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on 23 October 2011
"Astral Navigations" is seriously underrated cornerstone album of vintage (1971) psychedelia and acid folk (although this definition is vague, silly and not sufficient).
This album features 2 different bands - "Lightyears Away" (melodic acid folk) and hard rocking "Thundermother". Both bands and this particular album emerged from Musics From Holyground; their other efforts are saved on Gagalactica, and Thundermother's songs might be found separately on "No Red Rowan" (theoretically only, because this is a mega-rarity).
"Astral Navigations" was a brainchild of larger than life Mike Levon, who produced, recorded and released all albums, and who composed many songs for "Lightyears Away".
Joe Meek is highly praised as innovator and a visionary, although his major achievements are in weird noises and sounds - the music itself is unashamed pop mainly. Phil Spector also is well known and recognized - as inventor of the famous "wall of sound" and "Spectoresque" producing - which again and again covered the lack of real creativity in music itself.
Mike Levon, whose creativity was(and still is) well beyond and above these two names,is neglected. And we are talking about a visionary (not unlike Jac Holzman) who produced exceptionally refined music of highest standard possible.
John Peel was promoting independent music - Mike Levon was making it.
Even the first step towards Astral Navigations deserves to be considered as an oustanding achievement in acid folk - it's miles ahead of heartless whining of Van Morrison or mediocrity of Donovan, but it didn't make into Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk. Maybe it was too good.
All these albums had been recorded in mono on one track of 2-track open reel deck, using a mixer built by the drummer Ted Hepworth. The masterpieces of "Astral Navigations" and "Gagalactica" result from painstackingly re-recording and copying tracks, adding instruments, vocals, and sound effects.
Holyground started as early as 1965 - first as a studio, and then as an independent label. It was never successful commercially, and thus managed to preserve its creativity - all profits (if there were any, which I doubt myself) were invested into upgrading the equipment and producing another album.
Lightyears Away was strictly studio project, consisting of Brian Calvert (vocals, piano), Ted Hepworth (drums), Bill Nelson on guitar (later with Be Bop Deluxe) and Brian Wilson (guitar). Occasionally there were other guest musicians, but no live performances.
The band has astonishing melodies and vocal harmonies with exceptional guitar work, I would say that these were the finest moments in British acid folk (again, not the best definition and description). It reminds somehow the Beatles, but without syrup-sweet voices of Fab Four.
Thundermother was totally different, featuring David John (vocals), Fred Kelly (drums), Dave Miller (guitar) and Frank Newbould on bass - the line-up was fluid, and they played live gigs under different names (Shirley Levon). One of the finest hard rock bands I have ever heard - not so loud, but just superb.
Two different bands complimented each other, and the melody gradually evolves into different mood and rhythm - that was the original concept of Mike Levon, and that's why they are on the same album.
That's the "Music For The Human Mind", not for the charts or mindless mass consumption.
Without much exaggerating I would say that this is an important element of international musical heritage and really deserves to be better known. I really wish to live long enough to see TV documentary about Mike Levon and musicians of Holyground, and to read his biography.
Listen to it - the samples are available on American Amazon, or YouTube, and buy it! And don't neglect the rest of Holyground catalogue
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on 1 February 2016
to all those that do contemplate a CD purchase : don't, if you are into heavy psych/ acid rock !
you might be tempted to buy it because of the great UK band : THUNDERMOTHER 1971 replete with acid rock/heavy psych ,
album name: NO RED DOVAN . I made the mistake without being aware of it !
for the catch here being : this cd holds just a few tracks off thundermother, an utter outrage committed against an illustrious band like this by those
distributors. ask them why they're not doing a re-issue instead. rather buy the complete thundermother cd if you can put your hand on it.
or download it for free from youtube rather than to settle for those scraps they are feeding to you !
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