Various Artists

LSD: A Documentary Report

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This LP was created and released in 1966 by Capitol Records as a response to the burgeoning use of LSD -- lysergic acid diethylamide -- among American teenagers. The rear album jacket proclaims "A documentary report on the current psychedelic drug controversy!" Almost salaciously, the contents are depicted as "Actual recordings of people under the influence of psychedelic drugs...Psychedelic music...The sound of the "Acid Test"...LSD users and pushers and the amazing story of LSD in action." In an ironic and fascinating twist, some of that "psychedelic music" -- particularly the fast-paced tune heard at the beginning of side two -- is that of Neal Cassidy and a pre-Grateful Dead combo called the Warlocks performing "Speed Limit" circa 1965. Each side of the long-player consists of a single, continuous track. Narrated by author Lawrence Schiller, side one sets "The Scene" with information on the history of the drug, its effects, as well as sound bites of acid users -- both novice and seasoned -- during and after use. Likewise there are points of view from leading authorities in the medical community via Dr. Sidney Cohen, M.D. -- from the Psychosomatic Services division of the Wadsworth V.A. Hospital in Los Angeles, CA. Conversely, several minutes are devoted to the warnings and proselytizations of Dr. Timothy Leary and a variety of young men and women -- from equally diverse walks of life -- who speak candidly about their experiences -- both pro and con. Several countercultural iconic names are dropped, most prominent among them is that of Owsley Stanley aka Bear. He is specifically mentioned for creating a synthesis which left the LSD practically free of impurities and, for a time, the safest non- pharmaceutical acid being circulated. Side two contains "The Trip" where Schiller again guides listeners through comments from primarily teens about when they began their experimentation and what (if anything) they were able to take from their use. Next up is the audio vérité eight-party acid trip. One of the participants -- named "Brian" -- is the primary focus of Schiller's occasional commentary. Despite his purported familiarity with the drug, its ability to incapacitate becomes evident and his already fragile psyche turns increasingly dark and introspective as "Brian" is heard going through an especially unpleasant manic and psychotic episode. Or, as Schiller refers to it, a "rocky journey [that] ended 12 hours after it had so innocently begun." As to the positive uses of the compound, both Schiller and Dr. Cohen are not secretive about the treatment of cancer patients, chronic alcoholics, and even the breakthroughs in therapy for mentally-challenged children. After providing a brief update of LSD's legal nature -- circa 1966 -- there are additional quotes from Laura Archera Huxley, widow and biographer for her late husband, author of The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley. She vehemently disagrees with the illegality of the drug, yet is quick to warn of its dangers when used irresponsibly. Following a brief allusion to the infamous Acid Tests held by Ken Kesey and company, portions of a live Allen Ginsberg poetry reading are played prior to some interview clips in which he talks about his revelations and insights on the substance. There are also a few minutes of rambling Acid Test recordings, concluding with the profound statement that "...on the basis of the evidence...the answer to the LSD problem should be just about as obvious as the basic question: Is this trip really necessary?" The LP's inner-gatefold includes a "Glossary of terms used in this album" with an A to Z of hippie slang -- from "Acidhead" to "Turn On," while the back cover has an essay from concurrent Capitol Records President, Alan W. Livingston that, in part, states "At Capitol Records we live in a world of the young -- a world of rock 'n' roll music, amid the need for a constant awareness of teenage interests of all kinds."

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