Rex Allen, Jr.

Today's Generation

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Bringing new meaning to the term "cosmic cowboy," none other than the son of horse opera star Rex Allen recorded Today's Generation, one of the records with the most expanded consciousness in all of '60s mainstream country (granted, that's not saying too much). Rex Allen, Jr. had performed in folk groups during the early '60s, then formed a band called Saturday's Children, after the Hoyt Axton song. Axton was a major influence on Allen's rumbling baritone vocals and dark songwriting, much of which appears on Today's Generation. The leadoff track, however, was a song from the Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian, who had used his solo Woodstock appearance to perform a very strange song called "The Younger Generation." Although its theme was obvious from the title, the vehicle for that theme was strange indeed -- an imagined future where LSD use was commonplace among teenagers and balloon-type devices named zooms conveyed them around at 200 miles per hour. (The song's bizarre qualities become even more apparent with Allen's sincere delivery of lines like "Can I try a drop of this new stuff on my tongue?/And imagine frothing dragons as you wreck your lungs.") None of this actually sounds quite as fantastical as it would seem, since the arrangements and production are run of the mill for late-'60s country music -- well-played, definitely, and up to a level that any country fan would expect, but certainly not the musical equivalent of the outsider lyrics and themes. (Latter-day references to "Scott Walker having a bad trip in Nashville" may be close to the mark, but they don't convey the superiority of Walker's material, arrangements, and performances.) Allen writes all the rest of the songs except one, and his songwriting hits some of the era's common themes: the war and its aftereffects, the Establishment trampling on the rights of the young, the future in general, and the older generation's failure to hand over a better world than the one they received. It's an interesting curio of the period, but psychedelic country got far, far better with Mickey Newbury than it does here.

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