Saturday, May 22, 2010

Roky part II

In 1985, Roky Erickson would release Don't Slander Me, mentioned briefly in the previous post, Roky.

It's a solid album for anyone. Burn the Flames remains a favorite of mine, in all of its majestic glory, strange and evocative and Starry Eyes remains a minor classic.

It lacks some of the power of The Evil One, but it's also the last album Roky recorded in it's own moment. Everything since then has largely looked back.

After that, he would go into a extended period of isolation, related to his mental illness and custody issues, documented in disturbing detail in the movie You're Gonna Miss Me: A Film About Roky Erickson

During the late, a number of Erickson compilations were released. Some were previously released songs, most were live albums of varying quality, but some nuggets slipped through in demos and other previously unreleased songs.

"True Love Cast Out All Evil" would become the title song to his most recent comeback album, a decade or more later.

In 1990, a tribute compilation was made, in part to help pay for his care. It is called Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson, and features covers of songs from various points in Erickson's career by artists such as ZZ Top, R.E.M., Doug Sahm, Butthole Surfers, John Wesley Harding, Julian Cope, T Bone Burnett and The Jesus and Mary Chain. It's a solid collection, and unlike too many tribute albums, shows a genuine affection for the music by all involved.

Five years later would come the next collection of newly recorded songs, a full decade since his previous original album.

All The May Do My Rhyme is beautiful album in many ways. It's a kind of back to roots kind of album, that seems largely based on previous demos and such. For You (I'd Do Anything) is a beautiful and almost childishly simple love song. You Don't Love Me Yet is pretty and nice.

Please Judge is beautiful song, apparently written in 1971, during his own legal difficulties. The melody has a passing resemblance to Love is Strange. For whatever reason, producers Casey Monahan, Speedy Sparks and Stuart Sullivan accentuate that with the string heavy arrangement here.

It would then be another quiet decade until the release of You're Gonna Miss Me until Erickson would return to the public.

He would continue to perform for the next few years, including this performance with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.

It would be a performance with Okkervil River at the Austin Music Awards that would lead to a new record.

True Love Cast Out All Evil is an attempt by Erickson and Okkervil River's Will Sheff to take songs from the Roky archive, as it were, to tell his story. A kind of autobiography on record.

I've been listening to it for a month now, intending to write about it, and I haven't decided how well I think it works.

Certainly, moments like "Ain't Blues Too Sad", Be and Bring Me Home, Forever and "Goodbye Sweet Dream" cast a magnificent spell.

But for me, there may be a quality that tries to cast too much tragedy over it all.

I'm not trying to dismiss the horrors of a life spent with years of imprisonment, hospitalization, isolation and terrible mental illness. And I'm the last to suggest that he shouldn't get his opportunity to exorcise them in whatever way seems best for him.

But I look at the recent clips of him performing, like this clip of Don't Shake Me Lucifer, which I can't embed, and this one from the same show...

... and I see a 62-year-old who is playing to audiences, and a lot of love and joy in the music is being shared back and forth.

That's the album I think I'm ready to hear more of at this moment.

He's back out on tour, in support of the album. I can't encourage everyone enough to catch him if he comes to your area. I hope when he comes back from it, he'll be fully charged up and ready to make a more rounded album than this one. The one that looks forward as much as it looks back.

The 13th Floor Elevators arguably invented Psychedelic rock. The Evil One still feels fresh and innovative today. Perhaps innovation is behind him. He's certainly done more than enough for one lifetime.

But I will say, I can't stop listening to "John Lawman". He's been at it over 40 years, and it doesn't sound like he's aged a day.


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