The Stark Reality

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As resurrected by the breakbeat archivists at Stones Throw, the Stark Reality appear not as an in-the-pocket funk band or agitated soul shouters, but as a group supremely talented at late-'60s fusion: half jazz-rock and half acid rock. Although a Hoagy Carmichael children's record from 1958 certainly has a low potential for reimagined flights of distorted frenzy, bandleader Monty Stark forced each of these compositions through extensive reharmonization, bringing them to the turned-on generation and, thus, making them sound hardly dated at all (at least, in 1970). The Stark Reality are most reminiscent of Larry Coryell or the early Soft Machine; they state a bizarre, barely tuneful theme, then spend a period of time making that theme sensible to listeners, and often insanely catchy, by improvising on it extensively -- worrying it to death with fuzztone guitar, distorted vibraphone, and nimble, scaling basswork. Stark's vocals, which only come in occasionally, are of the psychedelic hillbilly variety, a monotoned parody of his Oklahoma accent singing of the months in the year, cooking, making friends, and on the highlight "Rocket Ship," a ride into space. It's truly difficult to believe any child would know what to make of this without parental supervision -- unless any parents were visionary enough to expose their child to musical events like the Soft Machine's support slot for Hendrix during 1967 or the Miles Davis engagement at the Cellar Door in 1970 that produced Live-Evil -- but open-minded listeners during its second incarnation will undoubtedly prove more appreciative.

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