Sometimes extenuating circumstances can create the best music. Though joy makes a good record its usually overwhelming adversity that makes the great ones. In this case the incarceration and thought of impending incarceration brought out greatness in artists who might not have otherwise been spurred to such lengths.

Alexander "Skip" Spence - Oar
Recorded just after a stint in Bellevue's psychiatric ward due to an axe wielding breakdown, this solo record by the former member of Moby Grape, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service is the sound of a frayed and weighted
mind. Spence had a sudden burst of creativity following his hospital stay that remains one of the most barren and open explorations of the tortured soul ever put on tape. Mostly sung in a weary, husky folk style but touching on fits of psychedelia that swarm with sound collages and phased out vocals. The album is nothing if not bleak but that's exactly what makes it great; no pretense, just one man's mania poured on the floor and left for someone else to clean up.

[MP3] Alexander "Skip" Spence - War In Peace
[MP3] Alexander "Skip" Spence - Books of Moses

Gary Higgins - Red Hash
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Gary Higgins' psych-folk masterpiece recorded in just under forty hours preceding his imprisonment for marijuana related charges. Red Hash is the sound of a man's last scrape at being heard
before disappearing from the world for a while. The songs have a hopeful loneliness to them but are for the most part rather breezy feeling, but the breeze blows mostly cold. The album feels as if it was the last escape before the hammer came down; everything that needed to be said and tied up laid out before communication slowed to a trickle. Higgins has since his release enjoyed a resurfaced career due to the album's re-release that escapes most lost artists of the era. I suppose he might be one of the more deserving of a second chance.

[MP3] Gary Higgins - Telegraph Towers
[MP3] Gary Higgins - Don't Ya Know

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posted by dissensous at 11:00:00 AM


Blogger J T. Ramsay said...

Unfortunately, Mr. Higgins isn't much of a performer these days. I think very few artists can capitalize on their re-emergent popularity, however rarefied it may be. Vashti Bunyan is a rare talent in that regard, being so attuned to her past and present.

Is it me, or does it strike you that artists like Michael Hurley, Karen Dalton and others are like folk music's deus ex machina? I can't remember where I read that article about the Numero Group's excavations, but it was illuminating in the way it put this renewed interest in obscure/unknown artists in context, that is, as almost purely coincidental/accidental garage sale discoveries.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This cat swings and I love the home made sounding recording. Very Lennonesque and I mean that as a compliment. I'll have to track down the album now. Excellent stuff.

4:34 PM  

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