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THE SERPENT POWER “SAME” (U.S.VANGUARD BRONZE) 1967 BRIGHT COLOR CVR IS M-..DISC VG++ SHINY GLOSSY Has a few small marks hence vg++
One of my favorite albums that arose from the ’66-’67 SF scene. By far, my favorite lesser known album from that glorious time and scene. It’s an album that, to my ears, stands toe to toe with other revered albums by the much better known SF bands of the era (Country Joe & The Fish’s Electric Music, Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow and After Bathing At Baxter’s, The Dead’s Anthem of the Sun, etc) I find it beyond astounding that this band never received the recognition that they deserved during their time. They receive much more now.
Side One opens with “Don’t You Listen to Her”. Containing fierce organ sounds, along with a bouncy rhythm, it’s is a rollicking, circus pop, stop start pop tune driven by a chugging guitar that’s underpinned by that organ. The vibe and atmosphere of the playing sounds pretty optimistic, but the lyrics are anything but. An interesting start. ‘Gently Gently” is a wonderfully moody and dark pop ballad in which tension is released and gathered via the vocals and ensemble playing. Some very cool, eastern based guitar work along with some fine bass playing should be noted as well. Love the way that they vocally and musically ratchet up and then slowly release the tension. “Open House” is one of the safest, down the middle tracks in the set, well kind of, but it too has some unique weirdness that sets it apart. The way they sing “forever and ever” with the rising and lowering of the harmony lines mixing with the suddenly rolling bass provides a dark contrast to the rather regular, upbeat verses.
“Flying Away” is similar to “Gently Gently” in it’s tone and feel with some nice vocal work by Tina Meltzer. She perfectly captures the essence of lyrics like “If you tell me one more lie, I will run away and cry, I will turn into the night, I will turn into a lullaby”. The guitar break also does a fine job of driving home the desolation of the track. Pretty stark and dark for 1967. “Nobody Blues” is the second track sung by David Meltzer. It’s a blues lament with again some great, sensitive guitar playing and some nice harp playing that takes it to a close. “Up and Down” is the most upbeat, most pop track of the set with a kind of lilting, good time musical vibe, but juxtaposed against the lyrics it’s genius.
Side Two opens with the shuffle of “Sky Baby”, bringing to mind early Blues Project. It’s also sung by David Meltzer and while I enjoy the track, it’s the least essential of the ten on offer. “Forget” brings us back to the dark side with lyrics that bring to the mind loss of memory and how debilitating and horrific it can be. It’s a perfect ensemble accompaniment for a track that ends with the couplet “Oh, I hate tomorrow. “Dope Again” is a link into the centerpiece of the album, and it’s most well known track, “Endless Tunnel”. I’ve been trying to get across the genius of The Serpent Power for it’s ability to get across feeling. To this point in the album, they have been really special, tops at evoking feel, but with “Endless Tunnel” they step up into master status. There’s an ominous feel that permeates the track brilliantly. They’ve conveyed dark tones already, but on this track it’s close to frightening.
Don’t You Listen to Her2:20
Up and Down3:37