Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute To Roky Erickson

Various Artists

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Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute To Roky Erickson Review

by Mark Deming

Roky Erickson often seems to be better known in rock circles for his well publicized psychological maladies and his less-than-gentle treatment at the hands of Texas' judicial system than for his music -- and that's a shame. While Roky's habit of informing anyone who asks that he's a Martian or is in contact with Satan makes for good fanzine copy, the best reason to be interested in Erickson is his songwriting -- there's a graceful, vivid surrealism to his lyrical style that's endured far better than most of the noodlers who came out of the psychedelic rock movement, and his later bursts of horror film fancy conjure up a troubling tension that's laughed at only by the shallow or ignorant. When Erickson's legal problems came to a head in the late 1980s, longtime fan and Sire Records executive Bill Bentley assembled Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson to raise money for Erickson, as well as drawing attention to the unique beauty of his music. Like most multi-artist tribute albums, the results are a bit uneven; some of these artists seem to have appeared out of convenience rather than any great love of Roky's music, and a few of the interpretations are simple miscalculations (Thin White Rope's Guy Kyser really goes overboard on his version of "Burn the Flames"). But there are a several moments of very real beauty and power here, especially from the artists who share Erickson's Texas heritage -- Doug Sahm and ZZ Top rock out on their contributions, the Butthole Surfers' version of "Earthquake" is one of their finest moments on wax, and T-Bone Burnett's take on "Nothing in Return" is a heart-tugging gem. The 13th Floor Elevators' first two albums are still the best place to sample Erickson's music (and the latter-day All That May Do My Rhyme is a fine album, for which Erickson actually receives royalties -- hint, hint), but Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye is a sincere if inconsistent tribute to his work, and shows how well his songs can translate to the styles of other artists.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 ZZ Top 03:02 Amazon
2 John Wesley Harding 04:00 Amazon
3 Poi Dog Pondering 02:46 Amazon
4 The JudyBats 04:05 Amazon
5 Primal Scream 05:15 Amazon
6 Bongwater 05:16 Amazon
7 Julian Cope 04:36 Amazon
8 Doug Sahm 03:48 Amazon
9 Southern Pacific 03:48 Amazon
10 Richard Lloyd 03:29 Amazon
11 Vibrating Egg 03:04 Amazon
12 R.E.M. 03:10 Amazon
13 Butthole Surfers 04:55 Amazon
14 Lou Ann Barton 01:51 Amazon
15 Sister Double Happiness 05:46 Amazon
16 Thin White Rope 05:35 Amazon
17 Chris Thomas / Rockin' Tabby Thomas 03:46 Amazon
18 T-Bone Burnett 02:58 Amazon
19 The Jesus and Mary Chain 03:46 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick