3 Jul 2017

Spaced Out - The Story of Mushroom Records

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Vic Keary's short lived (15 months!) underground label Mushroom Records released some extremely collectible records, so it's surprising that this intriguing selection from Grapefruit Records represents the first attempt at a label overview.

Where major label offshoots like Vertigo, Deram and Harvest more or less focused on hairy prog and hard rock during this timeframe, Mushroom had no parent company to call the shots and as a result their output was startlingly diverse.

Vic Keary's background was in reggae, with numerous credits on the venerable Trojan label among others, but when he set up his own Chalk Farm Studios he was happy to dabble in recording a bit of everything and that's certainly evident here.

Heads and psychedelic collectors will be well acquainted with the likes of Second Hand, Simon Finn and Magic Carpet, who are all well represented (particularly Second Hand, who appear five times as well as in a latter incarnation as Chillum).

But there's plenty more to delve into too. Avant-jazz menace Lol Coxhill stretches the envelope, while there are also a couple of appealing Indian classical excursions from Ravi Shankar and Pandit Kanwar Sain Trikha as well as folk that ranges from contemporary (from Greek folksinger Andreas Thomopoulos) to as trad as they come (The Liverpool Fishermen)

All of which makes for a fascinatingly diverse listen - literally something for everyone. And that's just the first disc!

Disc Two moves beyond Mushroom's output and looks at productions Vic recorded in the sixties for other labels. Even more diverse than the first disc in this collection, this sidesteps his more well known reggae productions and gathers a plethora of sixties pop in its many varied forms.

There are countless highlights: Procol Harum influenced psych-pop band Felius Andromeda's sole single has been collected often and both sides are very welcome here, as they're two of the best slices of pop perfection to appear during the golden era of the Deram single. I wasn't aware that they'd cut a further single under the abbreviated moniker of Andromeda, but they did, and both sides are also here, a real treat for collectors.

There's also two sides from excellent freakbeat combo the Attraction, including a fabulous, gritty take on the Kinks "Party Line" and several cuts from highly rated London psychedelicists Tuesday's Children, including their classic "A Strange Light From the East".

Add some moody girl group melodrama, folk-pop, the odd crooner, a heap more freakbeat and beat gems and you've got quite the mixed bag / curate's egg / whatever tired cliche you fancy using.

"Spaced Out" is a little too diverse for its own good perhaps - it's unlikely that anyone will like everything here, and its title and cover art are a little tacky given the quality of its contents, but there's little else I can fault this on.

Available here for a pittance.