Naked, Stoned, & Stabbed

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When it comes to new recordings by the San Francisco-based collective Mushroom -- whose most constant member is drummer and producer Pat Thomas -- one never knows what to expect. They’ve done everything from funk and spaced-out jazz-rock to Krautrock and Afro-beat; they’ve covered soul tunes, psychedelic classics, country songs, and pop tunes, with and without vocalists, over the course of more than a dozen albums. Naked, Stoned, & Stabbed (the title taken from Pete Townshend's lyrics to “Bargain”) is no exception. This is a long, wildly musical meditation on underground music from the 1960s: from the sounds of Brit folk (via Nick Drake, Davy Graham, and the Incredible String Band) to spiritual jazz; spaciously tripped-out psychedelia; lithe, groove-laden African and Middle Eastern-kissed funk and drones; and laid-back California jazz-tinged folk-rock. That said, none of it sounds like mere retro-worship. Mushroom’s approach is one of invention, from their taut, disciplined musicianship to their exquisite taste and production standards. The "band" is made up of all-stars -- though its individuals may not be well-known as such. They include -- but are not limited to -- Thomas on an array of percussion, guitarist Josh Pollock (Citay, Gong, Damo Suzuki, Acid Mothers Temple, John Cale, Ruins), keyboard whiz Matt Cunitz (a member of Mushroom who also plays with Brightblack Morning Light), bassist Ned Doherty (another Mushroom regular), multi-instrumentalist Erik Pearson (Daevid Allen, Billy Talbot/Crazy Horse), and percussionist David Brandt (Kologbo's Afrobeat Academy -- Kologbo was a member of Fela Kuti's Africa 70). Vocalist Sonya Hunter also makes an appearance on a cover of Kevin Ayers' “Singing a Song in the Morning.” “Celebration at Big Sur (The Sound of Gulls Outside of Room 124)” evokes Tim Buckley's guitar playing and has Pearson’s fiddle swells that resemble Dave Swarbrick's, along with effects that sound like a haunted Wurlitzer being played by Van Dyke Parks. “All the Guitar Players Around Sean Smith Say He's Got It Coming, But He Gets It While He Can” suggests the primitive expressionism of Robbi Basho, while “Tariq Ali,” using manipulated guitars and sitars, pays homage to the experimentalism of Sandy Bull. The flutes and acoustic guitars on “The Freak Folk Walk by Dressed Up for Each Other” expresses the wit and mischief of Robin Williamson and Mike Heron. “Jerry Rubin: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother” is spiritual jazz with violins, hand drums, and an organ à la Alice Coltrane. Naked, Stoned, & Stabbed is a blissed-out musical travelogue through an era of original underground music brought into the 21st century. Mushroom’s masterful interpretive skills allow it to remain under the radar in a colorful cinematic manner full of ambitious textures and adventurous soundscapes.

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