“Alexander” and the Gutteral Cough of Psychedelia – by Peter Nelson-King

It had been dragged in the patchouli ditch, overstuffed by an uninvited foreign exchange war, and came up from the drink in a rented hangover costume two weeks behind in payments.  It was 1969 and, though the American Industrial Music Conglomeriana wouldn’t admit it for the better part of a decade, the Psychedelic movement was pretty much over.  As with all outgrowths of 60’s drug culture the original point had been lost and accessible and well-known headliner groups (such as the Doors) had catapulted what started as subterranean and murkily understood by its inventors into that ever-so-dangerous “clean-cut” realm.  And at the peak of the buzz two groups attempted to take things up a level: Vanilla Fudge (now considered a seminal cross-genre band and very much worth investigating) and Alexander’s Timeless Bloozband.

I don’t know who Alexander is, or the contents of the Bloozband.  I don’t want to know.  It would diminish the magic.  Careening wildly between a genuinely vervy psychedelic jazz blend (such as in the above Horn Song) and a Bouncing Betty in the form of back-of-the-basement blues revivalism, I’ve never heard a record capture a genre’s collective direction quite like this one.  I can’t be sure if most of you will like every track you hear.  That may be part of my point.  Actually, this first track is probably the best, with a neat grove and harmony, and less boozy than most late psychedelia.  However, many other tracks (all available for download on Amazon) smack of a different beast.  And all are defined, alpha and omega, by Alexander.

I can’t imagine a better descriptor than “big floppy lawnflamethrower.”. His voice is a hairball expo on karaoke night, almost too lovely to behold.  From what little information I was able to gather on the group they played venues all around SoCal in the late sixties.  I’ve never heard of any of them (Greasy Slew Duck Club?!), so I can only assume they were flattened by Alexander’s visionary warble.

In a way this record is a testament to just how much the psychedelic movement owed to the blues.  Perhaps if this record had sold better people would have latched onto this notion.  I think a big part of why nobody did is a central conceit to the genre, in that most psychedelia is about as bluesy as the Beatles.  One thing is for certain, though: Alexander was at least channelling the spirit of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and every whiskey he ever played footsy with.  He understood the Bloozband for what it was: a vehicle to let his wobbly soul dance.  Perfection is out of the question.

I apologize for rambling, but maybe I was trying to skirt the real reason this record exists, and has to exist.  It is the last genuine psychedelic blues statement of its time, and between the maybe-once-rehearsed ensemble effort, a recording quality that suggests a garage at the bottom of the Hudson, and the incomparable Alexander, we realized that it couldn’t go any other way.  It’s both glorious and disarming.  The glory is obvious, but the disarmament comes when the weight of the thing comes crashing to our shoulders.  Did the gods bless this as a living funeral, or was Alexander really as clairvoyant as I hope he was?  Was it planned from the start to mark the death of the psychedelic music in LP form?  Is this what a death rattle plays on the guitar?

I see now why the Bloozband is Timeless.  The gutteral cry of humanity’s search for answers in the face of oblivion can never be silenced.  Alexander’s unique art merely made it timely.

~PNK

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