Roky Erickson

Demon Angel: A Day & Night with Roky Erickson

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The soundtrack to the video of the same name, Death Angel captures Erickson on Halloween night, 1984, recorded at what the liner notes say was an "underground creek" in Austin, with at least a few folks around to provide an audience. Aside from occasional, well-performed support from Mike Alvarez on other guitars, it's just Erickson, either acoustic or plugged in, sounding like he could be howling at the moon. Thanks to both the fine recording quality and the gripping, creepy nature of Erickson's unadorned performance, Death Angel makes a firm case as being the definitive live collection, as well as being something close to an alternate "greatest-hits" release as anything. "Bloody Hammer," stripped down and stark, begins the performance, and his strangled wail combined with the brisk, blunt strum of the song immediately sets the mood. One outrageously good performance follows another, Erickson's blend of warped folk tradition and freakish personal demons in full blossom. The performances with Alvarez turn out as fascinating as the solo -- consider the electric/acoustic combination of "Splash #1," Erickson's tender, burnt troubadour vocal perfectly suited by the warm but not overbearing riffing. Other fine duets include "Hungry for Your Love #1," with a fine instrumental break featuring the two guitarists in a lovely acoustic/electric interplay, and "Clear Night for Love," a lengthy version with soft, affecting electric lines in the background behind the lead acoustic work and Erickson's winning vocal. Purely solo efforts that stand out include a weirdly harrowing take on "Night of the Vampire" and almost soothing run-throughs of "Starry Eyes" and a brief, concluding cover of "Blowin' in the Wind." Of course, "You're Gonna Miss Me" eventually surfaces, and while one could argue it's overfamiliar, Erickson's opening yells make it well worth the listen.

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