Roky Erickson

Never Say Goodbye

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Never Say Goodbye features previously unreleased Roky Erickson material from 1971 to 1985. Much of the music is of a stripped-down or solo acoustic nature; the five solo 1971 cuts were recorded, for instance, at Rusk State Mental Hospital (where Erickson was an inmate). Although a sticker on the cover notes that these are "lo-fidelity field recordings," in fact the sound quality is listenable and not a hindrance, save for a brittle (and brief) version of "I Pledge Allegiance." Erickson's solo recordings are noted for their preoccupations with ghouls and comic book imagery, but these songs (which are not available in any other form) -- particularly those from 1971-1974 -- omit those traits almost entirely. Instead, they are tender, sincere, and melodic performances, with a naked vulnerability shining through both in Erickson's yearning vocals and the folk-rockish turns of phrases. There is little else in the Erickson catalog to compare it to, other than maybe the Holiday Inn tapes, except that the performances here are far more committed and together. Erickson's colorful bouts with mental instability, both inside and outside his recordings, have tended to overshadow his more straightforward musical gifts. This is the recording, above all others, that demonstrates the strengths of his uniquely gentle and mystical writing and singing, when these qualities are not subsumed by his inner demons.

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