21 Nov 2011

Bubble Puppy - A Gathering of Promises - Obscure Classics

Great albums you might have missed.

Bubble Puppy - A Gathering of Promises ( 1969 )

The phrase "don't judge a book by it's cover" may have been coined with this album cover in mind. I've read about how good this album is for years, but avoided it due to it's terribly naff cover which seems to promise the sort of light 60's pop that dealers on ebay label as psych-pop to triple their prices. In lieu of sleeve notes my CD copy of this on Collectables Records offers four full page reproductions of the cover. They needn't have. Fortunately this Texan four piece are considerably grittier than their renaissance fair appearance would lead you to believe. Originally released on International Artists - the same label as the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, this must have been a pretty forward thinking album for 1969. Musically, the band are very tight with some particularly intricate twin guitar interplay, and excellent drumming with some unpredictable tempo changes. There are definite progressive rock leanings here and the arrangements are a lot more ambitious and complicated than the norm for a U.S acid rock release of this vintage.
Hot Smoke & Sassafras was a big enough single to warrant a reasonably successful cover in England by the Mooche, and the original version was the biggest selling single released by International Artists, outselling all of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators singles. It's a psychedelic, proto heavy rock track with an unusual flute refrain and while it's the track that lead me here and is most often featured on compilations, I'd have to say it's not the best thing on offer.
The highlight for me is Elizabeth, which manages to combine a frantic, eastern dual guitar riff with tight but slightly atonal vocal harmonies.

Also of note is I've Got to Reach You, which covers all of the bands strengths ; mournful harmonised vocals that wouldn't sound out of place on an early Fairport Convention record and some scorching hard rock guitar workouts that build impressively before shifting effortlessly into a half time jazz feel.
All in all this is a pretty great late 60's rock album. They released a second album as Demian - it's entertaining, but lacks the subtleties of this release and is more of a straight forward heavy rock album, albeit a pretty good one.

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