The 13th Floor Elevators

Kingdom of Heaven

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The 13th Floor Elevators were the true pioneers of psychedelic rock, determined to push their music in new and radical directions at a time (the mid-'60s) when pop music was still reluctant to embrace the innovations of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and in a place (Texas) where their experimentation with hallucinogens was considered a threat by law enforcement officials. While the Elevators recorded three excellent studio albums, their live shows are the stuff of legend, and Kingdom of Heaven is a sampler that collects 15 tunes from surviving recordings of the group in concert. The bulk of this material can be found on the career-spanning 13th Floor Elevators box set Sign of the 3 Eyed Men, and the best tracks, from a blazing and cleanly recorded San Francisco concert, can be found on the grey market release Avalon '66, but this collection also features some selections from the band's stellar appearance on the local television show Sump N' Else. (Kingdom of Heaven also features a few tracks from the notorious February 1967 Houston concert where guitarist Stacy Sutherland was suffering through a bad LSD trip on-stage, which are historically important but make for disorienting listening; the full concert can be heard on the album Live Evolution Lost.) Kingdom of Heaven is a decent sampler that confirms the 13th Floor Elevators were truly a force to be reckoned with on-stage, but most of this material works better in context than on this curiously sequenced anthology.

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