13th Floor Elevators (The) - Psychedelic Circus (Music CD)

Release Date: 28 July 2017
£10.69 includes FREE UK Postage

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Considering that they existed at a time before technology had made audience recording simple and commonplace among music fans, it's a welcome surprise that a handful of live tapes of psychedelic pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators exist, particularly given the fact the only attempt by their record label to professionally record the band documented a lackluster performance in which guitarist Stacy Sutherland had a profoundly bad reaction to the LSD the group customarily sampled before each performance. For some reason, four songs from that lamentable 1967 Houston gig ("Don't Fall Down," "Kingdom of Heaven," "She Lives in a Time of Her Own" and "Levitation") appear on Psychedelic Circus, a compilation of archival live performances from the group, and while they're not awful, the lurching, off-kilter version of "Don't Fall Down" is one of the faultiest 13th Floor Elevators tracks in circulation, and the nameless soul who compiled this disc could easily have found something better to take its place. Most of this disc (eight tunes) is drawn from a far superior 1966 San Francisco concert that appeared on a widely circulated bootleg, Avalon '66; the sound quality of this version is noticeably better, though not quite as strong as the version that appears on the outstanding box set Sign of the Three Eyed Men, and the performance crackles with energy, capturing the group at the top of their form, especially Sutherland's fierce but lyrical guitar, Roky Erickson's feral vocals, and Tommy Hall's frantic jug work. The remainder of the tracks ("Roller Coaster," "You're Gonna Miss Me," and "Tried to Hide") are taken from appearances on local television shows in 1966, and while the sound mixes are a bit primitive, they find the Elevators sounding sharp, enthusiastic, and fresh. There are lots of dodgey collections of 13th Floor Elevators material crowding the marketplace, and despite the presence of the 1967 Houston recordings, some silly cover graphics and an even sillier title, Psychedelic Circus, makes a legitimate attempt to do right by the legacy of this important band, and the presence of the 1966 San Francisco material in strong fidelity makes it worth investigating for fans exploring the band's catalog. ~ Mark Deming
Release Date: 28 July 2017

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