Various Artists

Psych Bites, Vol. 1: Australian Acid Freak Rock 1967-1974

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Australians have a well-deserved reputation for liking their rock & roll hard, heavy, and without a lot of gingerbread, and it should come as no surprise that a lot of their psychedelic stuff doesn't dwell much on peace, love, and flowers. In fact, the 20 rare tunes collected on Psych Bites, Vol. 1: Australian Acid Freakrock 1967-1974 don't sound all that psychedelic, but like early hard rock with a dash of heavy blues and progressive rock added for flavoring. "Midnight Witch" by Ash bears more than a passing resemblance to Black Sabbath (though without their monolithic impact), Helium's "Don't Think Twice" is a bluesy stroll with guitar work that wins the Leigh Stephens award for being clumsy and brilliant at the same time, Freshwater's "Satan's Woman" shifts back and forth between major and minor keys as the titular succubus weaves her spell, Chook's "Tables Turn" is fast and thunderous, and the Dave Miller Set's "No Need to Cry" is a lean rocker with plenty of tough guitar soloing. Most of these tracks were cut for independent Aussie labels, and with rare exceptions, the material is well-produced and musically solid; the music speaks of the early '70s rather than the late '60s (which makes sense, since only one song was cut before 1970), and while there's a vague counterculture sensibility in this music, the unspoken message is to rock out and boogie, not to explore the avenues of the mind, and taken at face value, this music succeeds admirably. If you were hoping for lysergic kangaroos on Psych Bites, Vol.1, you're out of luck, but as a document of the early years of Aussie hard rock before it received a proper hearing in the U.K. and the U.S., this is heady and entertaining stuff.

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