Thursday, July 28, 2005

Review: Roky Erickson, I Have Always Been Here Before

As far as greatest hits collections goes, it's hard to imagine one more necessary and long-awaited than I Have Always Been Here Before. I mean, seriously, just last week I saw The Essential Cyndi Lauper. The lady produced pretty much nothing I'd call "Essential," much less an entire disc's worth. Sure, "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" has some fond memories, plus there was that one good song about female masturbation ("She Bop"), and... well, I think that's it. Yet she gets an entry in the Essential [sic] series? Good Lord, talk about scraping the very bottom of the barrel. Yet countless legends of the past four decades continue to wallow in obscurity. But I digress.

Roky, contrary to what you may have heard, is not God. No, that privilege is reserved for Syd Barrett. Nonetheless, on the scale of deranged acid casualties, Roky still ranks fairly high. You know the drill -- started with psychedelic garage band the 13th Floor Elevators, left after a few albums due to mental illness and/or drug abuse, spent the 70's and 80's intermittently releasing albums and singles on his own and with various backing bands, ranging from pretty acoustic ballads to straight 50-style retro kitsch to schizoid rave-ups about Satan. The usual thing. And it's all here. Unless you're a serious Roky fanatic, pretty much all the Roky you need can be found on these two discs. The 13th Floor Elevator stuff has never sounded better -- not exactly the standard bearer of high fidelity, but far superior to any other versions I've heard. Now, personally, I've always found them a bit overrated -- a few essential tracks worth of a Nuggets box set, but less psychedelic and experimental than their peers -- so for me this does a fairly decent job of cobbling together their high points. (Of course, if they did as nice a job remastering their albums, I'd probably go get 'em.) After that it's a mixed bag. The key Roky tracks are here, from the timeless beauty of "Starry Eyes" (damn, that's a great song) to the key rave-ups "Don't Slander Me" and "Don't Shake Me Lucifer" to one of my personal faves, "If You Have Ghosts." Anyway, even if you're like me and find the Erickson legend slightly more interesting than the music itself, this is a pretty amazing collection. Even after skipping through some of the meandering solo tracks, there's plenty of great music here for your money. Go get it.


Post a Comment

<< Home