Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Thirteenth Floor Elevators-BULL OF THE WOODS LP (International Artists pirate of late-eighties vintage)

This review is dedicated to the memory of none other than Brad Kohler (well, at least I remember who he is!), who asked the musical question "howcum it seems like a whole buncha Mr. Knowitalls out there dump all over the Elevators' BULL OF THE WOODS album anyway?" Good question Mr. K, and although at the time the question was posed to me I didn't have a hefty-enough answer to toss his way I decided to do the right thing and latch onto my very own pirate copy of Roky and co.'s swan song in order to give an uppa-date opinion on it rather'n one of my fuzzy twenny-plus years back looksees (you can tell that this 'un ain't exactly on the BLOG TO COMM top forty hit parade). While I was at it, I thought I'd also clue the rest of you in on my ever-appreciated views regarding this hot pick to click that I'm sure you'll find more'n a hearty substitute for the myriad assortment of opines of a Christgau-esque nature that anyone with or without a cast-iron constitution would surely wanna do without.

I mean, what can I say about this platter other'n it is a unbridled wowzer, in fact a record which undoubtedly is a whole lot better than many of our fanzine brethren have made this tail-end psychedelic masterpiece out to be which really stymies me because alla those fanzine crankers of yore were for the most part RIGHT! Sure one could nit-pick about the reduced presence of our dear Mr. Erickson as well as the inclusion of horns on a couple tracks, but the fact that other members (most notably lead guitarist Stacy Sutherland) take on the lead warblings and some hornage is used (to a good effect mind ya) doesn't bother me one iota. Believe it or not, but hardly anything on BULL OF THE WOODS bugs me, and chop my head off if ya wanna but I gotta admit after all these years that next to their numero uno messterpiece EASTER EVERYWHERE this is probably my favorite Elevators album and neglecting it all these years is certainly a crime beyond redemption! Let's face it, the first album had too much of a disconnected demo feel to it and LIVE came off like the buncha leftovers strung together with some of the worst audience applause imaginable that it was. But BULL OF THE WOODS sounds perfect, like a nice slice of psychedelia recorded around the time when the American version of that movement was being subverted into hokey Old West myth making on one hand and heavy post-Jimi blooze on the other. And, if the critics say, this one was padded out with even more demos from the old days may I say that the Elevators sure had the knack to sound pretty 1968 in 1966, and considering the upheaval rock & roll went through in those two years that really is saying a lot more than Brother Jerry and the rest of the guys on the Marin County Apple Wine Farm ever could!

BULL OF THE WOODS is studious yet never takes itself too seriously, psychedelic yet doesn't use that as an excuse to either indulge in aerie faerie fluff or avant garde pose, and best of all rock & roll during a time when it seemed that the form was being abused by way too many recording artists who seemingly "tired" of the thing. Every cut is a gem, even the so-called tossaways like "Dr. Doom" and while (maybe not-so-obvious reference point) San Francisco was slowly beginning its slide around the time this one was released the Elevators retain all of the freshness and excitement that San Fran once stood for even after all of the acid damage on these guys' part! And it all ends with Roky's haunting hymn "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" which oddly enough is credited to himself...always thought it was an Olde Tymey number very popular in the South but the way Roky does it with his haunting organ he sure makes it his own! If this one had gotten around a lot more than it did thanks to International Artists' limited distribution, maybe that Cold Sun CD I've been raving about wouldn't've come as such a surprise to any of us!

And listening to my obviously illegit copy on my cheapo nostalgia turntable with its poor pressing defects and overall fuzz even had me flashing back to what it woulda been like for some a-head playing it in a basement on an even cheaper portable player somewhere in the bowels of Texas 1969...with the strung out nerve frazzles fully in place! I know I couldn't ask for anything more from the Elevators, could I?, and maybe with the proper environmental stimuli you can experience it in its true form as well!


Anonymous said...

I want to buy a couple of back issues. I need your e-mail address.

Anonymous said...

totally agree. kills me every time that one. sometimes like it more than easter. really weird acid tinged eerie amazing quality.

Christopher said...

To anonymous #1, leave another comment with your e-mail address (I will not publish it) and I will respond to you thusly.

Ben said...

Good post! Yeah, I've always thought 'Bull Of The Woods' is a fantastic album, and much underappreciated - quite different from the earlier Elevators obviously, but some of the best mysterioso bluesy psychedelia ever recorded.

I'm sure if it had come out under a different name, or as a Stacy Sutherland album with occasional Roky guest appearences, it would be a stone-cold classic in the eyes of the same 60s-fans who currently see it as a write-off.

And yeah, I think "May The Circle.." just about gets away with being counted as a Roky original, as he throws out every pre-existing aspect of the folk standard and just sings the title again and again over a new chord progression!

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris, Couldn't agree more bout Bull being an awesome album! In some ways, given the dissolute nature of the band at the time, it's even more impressive/heartbreaking than Easter Everywhere, tho the versions put out by the Roky CD Club of all the albums have made me rekindle my adolescent love of Psychedelic Sounds, also!

I bagged a DVD copy of a really great doc film about the Austin scene in the 60s, entitled Dirt Road to Psychedelia, which I would heartily recommend as a fine companion to the Roky flick and Paul Drummond's Elevators tome... check it aht at

Keep on keepin' on...

Joss Hutton

Anonymous said...

"Bull of the Woods" reveals the Elevators moving towards proto-metal - indicating that if they'd stayed together with Stacy as the frontman/creative force, they could've turned into Black Sabbath or Alice Cooper!

Anonymous said...

Always LOVED this rekkid except for 2nd track (Barnyard Blues) which was a bit TOO laid back for my tastes. FYI the other day while searching for info on the Shadoks (purveyors of all sortsa unheralded 60s/70s
uground,psych,prog,folk,hard rock metal,private press etc) label. i came upon a torrent that features the labels entire discography(!!) and a friggin amazing chunk o toonage it is, so far. if yr interested just google "shadoks discography" that should do it. love yr stuff Chris. keep it up>