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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 48 - 09/13/00

Various Artists
Asyd Vinyl, A Tribute To Syd Barrett
Krank Records

Some of rock's tragic legends are still walking this earth. There's Roky Erickson, Brian Wilson, Sky Saxon - and there's always Roger Keith - or Syd - Barrett of the original Pink Floyd. He is the living proof that drinking your cup of tea spiked with LSD every morning will seriously damage your health. While a professional musician between 1967 and 1970, only three albums - two of them solo - and four singles of Syd's music were released. During the last 30 years his status as an unforgotten hero has grown immensely. We've seen a vast amount of rereleases, bootlegs, a Peel session EP, an album's worth of unreleased songs and takes from the archives, a three CD boxed set of his solo albums including more alternative takes, fanzines, articles, two books about the man in addition to numerous about the Floyd, and too many cover versions of his songs to count. In 1987 Imaginary Records released the tribute album Beyond The Wildwood. It included a few acceptable versions of Syd's songs by Paul Roland, TV Personalities, The Shamen etc., but only The Mock Turtles' rendition of No Good Trying was outstanding. Now Norwegian Krank Records has released a second compilation of Barrett's songs, on a double LP!

Five of the songs originate from Floyd's earliest singles or debut album Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The other 14 from Syd's solo carreer (The Madcap Laughs, Barrett, and Opel, originally released in 1988). One of the tributing bands/artist here is Scottish, five come from Norway and most of the others from the U.S. of A., it seems. Most of them unknown to me. Editor Phil McMullen of the excellent Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine that deals with garage, psychedelic, progressive, guitar oriented rock etc. has written the liner notes, which ought to give an indication of the kind of bands involved.

Now, does the music of the crazy diamond still shine on today? As with most tribute albums: some tracks are brilliant whereas for some of the contributing artists it was no good (idea) trying. Those who change the song, hopefully into their own expression, generally are most successful. Pale copies of the original recording, well...what's the point? We need go no further than the opening track, Greg Weeks' electronic and techno-tinged Baby Lemonade, to find a great combination of 1970 and 2000. Other successful keyboard-based versions are Electroscope's Rats (brilliantly simple and simply brilliant!) and Scarecrow by Simeon/Silver Apples, the New York electronic pioneers of the late 60s that made their comeback a few years ago. The latter begins very much like Floyd's original, but transforms into something completely different, as does Flaming by Brother JT. Great!

On the other hand we have the sparsely arranged versions. Paloma's See Emily Play with organ and banjo (?) and Long Gone by The Iditarod with a string bass up front, both with funny noises and laid-back tempo work out fine. Ring's simple recording of Late Night with drum-machine, acoustic guitar and a weird keyboard sounds all right. Black Bone Chapel, a side project of Norwegian eccentrics Cirkus Gilmour (no obvious connection Syd's successor in Pink Floyd), has made a hauntingly version of Swan Lee. Only armed with a guitar and two voices it sounds better than the original, to these ears! Watersnake with a very slow Octopus sounds like the lunatics have taken over the asylum control room, whereas Havanarama's Tia Gigolo is a hardly recognisable Gigolo Aunt with Spanish lyrics. Drekka's It's Obvious with sitar (?) and strange noises works, in a way. Green Pajamas is probably the most well known band of the compilation along with Silver Apples. The Pajamas' partly poppy guitar-driven She Took A Long Cold Look is great, with a funny different direction at the end. Norwegian The Tables ought to be familiar to regular Luna vistors. Their Arnold Layne was presented as a single here a couple of moons ago. It's faithful to the Floyd original, but sounds very much like The Tables all the same.

I've not mentioned the difficult side C of the album yet, the one to be avoided, in my humble opinion. Interstellar Overdrive by Reynols has the original opening and ending guitar riff, only harder and faster. In between there's too little free-form freak-out and too much noise. Dark Globe, Syd's most vulnerable recorded moment along with Jugband Blues, is too personal to work out for anyone else, whereas If It's In You is too far out to work out for anyone.

All in all Asyd Vinyl fares better than Beyond The Wildwood. I've lived with Syd's music for nearly 25 years by now and generally prefer his and the early Pink Floyd's own stunning, brilliant and tragic recordings. But it's refreshing to listen to...let's say 60 or 70 percent of the Asyd Vinyl versions for a change. Syd ought to be proud. If only he knew...

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