The recent deluge of mid-'60s relics that continue to rise from the vinyl crypt for a little modern re-consideration are too often more miss than hit. For every Pete Dello or Comus reissue there are seven or eight barely mediocre offerings from bands like Eclection or the Vejtables. Chrysalis, a colorful quintet from Ithaca, New York who dabbled in everything from folk, rock and jazz to Middle Eastern music fall somewhere in the middle, and their one and only recording, Definition remains a fascinating, if uneven lesson in the fine art of psychedelia. Frank Zappa, who championed Chrysalis as "a group that has yet to destroy your mind" was originally asked to produce, but was in the throes of removing himself from a bitter contractual dispute with MGM/Verve. In the end, Definition went through numerous production teams who all left for various reasons -- none relating to the music or musicians -- which makes it all the more curious that it sounds so defined and cohesive. Frontman Spider Barbour, who had appeared on both Zappa's We're Only in It for the Money and Lumpy Gravy -- and who is now, ironically, a naturalist devoted to the lives of moths and butterflies -- brings a great deal of early Mothers of Invention aesthetic to the table. Jazzy piano motifs flitter about truncated worldbeat rhythms, while short comedy skits provide segues between songs that deal with insects, yodeling girls, and hippie culture. It's all very Sgt. Pepper's, but there is an adventurous glee to the songs and arrangements that's equally matched by the talent behind them. It's the kind of brainy yet daft art rock that collegiate drug users, music school geeks and even children can find common ground in, and Rev-Ola's extensive liner notes and inclusion of eight bonus tracks from the sessions makes for a rewarding listen whoever you are.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger