Inside the Shadow was more or less the sole product of Anonymous, a studio project put together by Indianapolis, Indiana musician Ron Matelic when he was offered a recording contract and a modest budget to make an album. Released in an unceremoniously tiny batch of 300 copies in 1976, the album would go on to be one of the more sought-after rarities among private-press psych enthusiasts, eventually seeing reissues and bootleggings of various quality until a proper reissue in 2013. The disarming compositions of Inside the Shadow have grown to legendary status based on their unique timelessness and blend of hazy jamming and clear-eyed songwriting. Though the album was recorded in two weeks during the mid-'70s, the production and direct influences would suggest it was made much earlier, as the closest parallels are the intricate vocal harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young or later Hollies, Byrds-like folk-rock, and the bristling psychedelia of '60s Bay Area stalwarts like Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the earliest guitar ramblings of the Grateful Dead. Though disco was in full swing, Anonymous was offering heavy-handed psych-folk workouts like the cosmic rumble of "Shadow Lay" and the gloom-tinged prog pop of album opener "Who's Been Foolin'?" "Pick Up and Run" expands on the Byrds' 12-string electric guitar musings, pushing out all hints of the country roads they would later walk down in favor of far darker fields of dreamlike prog and layers of interlocking vocals. The album plays out in an unintentional song cycle, with songs just complex enough to fold into each other but pop-minded enough to stand out as singular entities as well. "Sweet Lilac" in particular shines through, with vocalist Marsha Rollings taking center stage as tight harmonies from Glenn Weaver and Matelic blend into a wall of sun-kissed guitar hooks. Much as the musicians were living in the 1970s imagining a different era with these songs, the wintry Midwest surroundings of Indiana might have similarly come into play in their dreaming up of summery California-sounding jams such as this. The band went through some lineup changes after this album, changing their name to J. Rider, making another record (entitled No Longer Anonymous), and playing a few gigs before disappearing into the ether. Inside the Shadow stands as one of the more brilliant artifacts of painfully obscure psychedelia. Though it arrived late to the party, its nuanced layers of influence and innovation put it in the same esteemed category as private-press acid folk classics by the likes of Tony, Caro and John, Mark Fry, Ithaca, and Comus. As unknown as those reference points may be, the driven feel of purpose, hope, and inspiration that fuels the album makes it as strong or stronger than any of the better-known bands it takes influence from.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas