Various Artists

Syde Trips Seven

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The seventh volume of the collector-oriented Syde Trips series has a very limited audience inherent in its format, which is really, really obscure late-'60s British psychedelia, all but three of the 14 songs previously unreleased. Actually, however, this might have a wider listenership than many such enterprises due to the close connection of five of these tracks to a big band -- King Crimson. For those five 1967 recordings are by the Brain, who included the first King Crimson drummer, Michael Giles, as well as his brother Peter Giles, who later played with Michael and Robert Fripp in the pre-King Crimson trio Giles, Giles & Fripp. The Brain played eccentric, far more pop-oriented (and humorous) music than early King Crimson, though not without some of the ingenuity put to good use when King Crimson started. The five Brain songs here include an earlier version of one ("One in a Million") that would be re-recorded for Giles, Giles & Fripp's 1968 album, as well as another ("Murder") that also showed up, again in re-recorded form, on the Giles, Giles & Fripp demo collection The Brondesbury Tapes (1968). The remaining three Brain tracks aren't quite as memorable, including a couple Michael Giles originals and an unlikely (though straightforward) cover of Bob Dylan's "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine." That still leaves nine other tracks, and these are mostly okay, fitfully quirky, but fairly ordinary pop-psychedelia, sometimes of purely archival value. It's hard to imagine anyone getting excited about Fire's faithful re-creation of Moby Grape's "Can't Be So Bad," for instance, other than the very small circle of collectors who are fans of Fire's other, almost equally obscure work. There are a couple of exceptions, however, one being "Penelope Breedlove" by the mysterious 6AX, a wonderfully deft, minor-keyed slice of bittersweet harmony flower pop with lilting flute. The other is Cliff Ward's 1967 demo of "Path Through the Forest," later given a far heavier rock treatment by the Factory. Ward's original demo, by contrast, is far slower and spookier, the happy-mad lyrics, acoustic guitar chug, and haze of odd electronics and female giggles in the background not sounding too far off Syd Barrett's more low-key songs in early Pink Floyd.