In The Land of Free, we still keep on Rockin'

Plain and Fancy

"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Crystalline - Axe Music (1970 uk, heavy psych with raw fuzzed out guitars and dreamy female vocals, 2012 Guerssen release)

Axe did not make a lot of music, but they made some phenomenal music. Some of the best ever to emerge from the swamp of heavy British psychedelia, certainly some of the rarest, ft is heavy but luckily never takes either of the two usual wrong directions: dexterity leading to wanky prog noodling, or high volume leading to endless bludgeoning riffs and not much else. 

Unlike most stuff hyped by dealers as "prog psych" or "heavy psychedelic', which all too often is merely mindless proto-heavy metal, Axe were something very special. They managed to pull off a ma|or coup: they could blend heavy guitar, fuzz-overloaded amps and plenty of silky ribbons of Raga moves with female vocals, Vivienne's pensive yet direct vocal delivery, and poetic lyrics which tend towards folk structures, into a form that is proudly psychedelic, and still avoids all the usual pitfalls of such a marriage of unlikely elements. Explosive and astounding, they demolish similar femme-lead efforts like Curved Air or Shocking Blue. 

But this mix of styles is not to suggest that this is a 'happy medium', or a compromise. Yes, the heaviness is occasionally leavened with some occasional folkish inflections, but these do not predominate, and in many ways the mention of 'folk' does the music an injustice. Too much so-called "acid folk" is folk first and acid last. Axe were no lay-down-and-die "acid folk" weeds. There sound is first and foremost spine-tingling acid rock. They made use of imaginative and trippy fairyland lyrics, deeply immersed as they were in the whole hippie thing. 

Here's a representative quote from their masterpiece 'Here From There': "Long ago in times of old / When knights were strong and bold, / When fairies lived beneath the trees /And flew about on bumblebees / They bathed and swam in moonlight shafts, (In toadstools large and small / Are tiny lights and chimneys tall, / Fiery dragons roar through caves / Sending out a mist-like haze, / Fat, stout trolls beneath bridges lie (Waiting to grab whatever comes by....'And yet, despite its unbridled musical brilliance and perhaps because of the hideously botched Kissing Spell "reissue", the Axe LP still languish in deepest obscurity. (The profile of the Axe LP is starkly contrasted with an album like Jesse Harper's "Guitar Absolutions" (or whatever you wanna call it), which is also "heavy", also "acetate-only", also "big bucks", also made "available on vinyl and CD formats"). 

But, Jesse gets a lot of glory and even some mainstream media attention, whereas Axe get pretty much sod-all and not even get a mention in something like RC's (comprehensive ha ha ha) "Psych Trip" series! I guess those hacks just didn't, couldn't, get it. Doubtless, in their Pigeon Hole World they'd automatically call the Axe recordings "Progressive" just because they're heavy and from 1970. Such folks have a tendency to compartmentalise "prog" and "psych" as it they are always totally separate, unrelated entities, even in the face of obvious over-laps. 

Of course, yeah you guessed it Jesse Harper did gain inclusion in RC's 'Trip'...and he's a New Zealander! All this despite the fact that ol' Jesse's album isn't even a patch on Axe's! ( (Isn't it time that the world woke up to the fact that Axe were superb? Isn't it time that Tony Barford was recognised as one of British Psychedelia's greatest guitarists? "This Machine Kills" were the words Donovan had on his guitar, but never would they have been more appropriate than on Tony Barford's Gibson. Tony Barford is one of the truly great long lost psych-rock guitarists. 

His playing could make paint blister, and piles of old newspapers to spontaneously burst into flame. It would cause retired Colonels to choke on their port & lemon, and it would strike maiden aunts stone cold dead.
by Paul Cross

1. Another Sunset, Another Dawn - 4:08
2. Peace Of Mind - 3:08
3. A House Is Not A Motel (Arthur Lee) - 4:45
4. Here From There - 7:53
5. Crimson Nights - 6:15
All songs by Crystalline except where noted.

Axe Music (Line-Up Fll, 1968)
*John (?) - Vocals
*Mark Griffith - Guitar (Later Shadows Bass Man)
*Mick 'Zulu' Knight - Hammond Organ
*Roger Milliard - Bass
*Stevie Gordon - Drums

Axe (Line-Up #2, 1969)
*Vivienne Jones - Vocals
*Tony Barford - Guitar
*Graham Richards - Saxes & Flute
*Roger Milliard - Bass
*Stevie Gordon Drums

Axe (Line-Up #3, 1969-1971)
*Vivienne Jones - Vocals
*Tony Barford - Guitar
*Roger Milliard - Acoustic Guitar
*Mick Knobbs - Bass
*Stevie Gordon - Drums
This line-up were for a short time known as Crystalline.
Under which name they recorded the acetate demo tracks.

Free Text
Free Text II


Hajul Ellah said...

Rockasteria is really smoking! Thank you very much, Sir Marios.

TheCoverHeaven said...

Τελείως αντικειμενικά!
Γιατί τα καλύτερα μουσικά blogs ανήκουν σε Έλληνες?

guinea pig said...


Anonymous said...

muchas gracias !!!!

echoes said...

Have some other CD Live and Studio, btw, you can find it here if it still works
Looking forward to hear this one.

lmelis said...

Μάριε, σε ευχαριστώ πολύ για ένα ακόμα upgrade.

ARGS said...

Χίλια ευχαριστώ Μάριε. Κρίνοντας από το βίντεο του συγκροτήματος, πρέπει να είναι φανταστικοί.Και πάλι χιλια ευχαριστώ!

Cositronico said...

Uf very very good post. Thankx a lot.

DanP said...

oh, thanks also to Laurent!

adamus67 said...

Holy grail underground UK heavy psych with long tracks, raw fuzzed out guitars Tony Barford, one of the most underrated underground guitar-heroes from the UK and dreamy,ethereal female vocals.

Reissue of an obscure,ultra-rare acetate. Recorded this was made at Beck Studios, Lister Road, Wellingborough and Derek Tompkins was the engineer. The session only lasted for one afternoon, mostly done in one take with no tracking and surprisingly without the aid of any mind altering substances, not even a beer, but we seemed to have conjured up an atmosphere from somewhere. Only twelve acetate copies were made for demo purposes so no title was given to it. One copy was sent to John Peel.(RIP). To his credit he did listen to it (he must have received hundreds of demos daily), but declined to play it or endorse it because he did not like the west coast influence and felt that Vivs voice was too pure. This was a pity because if he had done, the Axe story could have been very different.

Read the interview Tony Barford, Northampton. July 2012.

@Good work, my friends Laurent & Marios

Woody said...

Thank you very much friend. This blog is fantastic. Really superb. All the best.

juan manuel muñoz said...

thank you very much. Excellent album


ms. xtro said...

i have wanted to hear this album for years. thanks to you, now i can! many thanks!

outrage music said...

wonder why old john peel didn't like the west coast inluence...

I have this in mp3, it is great, great music.

Sergey said...

thank you very much!

Ratt nroll said...

posible to reupload ? the link is dead

Filldemontgat said...

There seems to be a problem ...
I trust in your power ...
Thanks in advance...

Marios said...