You Are What You Eat is one of the few late '60s artifacts which has remained comparatively underground in the wake of numerous exploitive revisitations by the pop media -- usually dispensed in the form of nostalgia. The 1968 cinematic release is a pseudo-documentary dealing with the identity crisis facing the concurrent youth movement as seen through the eyes of its participants. Musically, these include Tiny Tim, Barry McGuire, Peter Yarrow, Hamza el Din, and producer John Simon. The soundtrack, like the film itself, is presented as an unrelenting montage of images. They both feature an editing style reminiscent of the musique concrete compositions found on Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy. The music and dialogue on the album likewise hang together much in the same pastiche that the Monkees designed for the soundtrack to their film Head. In other words, an aural onslaught presented à la "theatre of the mind." The disc kicks off with the inimitable pipes of the late great William Roscoe Mercer, better known to New York City radio listeners simply as Rosko. While not only bearing the distinction of being the first African-American to be hired as a newsreader in the city on WINS, he became synonymous with the burgeoning free-form FM radio format. The "helmet commercial" featured in the opening track "Teenage Fair" is nothing short of a brilliant satiric parody of the commercialism of war. The medium to deliver the message also more than suggests that the younger generation will buy anything if the means of persuasion are right. The original LP is designed for consumption in one, or possibly two sittings as the record would have to be flipped. Likewise, the musical performances are incorporated into the larger work -- a few of which should not be missed. John Simon's "My Name Is Jack" -- which was covered to great effect by both Manfred Mann and Pizzicato Five -- tells the seemingly innocuous story of a resident in the infamous "Greta Garbo Home for Wayward Boys and Girls." Tiny Tim's take on the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" fit perfectly in this collection of musical non sequiturs. These tracks are additionally noteworthy as the illustrious Mr. Tim cut both during his brief residence at "Big Pink" in Woodstock, NY. The group heard on the accompanying backing track happened to be the permanent tenants of the house, better known as the Band. To avoid any contractual chaos, their efforts remained uncredited. "The WABE" -- derived from the first verse of Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" -- is arguably the most interesting track on the album. It features vocals from Peter Yarrow behind an upbeat psychedelic sunshine pop backdrop and is truly a lost gem. The distinguished contribution of the Electric Flag's "Freakout" should likewise not be missed. It is a fast hurdy-gurdy blues jam featuring sizzling lead guitar riffs from Michael Bloomfield. The band recorded more material for the project than was issued on this soundtrack. The creatively titled "Movie Music Improvisation" featured on Old Glory: The Best of Electric Flag includes more of these sessions. Although the disc was issued on CD in North America and Japan in the '90s, only the Japanese release has remained in print. It includes newly penned notes and track-by-track analysis from John Simon.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer