Various Artists

Never Ever Land: 83 Texan Nuggets from International Artists Records

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It's not unusual for a small independent record company to be defined by its first major success, and that was certainly the case for the maverick Texas label International Artists. IA began life in 1965 as a fairly ordinary regional outfit releasing pop/rock stuff, but when they scored a nationwide hit with the 13th Floor Elevators' proto-psychedelic anthem "You're Gonna Miss Me," the label's de facto A&R chief, Lelan Rogers, dove headfirst into Texas acid culture and IA became a home for consciousness-expanded acts such as the Golden Dawn, the Bubble Puppy, Endle St. Cloud, and the truly crazed Red Crayola. Never Ever Land is a three-CD set designed to give a reasonably comprehensive picture of International Artists' strange and memorable five-year lifespan. Disc one is focused on Texas garage rock, and features some of the fuzzier and more straightforward material from the 13th Floor Elevators, the Red Crayola, and the Golden Dawn alongside lesser-known teen rock acts such as the Beach Boys-influenced Coastliners and the frantic Chayns. Disc two is devoted to IA's psychedelic acts, though since several already popped up on disc one the distinction may seem vague to some; at any rate, while most of this music isn't as eccentric as AI's reputation would suggest, this is still a solid set of acid-influenced rock, ranging from the tight hard rock of the Bubble Puppy and the earnest folk-rock of the Rubayyat to the country-flavored sounds of Ginger Valley and the brilliantly "huh?"-inducing sides from the Red Crayola. Finally, the third disc rounds up various odd and ends, from the sublime (two superb acoustic tracks from Roky Erickson with Clementine Hall) and the worthy (a couple selections from Lightnin' Hopkins' IA set Free Form Patterns) to the ridiculous (Sonny Hall's dunderheaded country novelty "The Battle of the Moon"). The set is accompanied by a thick booklet featuring a short history of the label, an entertaining interview with Lelan Rogers, and an AI discography. Never Ever Land reveals the dirty little secret that much of International Artists' output wasn't as bizarre as their most famous releases would lead you to expect, but the first two discs serve as an excellent overview of the heady era when teenage rock gave way to something more adventurous, and the third delivers some superb moments while filling in the gaps in the IA story; it's a loving tribute to a label whose existence was in many respects a brave leap into the musical unknown.

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