Thursday, February 01, 2007

Alexander "Skip" Spence - Oar

Decade - 1960's

Alexander Skip Spence - Oar (1969)

Well, this is certainly a strange one.

This album is hard to get a grip on. Stylistically, it's all over the place, swinging from country tones to blues to folk to psychedelic rock without skipping a beat. That's never a bad thing in theory, but in the case of this album it feels as if it's a result of confusion rather than a decision to explore different styles of music. The lyrics are mostly non-sensical, sometimes banal, sometimes fascinating and the vocal stylings sound like someone about to crack. And I thought this BEFORE I read about Skip Spence.

Alexander "Skip" Spence was the drummer for Jefferson Airplane which he left to become the guitarist for Moby-Grape. Spence suffered from schizophrenia, and was committed for 6 months after he got high on LSD and attacked his bandmate's door at a hotel. On his release, he produced this album - his one and only solo work. He recorded the entire album himself and plays every instrument. The result is clearly the work of someone not entirely stable - many of the songs sound like ramblings, yet others are quite tight lyrically.

I can see the appeal and why it has a cult following - it's the sound of unadultered suffering, confusion and pride all rolled into one. It DOES sound naked, the vocals are disturbing and some of the songs are striking. But it's so uneven that without the fascinating story of its maker creating an aura around it, it is really just an average album of its time that has not aged well.

Score - 6.5/10

Genre - Folk/Psychedelic Rock

Best Tracks - War in Peace, Grey/Afro

Recommend? Check it out, you never know


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