Album review: the strange, the brilliant, and the awful from the 60s counterculture

Beautiful Freaks - Waving Our Flag High: When Music Was The Counterculture - various artists (TAD)

Yoko Ono (with John Lennon). New compilation of 60s countercultural music argues that she deserves to be recognised as a pioneering figure in left-field rock music.

Yoko Ono (with John Lennon). New compilation of 60s countercultural music argues that she deserves to be recognised as a pioneering figure in left-field rock music.

THIS VAST and varied 18 track compilation, spanning 1959 to 1973, and running from the innovative to the period piece curiosity to the 'What were they on?', unearths some overlooked gems worth re-exploring and reconsidering.

Beautiful Freaks cannot concentrate on all aspects of the sixties counterculture (there is no black music ), and is (with one exception ) white and Western, (with four exceptions ) male, and (a couple of exceptions ), English speaking.

Yet, the two most arresting songs are by women, for whom neither is English a first language: Brigitte Fontaine, drawling beautifully and powerfully en Français over stoned-like guitar, tabla, and sitar, in a wonderfully 1960s fusion of Chanson, and Eastern and Western folk.

Then there is Yoko Ono's 'Why?' (featuring John Lennon and Ringo Starr ), probably the most genuinely radical track here, anticipating future trends in underground and alternative music, and predating much of what Krautrock, especially bands like NEU!, would do in the mid-70s. A reminder that Yoko deserves far better than her routine castigation as "That woman who broke up The Beatles".

Similarly, as tracks here by Gong and Hawkwind show, Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright exercised enormous influence on prog, Krautrock, ambient, and seventies left-field music generally, but has remained an unfairly marginalised figure.

'Music as 'far out' as this will inevitably swing between the sublime and the awful, but is tremendous fun if you are wired a certain way'

There is great joy to be had in key tracks from Country Joe and The Incredible String Band, etc, but other inclusions are puzzling. The answer to why The Grateful Dead inspire such fanatic devotion will not be found in the twee and directionless 'That’s It For The Other One'; why is groundbreaking West German Krautrock ignored, with Germany instead represented by Witthüster & Westrupp's painfully middle of the road sounding 'Nimm Einen Joint Mein Freund'; similarly the crackpot brilliance of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band is ill-served by the short instrumental, 'Music For The Head Ballet'.

Music as 'far out' as all this will inevitably swing between the sublime and the awful, but warts and all, this is tremendous fun if you are wired a certain way. It also ends on something of an exhilarating note: The Fugs leading the chant to exorcise the Pentagon in October 1967, with the chant: "Out Demon! Out!" Sounds like something which could be reprised for use outside the White House and Downing Street.

Advertisement

 

Page generated in 0.0785 seconds.