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Spreading From The Ashes, CD (£11.50)
Wafting in on a warm Californian breeze comes this magical collection of rare tracks, previously unheard demos and out-takes from one of Los Angeles' prime exponents of psychedelic folk rock, the PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY. Spanning their career 1965-67, from pre Peanut Butter outfit the Ashes through to their Columbia Records era, this collection is an Aladdin's cave of priceless musical gems from one of the most prolific song writing teams of the time, John Merrill and Alan Brackett. Add the intoxicatingly beautiful vocals of Barbara "Sandi" Robison to the mix, and you have a perfect blend that produced some of the most outstanding music to emerge from the mid-60s Sunset Strip scene.
Having cut their musical teeth in the early 60s folk scene, Merrill and Brackett were able to bring sophisticated vocal harmonies to the burgeoning psychedelic sound when they teamed up with Barbara Robison and formed the Ashes (who also featured future Jefferson Airplane drummer, the late Spencer Dryden). This collection marks the first appearance of the Ashes' rare Vault label 45s on CD, allowing the pleasure of hearing the original recording of the Peanut Butter Conspiracy's Dark On You Now, as well as the showcase of Barbara's vocal talent, Roses Gone. Among the previously unreleased Ashes cuts is a marvellous interpretation of the traditional folk song Hangman, which neatly represents the groups origins, whilst giving an indication of things to come with it's extended instrumental jam.
In addition to the early Ashes material, the Vault Peanut Butter Conspiracy recordings are also included, among them the standout Big Bummer with its myriad time changes and acid-toned guitar. Some other highlights are demos for songs that didn't make it to Peanut Butter Conspiracy albums; not because they weren't of a sufficient standard, but because the group was coming up with so much high quality material they couldn't fit it all on. Tracks like Enchanted World and Naturally (Wintry Ways) are wonderful, even in their stripped-down form, while the fully realised recordings of Eventually, Light Bulb Blues, Moment Of Happiness and the amazing, flower-powered Flight Of The Psychedelic Bumble Bee would have been quite at home on either of their Columbia albums.
The disc closes with a live version of You Should Know recorded in 1967 which demonstrates what an impressive live experience the Peanut Butter Conspiracy must have been, with tight vocal harmonies and an instrumental break that shows the group stretching out beyond the boundaries of the studio recording. With the usual copious liner notes courtesy of Alec Palao, and rare, never before seen photos, this is an essential addition to the Peanut Butter Conspiracy catalogue and a must have CD for any aficionado of West Coast psychedelia.
By GRAY NEWELL