The Bards

The Moses Lake Recordings

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It took over 30 years to shake loose The Moses Lake Recordings, yet another Curt Boettcher-Keith Olsen production, from the befuddled chaos of 1960s rock. The album is obscure even by the producers' normal standards. It is also atypical of almost everything else for which the pair was responsible. The main reason for the anomaly is, of course, the Bards, a band not only drastically different from any other combo out of the Pacific Northwest but staggeringly unique in the genre. Boettcher and Olsen, in turn, responded with an equally idiosyncratic production, experimenting with buoyant horn charts and early synthesizer washes. Their characteristic touch is most evident in the harmony arrangements, but the music is considerably more aggressive than any of their other work. That is partly attributable to the Bards' garage roots, which shine through in the ragged fuzz guitars, the barrelhouse keyboard runs, and the unstinting toughness of the quartet's playing. On the other hand, this is not garage in any normal sense of the word. The album, in fact, doesn't come within miles of colliding with normal. It is one of the most off-the-wall relics of the era, a convergence of garage rock, boogie grooves, weird bubblegum, and seriously funky pop/rock. Chief among its oddities are the songs themselves, which tend to defy any, let alone easy, classification. The fabulous "Laredo" flows from a spoken word segment into a flirtatious battle between the lead guitar and collective group scatting. "Oobleck" somehow squeezes black magic, Seussian wordplay, seriously bad mojo, and jubilant harmonies into a deranged, two-and-a-half-minute psychedelic singalong. "Reluctantly and Slow" segues from jazzy beatnik rhythms into discordant, gothic gospel and back to finger-snapping cool. And it's impossible to know what to even consider, much less call, the album's centerpiece, the 14-minute, seven-part "The Creation." A mini-rock opera? A conceptual suite? A progressive acid epic? A stoned rewriting of Genesis? Needless to say, it encapsulates in microcosm all that is eccentric about the album as a whole. Which is not to suggest that the album deserved its obscurity, only that it is no surprise that a record label of the day would have passed on releasing it, given how willfully non-commercial and non-mainstream it is. Garage purists might come away from the album unsatisfied -- there is no "Louie Louie" here, no "The Witch." Nevertheless, The Moses Lake Recordings is an awesome lost gem, always fascinating and often astoundingly good. Even at its most bizarre, it is packed, sometimes a dozen to the song, with ideas.

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