Various Artists

Boots & Roots ESP: Rock Compilation

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With a slogan stating "The artist alone decide what you will hear on their ESP-Disk," the ESP label was founded in 1964 by Big Apple-based music lover, Bernard Stollman. For a dozen years (1964 -- 1976), the moniker rightfully garnered a reputation as one of the leading 'underground' imprints who lived by an 'indie' ethos, over two decades before the term was even coined. Taking the name from the first three letters in the word Esperanto, Stollman's releases became recognized for their unabashed ingenuity which incorporated an equally diverse artist base. In the early 1990s, after many years out-of-print, ZYX Music began to reissue titles from the catalog on compact disc. Boots 'N' Roots (1992) is a 17-track compilation offering an aural collage of sounds from ESP's relatively brief existence. As ESP did not traditionally utilize professional studios or engineers, much of the material is taken from renegade sessions that are undeniably lo-fi. Once the ear candy has been unceremoniously stripped away, remaining are the unrefined aptitude of sides as far-flung as the 'all-star' pastiche of the East Village Other. Their East Village Other: Electric Newspaper (1966) blends poetry, songs, and actual radio-broadcasts into a Dadaist time capsule from August 06, 1966. The opening coupling of "Luci's Wedding (Part One)" -- emanating from a clock radio, no less -- and former FugSteve Weber's "If I Had Half a Mind" appropriately commence this CD. Speaking of the Fugs, while they were arguably the best-known act to have come through the ESP ranks, their titles reverted back to the band and are conspicuously absent. However, Weber's post-Fugs combo, the Holy Modal Rounders, timely brand of lysergic-soaked folk is represented with "Sweet Apple Cider" from their 'concept' Indian War Whoop (1967) LP. Other similarly fascinating inclusions are the atypical, hard-driving "Uncle John" from the usually mellow Pearls Before Swine, or the proto-punkish Godz' "Whiffenspoof Song." Equally as heavy are the primordial Cromagnon Orgasm, whose "Caledonia" is among the hard-hitting fare found on their aptly-titled Cave Rock (1969). In direct contrast is the pseudo-aristocratic dialogue of Tony Snell's "Gypsomania," which comes off like a poor man's version of Lord Buckley. Although locating a copy of Boots 'N' Roots might prove a formidable task, those fortunate enough to locate it will undoubtedly be immediately struck by the sheer uniqueness of this volume.

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