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The Firebirds - Light My Fire (1968) / The 31 Flavors - Hair (1969) (2013) review

The Firebirds "Light My Fire" / The 31 Flavors "Hair" (Gear Fab Records, 2013)

Both these albums, which have been stitched onto one disc, were originally released in 1968 and 1969 respectively. Acid rock was the rage then, and that's exactly what the Firebirds and the 31 Flavors were all about. But these were not real bands, per se, as they were anonymous studio musicians hired by low-budget labels to cash in on the craze of the day. Exploitation records were quite commonplace back then, and many of them were surprisingly as good if not better than what the genuine bands peddled.

The title track of the Firebirds album is an instrumental version of the hit song by the Doors, and although the arrangement is similar the sound differs a bit, as it pitches a curious blend of jazz and lightweight psychedelic inclinations in a manner that can almost be characterized as hippy elevator music. Sparked by chugging licks, a deep-throated bass solo and some thrashing drum fills, "Free Bass" and the squealing sonic squalor of "Warm Up" are other instrumentals heard on the disc, where "Gypsy Fire" and "No Tomorrows" clearly aim to ape the blues fried figures of Jimi Hendrix. Grungy, dirty and overamplified to the max, "Light My Fire" steps in as an accurate representation of the heavy rock of the era.

So bad that it's great, the 31 Flavors album features a screwy mix of shapes and styles that give the impression the players were hanging by the seats of their pants while the tape rolled. A tuneless cover of the Fifth Dimension's "Aquarius" is practically akin to being subjected to fingernails scratching on a blackboard, and then there's an equally dumbfounding treatment of "Hair" that makes the recording by the Cowsills seem positively radical by comparison. On a brighter note, "Real Far Out" pulsates and pounds to a blast of cool jamming, and "One-Two-Three-Four" projects a ratty garage rock feel before getting buried underneath a mass of ear-bleeding noise. An instrumental, "Free Drums" is rather captivating, as it winds its way through a mind-numbing maze of intriguing improvisational stunts, and the aptly dubbed "Distortions Of Darkness" reveals a triple influence of Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix and Blue Cheer.

Riffing big time on sloppy power chords, phoney soul vocals, clunky drum beats and masturbatory musical escapades by the yard, "Light My Fire" and "Hair" are guaranteed to satisfy the senses of those who dig bone-crushing hard rock. Crank the volume and annoy the neighbors!

Review made by Beverly Paterson/2013
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