The Electric Prunes

Artifact

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Designed as the Electric Prunes' "real" third album ("the one we never got to make," according to the liner notes), Artifact is a surprisingly fresh slice of psychedelic pop/rock. From guitarist Ken Williams' fuzz-toned launch on the album's opener, "Lost Dreams," through a series of wonderful new original material and some brilliantly chosen covers, this record proves that the Electric Prunes haven't really lost any steps in their 30-year "hiatus." Lead vocalist James Lowe's arrogant, streetwise growl has actually aged quite well, and even at times sounds like he's morphed into Tom Petty, who was doubtlessly influenced by Lowe as much as by Roger McGuinn or Bob Dylan. Featuring almost all of the original members of the band, the Prunes all shine on this record, underlining the fact that they were and are fine players, despite their instrumental absence on some of their later Reprise albums. Lead guitarist Ken Williams' playing still contains all of the tremolo-soaked, distorted fury of his earlier work (such as "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night"), but is also filled with a newfound sense of refinement and craft. "The Phone Won't Ring" is an excellent example of this, and his supple, perfectly placed riffing takes the song to another plane, making it one of the album's highlights. The album features some guest performances, the most notable being former Moby Grape guitarist Peter Lewis, whose fingerpicking 12-string electric guitar work on a slowed-down cover of Love's classic "7 & 7 Is" is positively brilliant. But the album's finest moment may be a version of Randy Newman's "The Dream I Had Last Night," which, aside from cleverly echoing their aforementioned 1967 "Dream" single, is a cohesive and brilliantly arranged and executed slab of modern-day psychedelia. Not a lot of bands from the 1960s can regroup after three decades, let alone make as fine a record as this, and for that reason alone, Artifact is well-worth seeking out.

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