Top Drawer

Solid Oak

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Bringing fans the best of obscure psychedelia, Arkama finally put collectors out of their misery with the reissue of Top Drawer's Solid Oak. It doesn't get much rarer than this: the Kentucky band self-released Oak back in 1969, pressing only a measly 500 records, and hardcore psychedelic aficionados have been searching for copies ever since -- but now it's back in digipack form and boasting the original sleeve's artwork. From the epic opening track, "Song of a Sinner," it's evident why so many were so keen to get their hands on this album. This dreamy, atmospheric track boasts both sublime keyboard work from Ron Linn and stellar lead guitar from John Baker. "Sweet Memories," in contrast, delivers up a more delicate aura, with Linn's harpsichord now to the fore. But Top Drawer were capable of more than just sweeping soundscapes and lilting melodies, as the poppy "Middle Class America," awash in fazed guitars, symphonic organs, and splashy lead guitar, well proves. "Time Passes Much Too Quickly" and "What's in Store" are equally bright and breezy, but flecked with a British beat aura; "Baker's Boogie" delivers precisely that, while the guitarist showcases his best surf styling on "Messed Up" and the entire band struts into freakbeat on "Lies." The musicianship is superb and Baker is a virtuoso, surprisingly preferring a relatively understated approach compared to his more braggadocio guitar god contemporaries, thus leaving plenty of room for the rest of the band to equally impress. This may be a reflection of the group's songwriting, for Baker contributes only his "Boogie" and the bulk of the set is composed by singer Steve Geary or bassist Alan Berry -- in any case, the melodies reign supreme throughout. This superb album has been long sought after, and now everyone can experience its pleasures.

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