On Saturday night, hell froze over. Hip hop “star” Kayne West took to the stage at the Glastonbury Festival. In an error strewn set, Glastonbury lost all credibility as Britain’s supposed premier music festival. To rub salt into the wound, towards the end of his “set,” West stopped the music and proceeded to tell the audience that “in twenty, thirty or forty years,” he would still be “the biggest rock ’n’ roll band.” You couldn’t make this up. The words mistaken and misguided spring to mind. Fast forward twenty-four hours, and the Glastonbury organisers tried to make amends with a proper rock ’n’ roll band closing the festival. 

The Who took to the stage at 9.15pm and proceeded to blow the wannabes and pretenders like Paul Weller away. That’s despite Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend both being over seventy. They stormed their way through eighteen songs winning friends along their way. As The Who took their bow, having tried to rescue  what was left of Glastonbury’s tattered reputation, I was left with the feeling that Glastonbury, like music wasn’t what it once was.

Originally, Glastonbury was home the biggest and best rock ’n’ roll bands of the past forty years. Not this year. Instead, the audience were served up the sight of cast featuring has-beens, wanna-bes and the washed-up. I’m sure the audience could live without Mary J. Blige, Sleaford Mods, Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers sans the rest of Chic. Then there was the faintly ridiculous sight of Grandmaster Flash in his pimped up track suit, adding very little to Mark Ronson’s set. Mind you, the boy could clap his hands like the best of them though. Someone, somewhere, will be proud of him. However, his walk-on appearance epitomises the sorry state of music circa 2015. Sadly, music just ain’t what it used to be.

That’s why the reissue market is so strong. Hardly a week goes by without the reissue of a classic album. Most of them are from the sixties and seventies. There are a few from the eighties. They’re however, in the minority. Mostly, it’s the sixties and seventies when the best music was made. That’s why when many people are looking for new music to buy, they head to the reissue section of the record store.

After all, what is awaiting the visitor to the “new music” section of a record shop? Third-rate hip hop or Nu Soul? Or how about some cheaply made and badly mastered dance music? That’s hardly guaranteed to get have the music lover’s pulse racing. Nor will it get them parting with their heard earned cash. They may strike it lucky, and find some hook laden indie pop or innovative Norwegian jazz or post rock. That however, is in  the minority. Instead, much the best music is to be found in the reissue section. 

That’s not always the case. One album that might have passed many people by is The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles. It was recently released by Cleopatra Records, and is just the latest in a series of psychedelic tributes the label has released. 

The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles is a twelve track compilation, where modern psychedelic rock bands cover some of The Beatles’ classics. Among the groups onThe Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles are Electric Moon, Sugar Candy Mountain, The Blank Tapes, The KVB, Quilt, The Lucid Dream and Strangers Family Band. Each of these bands give a Beatles song a psyched out makeover.

Opening The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles, is the German band Electric Room, with  a cover of a Beatles classic, Tomorrow Never Knows. It brought to a close The Beatles 1966 album Rubber Soul. Here, Electric Room give this Lennon-McCartney composition a real fuzzy, psyched-out makeover. It’s a lysergic fusion of the past and present.

Sugar Candy Mountain chose to cover Rain on The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles. That’s not the most obvious choice to cover. Originally, Rain was the B-Side to Paperback Writer, which was released as a single in 1966. Here, Oakland based Sugar Candy Mountain transform Rain into an anthemic track. It’s one of the highlights of The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles, and leaves me wanting to hear more from Sugar Candy Mountain.

One of the most ambitious projects of The Beatles career, was The White Album. This sprawling, thirty track double album was released in 1966 and featured Julia. It’s the track that The Vacant Lots decided to cover. The Burlington based duo combine elements of psychedelia, pop and rock. To that, they had a healthy supply of hooks, to Julia’s dark, but poppy and psychedelic sound.

California based The Blank Tapes stay true to The Beatles’ original version of The Word. It featured on the timeless Rubber Soul, which was released in 1965. Fifty years later, and The Blank Tapes sympathetically cover The Word, and in the process, show that there’s still some talented bands making music in 2015.

Martha My Dear is another song from The White Album. It was penned by Paul McCartney, but credited to Lennon and McCartney. Again, it’s not the most obvious choice of track to cover. However, The Ruby Suns decide to. It’s a quite beautiful, wistful and psychedelic take on one of the hidden gems from The White Album.

Reinventing a classic track is a brave decision. However, that’s what British duo, The KVB do. They transform Taxman, which George Harrison penned for 1966s Rubber Soul. Gone is the choppy, jaunty arrangement of the original. Replacing it is a meandering arrangement, Eastern tinged arrangement. In its midst, is a dark, despairing vocal. It’s a masterstroke, where new life and meaning is breathed into an old classic.

Whereas Paul McCartney wrote Martha My Dear, John Lennon penned Come Together, but it was credited to Lennon and McCartney. It can be found on Abbey Road, which was released in 1969. It’s one of the highlights of Abbey Road. The Underground Youth give it a psyched-out, spacey makeover. This is Come Together at it’s most dramatic and psychedelic. It’s min lysergic masterpiece. 

When The Beatles released Revolver in 1966, it soon became one of their classic albums. That’s still the case today. Choosing a track to cover can’t be easy. Literally, the groups on The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles are spoilt for choice. So Fanstasmes go leftfield, and cover Love You To. They give the track a real Eastern twist. Instantly, the listener is transported back to the sixties and the days of gurus and love-ins. From there, psychedelia and sunshine pop are combined. It’s a potent combination from Puerto Rico’s very own Fanstasmes. They’ve a big future ahead of them.

The Beatles released a lot of beautiful ballads. This included And I Love Her, which featured on Hard Day’s Night. It was released in 1964, a year before the psychedelia era began. That doesn’t stop The Lucid Dream covering And I Love Her. Mostly, they stay true to the original, but give And I Love Her a psychedelic sheen.

Helter Skelter from The White Album, proved to be one of The Beatles most controversial tracks. It was thought that The White Album, and specifically Helter Skelter, may have influenced The Manson Family. This resulted in a backlash against both psychedelia and the hippie movement. Despite the controversy surrounding Helter Skelter, Kikagaku Moyo cover it on The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles. Elements of psychedelia, garage, punk and rock combine head-on, in a version of Helter Skelter totally unlike the original.

Closing The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles is Strangers Family Band’s cover of Sun King. It’s a track from 1969 album Abbey Road. In the Strangers Family Band’s hands, Sun King takes on a trippy, psyched-out sound. Elements of psychedelia, electronica, jazz and avant garde melt deliciously into one, proving a more than satisfactory way to close the compilation.

While there’s been numerous Beatles’ tributes released over the past fifty years, The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles brings something new to the table. A new generation of bands get the chance to give twelve tracks from The Beatles’ songbook a psychedelic makeover.

Given this opportunity, many of the bands eschew the familiar, and tried and tested. Instead, they choose some less obvious, and some would say, more leftfield choices. Most of these tracks are transformed, and given a musical makeover. On a couple of occasions, groups are wary of reinventing the wheel, and stay true to the original. Regardless of the approach taken, one thing becomes obvious, and that there’s still talented groups making music in 2015.

Sadly, without huge budgets and a major record company behind them, often, talented groups like those on The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles don’t make a commercial breakthrough. Instead, they either try to release their own music, or sign to an independent label. That from my experience, can be a bit like playing Russian roulette. Entering the sometimes chaotic world of the independent label, often ends in tears. However, very occasionally, a group gets the opportunity to feature on a compilation like The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles. That’s the perfect opportunity to have their music heard by a much wider audience, who realise that still, there’s talented bands out there.

That may be a shock to their system. After all, 2015 has hardly been a vintage year for music. There’s been a dearth of quality releases, apart from compilations like Cleopatra Records’ The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles. Compilations of the quality of The Magical Mystery Psych-Out A Tribute To The Beatles are the exception though.

Instead, nostalgia is the future. It certainly isn’t Kayne West performing an error strewn set at Glastonbury. That’s the musical equivalent of a bad acid trip; and the last think anyone wants flashbacks of, is the camouflage-clad ego warrior on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.



1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

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