Hey there. How are you all doing out there? Did you get fooled or play a prank on someone? Perhaps you feel reading my part of the newsletter is an April Fools? As regular readers of the Sorry State Newsletter know by now, I am not a writer, but hopefully I communicate my passion for music and records with enthusiasm if not professional grade wordsmithery. I treat writing in the newsletter as an honor and am grateful to have the opportunity. It’s a lot of fun, as talking about records is my favorite thing to do. So, thank you for joining us each week. It means a lot.
I was chatting to a friend recently, and we both agreed the record collecting bug got to both of us at a very young age. Luckily, years ago, records were not so expensive and money earned from my paper round and early part-time jobs went a long way. I knew from the beginning that a good chunk of any disposable income I had would go towards records. I have gone without a lot of life’s luxuries over the years and have chosen to buy a record instead of groceries once or twice. It may be an addiction, but unlike regular crack, this black crack leaves you with more than just that one high. When you buy a good record, you get great music to enjoy as many times as you like, you get some information from the liner notes, you maybe get some cool and interesting artwork to look at, and you leave enhanced as a human being after the experience. Plus, you can always sell your records when you need money to buy actual crack. They are a future investment to yourself.
Anyway, records, other than friends and family, animals, and Liverpool FC have been the most important thing in my life. That is why I love working in the store so much. Being surrounded by records at home wasn’t enough. I needed to be surrounded by them at work too.
I have said this a million times: it doesn’t matter how many records you have or think you know about, there is always more that you haven’t seen or heard about. I’m the oldies guy here at Sorry State and have heard, seen, or read about loads of different records over my lifetime, but it never ceases to amaze me how many new things I discover every day. Each time we get in a collection, there is generally something I haven’t heard. That’s just the old stuff, never mind all the new releases. Then I am constantly learning from my colleagues here. They have such a great depth of knowledge on all things punk and metal and lots more besides. Are you all enjoying Usman’s pieces about Scandinavian and Japanese hardcore as much as we are? Talk about passion for music? This guy is the embodiment of passion and commitment to the music. Our 2020 mixtape and accompanying zine that came out so well (if we may say so) is chiefly down to the extra hustle and hard work from Usman. Stand up sir and take a round of applause.
Here’s one example of why I love my job and how it fulfills me in ways far more enriching than mere financial gain. In any given week we get to see all kinds of wonderful and interesting records come through the store. Contrary to popular belief, the staff does not take all the good stuff (we couldn’t afford to), but a big perk is to see, handle, and play them. That being said, when something comes in that is on our personal wants list, we get first dibs and Daniel is very generous with what he charges us. Last week Daniel bought a couple of small collections on a road trip, and in one of them was a record that I have wanted for the longest while.
It’s Brainticket: Cottonwoodhill, a Krautrock Psychedelic album from 1971. Brainticket was formed by a Belgian jazz pianist named Joel Vandroogenbroeck who became inspired by German bands like Can and Amon Duul. Apparently, this new project of his was to be called Cottonwoodhill and the album to be named Brain Ticket, but somehow things got reversed. They released three albums in the 1970s and two more in the early 1980s.
The third album from 1973 called Celestial Ocean is generally regarded as their best. Based upon The Egyptian Book Of The Dead, that record combines cosmic synth sounds with acid folk rock to great effect. If you like Gong, Ashra Temple, Tangerine Dream etc., you’ll be happy.
The second album Psychonaut is also pretty good. Trippy hippy acid folk rock with sitar and flute and other embellishments such as odd percussion and sound effects. Nice and mellow, but it has a few moments where they wig out a little. Overall, the sound is more traditional prog leaning and less psychedelic than the first and not as futuristic and cosmic as the third.
On Cottonwoodhill the lineup is different and the sound much more rooted in 1960s psychedelic rock. Vandroogenbroeck plays organ, which is the lead instrument, and flute. He is joined by drums, bass, and guitar, plus female vocals. Ironically the guitarist Ron Bryer and singer Dawn Muir were British and Vandroogenbroeck was Belgian, plus the band was based mostly in Italy and Switzerland during their time as opposed to being actual Krauts in Germany.
The album consists of two songs on side one along with the first part of Brainticket, and then the whole of side two has the completion of the Brainticket suite. Basically, a repeated Hammond organ vamp with sound effects coming in at various places and Dawn Muir’s vocals, which get more excited and agitated as the tracks build. It’s not for everyone and you won’t need to hear it that often, but it is still pretty cool and groovy.
Even on the album jacket they warn the listener, “After listening to this record your friends won’t know you anymore. Only listen once a day to this record. Your brain might get destroyed!“
Just to ram the message home on the rear of the sleeve we are told, “Listen to the first recording of this LSD/Hashish/Fixy/Jointy sound. Take a trip to your inner light. See the hallucinations of reality rise out of the groove. Join in… you’ve got the brainticket now! Hallelujah!“
Cool, count me in. Apparently this wasn’t met as keenly by the establishment at the time and upon release the record caused controversy, resulting in it being banned from several countries, including the USA. That warning along with the cover art itself was still too much for people back in 1971. Talking of the cover art. All three records have great covers well worth looking at. Celestial Ocean was released with a different cover in Italy than in Germany, and I think it is the better of the two versions. I wanted to own a copy of Cottonwoodhill because I had used it once as the base for a party flyer and I felt like I had cheated because I didn’t own the record, having just a CD. As you can see, it’s a great image and suggests the type of music you would expect. Take a look at the cover for Psychonaut; it’s pretty cool also. I’m glad to have scored a copy of Cottonwoodhill but I wouldn’t mind owning the other two. Here’s a link to the first track called Black Sand to give you an idea.
I’ll leave you to decide whether you want to take the trip and listen to the rest. My advice would be to listen at 4:20. Happy travels. See you on the other side - Dom