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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Crow, England

Crow - Live at the Oyster Stores. 1992 private cassette.
Crow - Medicine Wheel. 1992 private cassette.
Crow - The Tides of Apsaroke. 1993 private cassette.

As we are in the midst of the unknown UK festival psych scene of the 1980s and early 90s, I'm happy to announce what may be the absolute best group I've heard in the entire genre: Crow. I first heard of this group from a posting by Uwe Zickel over at ProgArchives a few years ago (and props goes to Uwe for turning me onto many newer space rock bands as well!). He posted their Myspace page, but for whatever reason I never bothered to check it out. But I did add all 3 albums to my Curiosity List, and out of the blue, The Alaskan Connection sent me two of them this past winter with a bunch of other UK psych rarities (like the AMA albums we just posted recently).

Holy moly! This is the good stuff right here. No pussyfooting around with electronica or reggae. Just hardcore space rock, in high flight mode most of the time, with loads of effects applied to the guitar. The guitarist plays not only fast solos, but a multitude of rhythm wah-wah that drives the music forward in an exciting way, with plenty of meter and thematic shifts to keep you guessing all the way through. There are sparse vocals, generally applied to add a trance-like effect and do not deter or become the centerpiece at any time. There are no keyboards to speak of, so the guitar and bass have the responsibility for all the tones and atmosphere - and they do a fantastic job at just that.

"Medicine Wheel" is the more psychedelic of the two albums, with plenty of tribal drumming and freaky guitar sequences with intense build-ups and actual climax releases. Both albums add didgeridoo to great effect. "The Tides of Apsaroke" ups the ante to a whole new level of intensity. Dare I say the guitar is almost heavy metal? Not a 1992 post-Metallica palm mute method, but rather a 1979 NWOBHM sound, similar to maybe early Saxon or Iron Maiden - but with the sound on sound fuzzy technique like Ed Wynne of Ozric Tentacles. I've never heard anything like it! And what an exciting path for other bands to pursue! There are a few more vocals on this album, and the material is definitely angrier, but no less satisfying for space rock heads. I haven't heard the live album, though the two live "bonus" tracks on "Medicine Wheel" are pretty rough in the recording department - so hopefully it's better than that would imply. Of the two albums, I prefer the purest "Medicine Wheel", but Tides is the more adventurous and also just plain awesome.

So filtering the above, what do we have: Take the heavier Ozric Tentacles tracks like 'Eternal Wheel' and 'Dissolution', mix with the punk angst of Omnia Opera, toss a little pyrotechnic Mandragora jamming, throw in the progressive tendencies of 'White Rhino Tea' Ozric or the obscure band Blim, and add a dash of metal to the guitar sound. Almost sounds like the perfect formula - not sure I could have drawn that one out any better in the playbook.

Crow was awesome, and definitely the best band from the UK psych scene no one's heard of (even besting Blim). They reformed briefly, and I hope that's not it from them. Reissue labels? This is a no brainer pick up. For certain they would have sold back in the day - if only anyone had heard them!

Priority: 1


balbulus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
balbulus said...

Hi, I'm a friend of the band, and I suspect you have the rips I made of the albums. The 2 live tracks I added to the end of Medicine Wheel (No Reaction + FE Stomp) were not on the original album, but were taken from the Oyster Stores tape. The other live tracks were just versions of the Medicine Wheel tracks.

I too would love for a label to pick these recording ups. The band did reissue them as mp3 downloads, but the site is now down.

The band did indeed reform in 2008, and played a host of excellent gigs until late 2010. They have been quiet since then, but have just started to rehearse again (last week in fact!), so hopefully they should be active again soon...!

Hope that helps!

Purple Peak Records said...

Hi Balbulus,

Yes, I'm sure you're right - it sounds like it was your rip. I received them from the AC, and he may have found your copies. And you confirmed the Oyster Stores connection. I really do hope they get back in the studio and put out a new album. Wonderful band. Thanks for all the great info!

- Tom

Starsailor said...

hi, how can I get their music ?
thanks for your awesome blog !

Purple Peak Records said...

Hi Starsailor,

Unfortunately it's not available anywhere! I really hope it comes out on CD someday!

- Tom