Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: Dantalian's Chariot's 'Chariot Rising'

It doesn’t matter how much of a blues purist you were; everyone went psychedelic in 1967. Some of them wore it well. Eric Clapton filtered his B.B. King licks through a lysergic rainbow on the fine Disraeli Gears and the Stones went full-fantasy on their cult classic Their Satanic Majesties Request. Others didn’t adapt as convincingly, as former greats such as Eric Burdon and the Animals lapsed into unpoetic pretentiousness.

Zoot Money and His Big Roll Band were among Britain’s blues purists in the early sixties, but they never had the worldwide success that Clapton, the Stones, or the Animals had, so there was a lot less riding on their Summer of Love metamorphosis into the flower-twirling Dantalian’s Chariot. Their sole album didn’t even get released for thirty years. However, when Chariot Rising finally emerged on Wooden Hill Records in 1996 it did, indeed, prove to be a lost classic in the Disraeli Gears/Satanic Majesties vein rather than a miscalculation in the “San Franciscan Nights”/“Monterey” one. The album is a charming and largely consistent artifact of the height of psychedelia with its backward tape loops, sitars, whacky lyrics, forceful rhythms, and distinctively British whimsy.

Today Dantalian’s Chariot’s biggest claim to fame is the fact that Andy Summers was a member, but his guitar work does not stand out as much as his and Zoot’s songwriting. Fans of this fragrant period will want to kick off their shoes and stretch back into the daisy-strewn lawns of “Madman Running Through the Fields” (released as a single—the only vinyl the band managed to put out during their brief existence), “Sun Came Bursting Through the Clouds”, and “World War Three”. A couple of picturesque instrumentals are reminiscent of Chocolate Watchband’s lush Inner Mystique. Only “Flying Bird”—with its clumsy Burdon-esque references to people with flowers in their hair and San Francisco and noodly guitar solo— is worth a cringe or two. The rest of Chariot Rising is dated in only the very best way. 

Next month Esoteric Records is rereleasing Chariot Rising with good remastered sound, a booklet essay featuring numerous recent quotes from Mr. Zoot, and a much cooler cover than the garish one that adorned the Wooden Hill release.
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