Friday, February 5, 2010

Poi Dog Pondering - I Had To Tell You (Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson,1990)

video

The eclectic worldbeat/folk-rock outfit Poi Dog Pondering were formed in Waikiki by vocalist/guitarist Frank Orrall, violinist/vocalist Susan Voelz, and multi-instrumentalist Dave "Max" Crawford, the only constants in the group's history; sometimes swelling to upwards of ten members, the band has seen numerous personnel shifts. Named in part for a Hawaiian expression meaning "mutt," Poi Dog Pondering relocated to Austin, TX, and picked up a following through extensive touring; they released two EPs, 1988's Poi Dog Pondering and 1989's Circle Around the Sun, which attracted the attention of Columbia Records with their varied instrumentation, easygoing humor, and offbeat fusions of world musics and folk-rock. Columbia combined the two EPs for the group's 1989 self-titled major-label debut, which along with its slightly slicker follow-up, 1989's Wishing Like a Mountain and Thinking Like the Sea, earned Poi Dog Pondering critical acclaim and a devoted cult following.
Roky Erickson often seems to be better known in rock circles for his well publicized psychological maladies and his less-than-gentle treatment at the hands of Texas' judicial system than for his music -- and that's a shame. While Roky's habit of informing anyone who asks that he's a Martian or is in contact with Satan makes for good fanzine copy, the best reason to be interested in Erickson is his songwriting -- there's a graceful, vivid surrealism to his lyrical style that's endured far better than most of the noodlers who came out of the psychedelic rock movement, and his later bursts of horror film fancy conjure up a troubling tension that's laughed at only by the shallow or ignorant. When Erickson's legal problems came to a head in the late 1980s, longtime fan and Sire Records executive Bill Bentley assembled Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson to raise money for Erickson, as well as drawing attention to the unique beauty of his music. Like most multi-artist tribute albums, the results are a bit uneven; some of these artists seem to have appeared out of convenience rather than any great love of Roky's music, and a few of the interpretations are simple miscalculations (Thin White Rope's Guy Kyser really goes overboard on his version of "Burn the Flames"). But there are a several moments of very real beauty and power here, especially from the artists who share Erickson's Texas heritage -- Doug Sahm and ZZ Top rock out on their contributions, the Butthole Surfers' version of "Earthquake" is one of their finest moments on wax, and T-Bone Burnett's take on "Nothing in Return" is a heart-tugging gem. The 13th Floor Elevators' first two albums are still the best place to sample Erickson's music (and the latter-day All That May Do My Rhyme is a fine album, for which Erickson actually receives royalties -- hint, hint), but Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye is a sincere if inconsistent tribute to his work, and shows how well his songs can translate to the styles of other artists.


I Had To Tell You

Candles all around me
wicked spirit clinging
but I can hear you singing
in the corners of my brain

Every doubt abound me
every sound of riot
everything is quiet
but the songbird keeps me sane

I can hear your voice
echoing my voice softly
I can feel your strength
reinforcing mine

If you fear I'll lose my spirits
like a drunkard's wasted wine
don't you even think about it...
I'm feelin' fine

I can hear your voice
echoing my voice softly
I can feel your strength
reinforcing mine

If you fear I'll lose my spirits
like a drunkard's wasted wine
don't you even think about it...
I'm feelin' fine

No comments: