Sky Saxon

Red Planet

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The Red Planet CD by Sky Saxon & the Seeds is dressed in a wonderful Mars comic book cover (Mars as in the fourth stone from the sun, not Sky Saxon's colleague Mars Bonfire), and is chock-full of Saxon's arsenal of '60s sounds and riffs. The album is a coherent and finely crafted selection of 11 titles that trade in the Kinks-style guitar crunch for fuzztone and heavy organ straight out of the Castaways' "Liar Liar" and ? & the Mysterians' entire repertoire. It's all very fun, with interesting melodies banging around a format perfected by Saxon's protégé, Jeff Conolly of Lyres, a strange karma in which later elements influence the original (think Lou Reed after David Bowie's many musical affectations). Of course, Saxon gets the last laugh and proves that the original is still the greatest, with an Oscar Wilde-ish "Cynical Watcher Mr. Peep" containing the repeating hook of "Save all the animals now." The songs that close out the disc have the most punch, with "Violet Ray," like the earlier tune "Uncertainty," going back to the Castaways in feel but exploring space-age sentiments matching the flying saucers on the CD cover -- "no guns, no bombs" and an intro tipping its cap to the Surfaris. The special effects add something extra, resulting in a pseudo reenactment of Lothar & the Hand People's theremin, the inserted chants from Saxon sprinkled with religious overtones. "Judge with a Bomb" is a heavy dark nursery rhyme, post-mortem Jim Morrison finding alcohol in the whiskey bar of "Alabama Song." "Coming Home" is a strong closer, an acoustic journey straight out of country singer Ron Davies' catalog. It's a commendable and solid effort from Saxon that college radio should embrace wholeheartedly.

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