Various Artists – I’m A Freak Baby 3: Album Review

Subtitled ‘A Further Journey Through The British Heavy Psych And Hard Rock Underground Scene (1968-1973)’, you know the score by now…

Release date: 25th June 2021

Label: Grapefruit Records (Cherry Red Records)

Format: 3CD clamshell set

With two volumes under the belt, the Heavy Psych/Hard Rock/Underground scene is still ripe for plunder. It’s been five years since Vol 2, so we’re all set for an encounter with a new batch of music from those influential pioneers and subterranean groundbreakers.

Following the theme of regular compilations of this nature (as opposed to ‘Now That’s What I Call… shenanigans), Volume 3 collects and collates 53 tracks providing an experience that is another constant voyage of discovery and delight. Within, you’ll find some familiar names. Thin Lizzy, Procol Harum, Deep Purple and Mott The Hoople a case in point. However, what you won’t find is The Boys Are Back In Town, A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Black Night or All The Young Dudes. Indeed, Master Of The Universe by Hawkwind may be the most recognisable (or predictable) of the selection from the bigger names in the set.

Those names of note are then accompanied by a wealth of bands and their songs that never broke the surface of the counter culture. Some who remained deep in the underground, like a well-kept secret club – Pink Fairies, the Edgar Broughton band and the seminal underground band, Hawkwind. Then there are those whose flirtations with the thrill of recording their songs, maybe a cheaply recorded and pressed album, was brief but whose names live on in the dark corners of Rock history.

And that’s where the delight comes as they’re placed, seamlessly some would say, in the playing order. The vertitable voyage of discovery. Disc one alone is worth the price of admission as Stray set the tone with some fizzing amps and raw guitar. No messing with the effects pedals to get that rich and dirty sound. This is totally natural and while it may owe a touch to Hendrix you can’t fault the dedication to the cause. From then on, the wave of brash and bruising efforts from a period when Rock was in its youthful prime, cut a swath through any thought of polished and produced music for the masses. Overdriven guitars and the rush of a Hammond organ were the order of the day.

You can almost smell the greatcoats as The Deviants channel a bit of repetitive riffing a la the Velvet Underground while Mighty Hard goes down the bizarre sounds route. The latter is matched on Disc two by Third World War’s Hammersmith Guerilla. However, this seems the place to search for the great lost riff. An Aladdin’s Cave of riffs that you never heard. Skip to any track and you’ll find some riff trying to become the next Smoke On The Water or Alright Now. Zior’s Strange Kind Of Magic creates a tribal brew, Writing On The Walls’ It Came On A Sunday is aided and abetted by a shimmer of organ and

Many may have been recycled and could seem familiar from another song that rose to the surface. Some wonderful discoveries for anyone unfamiliar with the era. Bone? Their Crush is very much of the easy desert rock groove of the Blue Oyster Cult and the laconic Dylan drawl of Creepy John Thomas’ This Is My Body might have the swing of A Little Help From My Friends. Fuzzy Duck? Their Afternoon Out combines some Moodies harmonies, a cheeky funk workout and sounds more Deep Purple at times than DP’s own Mandrake Root also on the collection. Curtis Knight Zeus? Get your head around the soul power of Mysterious Lady and Stoned Rose? Their Day By Day might be low-fi and unrefined but it’s the sound of a band doing their thing probably around one recording mic in a warehouse, living their own dream. On the other hand, Criss Cross of the band of course went onto fame with electronic pioneers Ultravox. And yes, some got their break; Jimy Page and Brian Johnson too are buried (not too deep as it happens) in the collection.

It’s essentially a set of ready-made party selections – for those of a certain age naturally. Possibly earning the subtitle, Now THAT’S What I Call Music. These bands were born to be wild. Yes, there may be deeper and more bizarre areas to explore but this is another splendid primer. Just as important too to choose a suitable closing piece, so ending the set with Spooky Tooth’s Evil Woman should hopefully provide the logical link to Vol 4 as the anthology grows ever large.

Here’s some underground Mott The Hoople with The Moon Upstairs:

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