24 November 2011

The Calliope - Clear Mud/ Wiser


Label: Uni
Year of Release: 1970 (recorded in 1969)


Remember what I said about rare psychedelic/ dancefloor crossover records? One would have imagined that the era would have been shot through with such gems, but the reality is that those thoughtless hippies left behind very few records which swung. For all their versatility, even The Beatles left only slow groovers like "Get Back" and "Ballad of John and Yoko" behind, neither of which tend to set people's feet on fire (although you can - kind of - move a bit to "Paperback Writer" if you're feeling ambitious).

Here's another exception to the rule, then. "Clear Mud" is a messy, domineering, bongos-and-organ driven workout which slipped out in Britain in January 1970, long past the point where anyone cared for chipper little records with cheery hippy vocals in this country. A deep shame, because beneath the puffing flutes and bashed bongos lies a record which sounds like a distant cousin of Deep Purple's "Hush", utterly loose, carefree and actually quite wonderful for all that. Whereas most psychedelic pop had an obsession with the idea of catchy choruses, this is more interested in the rhythms and the mantra-like repetition of the song title, giving it more in common with a lot of the soul and mod records being released during the late sixties than perhaps you'd rightfully expect it to have.

The flipside "Wiser" restores order to the proceedings and is a brief, wistful ballad mentioning hope and rainbows. It's OK and comes with plenty of studio-glossed shimmering effects, but fails to defy your expectations in the manner of the A-side.

Little is known of The Calliope, but their line-up was apparently Jim Andron on guitar, organ and vocals, John Ray on guitar and vocals, Tony Riparetti on guitar, Sue Ferrel on flute and vocals, Dan Protheroe on bass guitar and Jim Saad on drums and vocals. Online evidence points towards a band active in Santa Barbara who had a couple of minor local hits but failed to take America as a whole. How "Clear Mud" ending up getting issued in the UK is a mystery which is clearly perplexing some record collectors online as we speak - US psych flops could hardly have been in much demand in Britain by 1970, and there's no evidence to suggest that this picked up any unexpected radio or club play prior to release. Nonetheless, here it is, proof that UK pressings of obscure records from across the Atlantic should never fail to surprise in their quantity.

Sorry about the surface noise on this record in some places, by the way. I did my best to minimise it, but unfortunately I don't have a perfect copy of this record.

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