Thursday, June 12, 2008

Simple Minded Harlequin

I have to admit, I'm kinda on the fence about this one.

On one hand, its has a certain charm in its willful irreverence and general whimsical tone. One the other hand, any intimacy and somber quality that might be expected from a folk / psych album is somewhat rudely disrupted by singer Elyse Weinberg, who sounds a lot like Gilda Radner doing her best weekend update

I understand that some people who marvel at ineptitude might take that as a ringing endorsement (Myself Included), but all quaintness aside, sometimes this chick is just downright unpalpable. She does have her moments though.

"Born and raised in Canada, Weinberg emerged from the same mid-'60s Toronto folk scene that launched the careers of Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell. And like some of her famous colleagues, she found herself in Los Angeles, although initially just to visit Young. Then she ended up staying a while with another acquaintance, Mama Cass Elliott of the Mamas & Papas. W

The recording of "Elyse" was, she {weinberg} says, "over the top," with "no one producing anything. It reflected the times." Indeed, a listen today reveals a certain inspired insanity that is partly accountable for such a superb, occasionally stunning LP, an attention-grabbing mixture of death-fixated medieval folk, imaginative pop arrangements and very 60's psychedelic rock. Weinberg and her session band, an L.A. group called Touch, sound as alluringly sloppy as Janis Joplin's Big Brother & the Holding Company on some tracks, then follow those up with meticulously arranged, affecting love songs. Lyrically, it's a timely record, as the gallows humor and mortality obsessions seem perfectly suited to the ugliness that pervaded American society as the Sixties drew to a close. You can practically smell the dreadful anticipation of Tate-LaBianca and Altamont in the song's less-than-rosy scenarios.

"Elyse" sold fairly well upon its release, reaching #31 on the Billboard album chart. Tetragrammaton performed its publicity duties, taking out full-page ads in Billboard and other publications. Harlan Ellison wrote about her in his column for the alternative paper the L.A. Weekly, and Newsweek featured her alongside Mitchell and Laura Nyro in a profile on the emergence of solo female songwriters, a rarity up until that point, Odetta and Joan Baez notwithstanding. She played big L.A. clubs such as the Troubadour and did her stints on the festival circuit. Weinberg even played Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," which, considering her wild-haired appearance and intense music, must have been quite a trip for last-night TV America".

It’s hard to choose a track or two that is indicative of the album, as the record is all over the Middle-Earth map. I have attempted to approximate the Elyse experience with a trifecta of sounds, namely Psych, Country and Heavy.

Maybe this will finally satisfy my own Midieval mind about Mrs. Weinberg (I'm currently on the 'Yay' side of the 'Neigh').

If Death Don't Overtake Me - Elyse Weinberg

Iron Works for Rent She Cried - Elyse Weinberg

Mortuary Bound - Elyse Weinberg

1 comment:

Devil Dick said...

leave some psych records for the rest of us will ya huh? jeeze....