Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: 'Spaced Out: The Story of Mushroom Records'

Lasting a mere fifteen months from 1971 to 1972, and issuing only sixteen albums, North London’s Mushroom Records still managed to stir up a minor cult following because of the alluringly pungent music label-founder Vic Keary produced. It was an eclectic mix of raga (Pandit Kanwar Sain Trikha), Indian folk (Nitai Dasgupta), psychedelic folk (Magic Carpet), lush prog and early electronic music (Second Hand), jazz (Lol Coxhill), proto new age (Chillum), Irish folk and folk rock (Callinan-Flynn, Jon Betmead), soft rock (Gordo, Ellis, & Steele), and music for burning Edward Woodward alive to (The Liverpool Fishermen; Heather, Adrian, & John). This music is extremely eclectic yet hangs together because of its mutual archaic and exotic vibe and Keary’s sympathetic, sometimes tremendously vibrant (Second Hand’s “Hangin’ on an Eyelid”), production.

Before forming Mushroom, Keary’s work was less distinguished and his taste in artists often dubious. This spotty period in which he was cutting records at Maximum Sound studio is highlighted on the second disc of a new compilation called Spaced Out: The Story of Mushroom Records. Disc one compiles choice cuts from the aforementioned Mushroom artists, and it is perfect background for your next hookah party. Disc two is often more like one of those Golden Throats anthologies. There are incompetently sung versions of “See See Rider” (by the esteemed Alexis Korners’ Blues Incorporated of all artists) and “Knock on Wood” (Oliver Bone), as well as other questionable contributions from the likes of Denis Couldry, The Mark Leeman Five, The Carolines, and Mel Turner.

It would probably have been easier if the entire second disc were ghastly; then I could just say skip it and stick to the first one, but some really fine psychedelic nuggets by Second Hand, Felius Andromeda, and Tuesday’s Children, as well as some cool Mod rock by The Attraction and Mersey pop by The Cherokees, are mixed amongst the dross. So be ready to work the remote control hard while grooving to disc two of Spaced Out.
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