Fat Mattress

Fat Mattress

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Fat Mattress' first album must have come as a surprise to fans expecting something at least somewhat related to the former activities of its most famous member, ex-Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding. But Fat Mattress doesn't sound at all like Jimi Hendrix (and, for that matter, Redding plays guitar on the album, not bass). Instead, it's passable, pleasant late-'60s psychedelia with a far lighter touch than the hard bluesy psychedelic rock Redding played with Hendrix. From the sound of things, Redding (who had a hand in writing much of the material) and his new cohorts were doing some heavy listening to California psychedelic rock and folk-rock, as this is far breezier and more oriented toward harmony vocals. It's often like an amalgam of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, and Love, with some passing nods to British psychedelia by Traffic (whose Chris Wood plays flute on "All Night Drinker"), the Move, and the Small Faces; there's even a bit of a Monkees-go-spacy feel to "I Don't Mind." In the manner of Forever Changes-era Love, the lyrics have a fleetingly opaque feel, easy on the ear but not really about anything, save soaking up good-time vibes. The problem, at least inasmuch as playing this back to back with something like Forever Changes, is that the words and music don't penetrate nearly as deeply, or coalesce into nearly as strong a group identity. They're pleasing but indeed fleeting in their impression, lacking the indelible hooks or songwriting brilliance of their apparent inspirations, the songs tending to run together in their similar moods. All that said, this isn't a bad album at all; had it not been dismissed by many Hendrix collectors as irrelevant, it might well be getting rediscovered by revisionists and championed as a minor nugget of obscure British light psych. The 1992 reissue on Sequel adds five previously unreleased bonus tracks, undated but from the sound of things cut around the same time as the album or slightly afterward, most of them using a heavier instrumental approach. (All 15 songs from the 1992 reissue are also included on the 2000 Fat Mattress compilation Black Sheep of the Family: The Anthology.)

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