a Robin Williamson composition (Incredible String Band), written for their landmark 1968 album 'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter'. Nobody can adequately cover Williamson, although again the newer production qualities of this version make it memorable, and the female lead vocals from Bumble B offer a pleasantly different take on this heavily folk- influenced tune.

Next up is another obscure one-off, this one courtesy of sixties San Francisco garage-rock cult band William Penn and His Pals. Written by their guitarist Mike Shapiro, "Swami" was the band's only single in their short-lived existence, and once again the band was left to wallow in music trivia limbo while one of its members went on to fame and fortune elsewhere (keyboardist Gregg Rolie, who would score a gig with Santana before cashing in big-time with seventies crotch rockers Journey.

Merrell Fankhauser wrote "A Visit With Ashiya" and recorded it with H.M.S. Bounty in 1967. Fankhauser is another in a long line of odd characters that seem to have found their way into Smell of Incense' consciousness, or at least into their record collection. He would go on to appear with Fapardokly and Mu (along with Jeff Cotton of Captain Beeheart fame) before dropping out for an extended (30-plus years) trip in Maui. This version comes from another Incense single, the same one they used to issue their namesake song in 1994. Here the band plays it fairly straight as psych numbers go, with fuzz guitar aplenty and Bumble B sounding pretty tripped out, especially for someone who missed the height of the flow-power days by at least a generation.

For a change of pace "Varulv" is a traditional Norwegian folk tune, performed by Bumble B on her 2003 solo album 'Flight of the Bumble B'. While this is a folk tune the arrangement features snare drums, electric guitar and keyboards, giving it a modern touch and some pretty decent production. Her solo album is kind of hard to find, but if you get the chance to pick it up I'd highly recommend it, particularly for those who are prog folk fans.

Probably the most obscure cover on the album is the heavily tripped-out "Tread Softly on my Dreams" from the almost completely forgotten British act Czar. I've never heard the original by band bassist Paul Kendrick, but I can imagine it was deep stuff for its day. This version sounds every bit like something that was recorded in 1969 with spacey vocals, erratic tempo shifts and brooding keyboards. Torch one up before you spin this track for sure!

Finally, the album closes with "I'm Allergic to Flowers", a rather silly tune by Dave Burgess and originally recorded as a single under the faux studio-group name 'Jefferson Handkerchief'. I've never seen this on a proper studio album, but it appears on all kinds of b-list sixties compilations that have been released over the years. This one is pretty light and silly, and makes for a nice closing touch to a thoroughly enjoyable album.

Smell of Incense are a bit of an enigma, with records that are hard to find and an incredible range (from awful to awesome) in their recorded output. This collection makes for a very decent anthology of the band, although I personally would have loved to have seen at least one track from their best studio work 'Through the Gates of Deeper Slumber', which features not only the band at their best, but also several original compositions. No matter, 'A Curious Miscellany' is worth hunting down and adding to your collection if you are a student (or fan) of vintage psych pop, or really if you're just looking for something fun to occupy an hour of your time. Four stars (out of five) and well recommended.


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