R. Stevie Moore

On Graycroft

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The very first release in R. Stevie Moore's impressively thorough self-released catalogue, 1968's On Graycroft, is the sound of the 16-year-old Moore in the basement of his family home, teaching himself how to use his session musician father's home taping equipment in the company of his high school buddies (two of whom, Roger Ferguson and Billy Anderson, would go on to become his primary collaborators throughout the '70s). The sound, as one might expect, is fairly awful throughout -- about halfway through "Midsummer Reflection," the tape gets eaten by the primitive reel-to-reel setup -- but it still sounds better than, say, the first couple of Guided By Voices albums. The songs, all written by Moore (three co-written with guitarist Mike Burroughs) and sung by Moore, Ferguson, Anderson and Burroughs, are an understandably uneven lot, with several songs sounding exactly like what they are: the work of a bunch of young suburban Nashville kids in the heady post-psychedelic days of 1968; heavily influenced by the Beatles; the first few Mothers of Invention albums (the alternately goofy and boring 22-minute sound collage "Fugto Hi-School Hijinks", in particular, sounds like it was pieced together under the spell of We're Only In It For the Money, though odd little snatches of found sound crop up unexpectedly throughout the disc) and, most improbably but most conclusively, the bossa nova work of Stan Getz and João Gilberto, who are the clear antecedents of "Midsummer Reflection," "My Truth," "Lone," and "Sunday Samba." (And yes, the lyrics are just as earnest and twee as the titles.) The surprise, however, is that a couple of the songs are clear signposts of R. Stevie Moore's eventual flowering of quirky genius; the woozy, psychedelic "Ill (Worst)"; featuring a snaky, twisting melody, vocals sung in a disorienting near-whisper, and a frenzied recorder solo, and the just plain weird "Grandpa Has A Beer Gut", are marvelous slices of psychedelic pop considerably better than most of what gets unearthed on those gray-market collections of obscure '60s singles and demos. However, as a whole, On Graycroft is strictly for the most devout R. Stevie Moore fan, and it's not recommended at all for newcomers.

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