Transatlantic Railroad

Express to Oblivion

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These circa 1967-1968 (the liner notes aren't entirely specific) recordings by this very obscure Marin County band are very much of their time and place. It's fairly heavy psychedelic rock with a fairly heavy blues influence, apt to jump into free-form passages and multi-sectioned, lengthy tracks with an improvisational feel and a stoned vibration to the lyrics. In the structural sense, then, they're pretty similar to the early Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, and to the freakier aspects of Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & the Fish, and Big Brother & the Holding Company. What they were lacking that the other groups had, to varying degrees, were outstanding songs and arrangements, virtuoso instrumentalists, or excellent vocalists. It's ambitious but meandering stuff, and while the testaments to the group by a couple of fans in the liner notes make it clear that the band had its importance as a communicator of the psychedelic experience in a live setting, Transatlantic Railroad does sound like a bill-filler in the larger scheme of San Francisco Bay Area '60s psychedelia. And a rather callow one at that, though they have the cheek to quote from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's "East West" in the 12-minute "Elephant," an opus that's about as graceful as its title. The most appealing tracks here are actually the simpler ones, those being the country-folk-flavored "Irahs" and "Good Times," which with its Zombies-garage feel sounds like it was recorded earlier than the rest of the material.

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