Saturday, April 18, 2009


My head would have a few more cheerleaders in it.


Zoot marches on, as the liner notes to his 1969 album Welcome to My Head proclaim. He started out as leader of the Zoot Money Big Roll Band, which became “a rut” in 1967, so he got a new band, legendary British psychsters Dantalion’s Chariot, better known as Police guitarist Andy Summer’s first band. They were “innovate, psychedelic and together,” the liner notes claim. “So was Zoot.” When the Chariot failed to catch fire, Zoot once again left – this time joining up with the psychedelic late Sixties Animals. “Only a Zoot Money could out-charisma an Eric Burdon,” say the less-than-humble notes again, but neglect to mention that only an Eric Burdon could decide to break up his white psych rock band in search of something much funkier (War). Oh well. As they say, “Zoot marches on.” And this is Zoot on his own. Welcome to his head, man.

Okay, not completely alone - he brought along Vic Briggs from the Animals to produce and arrange, and that, it turns out, was a wise decision. Together, Zoot and Vic created a dreamy orchestrated popsike MASTERPIECE that, amazingly, still hasn’t been reissued. Yet if you hold this album up to any of the more beloved, revered British popsike records of the late 60’s – World of Oz, Skip Bifferty, Pretty Things – it’ll hold its own, thank you very much. It’s more sweeping, grand and majestic than the Chariot or the Animals – thanks to Vic’s string arrangements – whether Zoot’s creating big orchestrated pop moments or overpowering heavy guitar riffs.

So what exactly WAS bouncing off Zoot’s cerebellum in 1969, you ask? The grand British dreampop of “The Man Who Rides the Wind” recalls the World of Oz, Peter Lee Stirling or the early Bee Gees, and is supposedly dedicated to either Tibetan Yogi Jetsun Milarepa or Jimi Hendrix, depending on who you ask. Just don’t ask me - I always get those two mixed up. “You’ve Got to Believe It” is a memorable slice of catchy brass pop with a positively soaring chorus that rises up about a foot off the surface of the black grooves each time it plays. And the absolutely PERFECT lounge jazz freakbeat pop of “The Decision Hour” is a quintessentially Austin Powers slice of British soundtrack grooviness, baby, a long-lost outtake from the sessions to Bedazzled, complete with dolly bird backing vocals from mini-skirt thigh-high-boot heaven. It should come with its own liquid slides.

But the real highlight of Zoot’s psychedelic medulla oblongata has to be the punishing “Eight is the Color,” an absolute MONSTER of a jagged freakbeat guitar riff that takes its cues from George’s “Taxman” and then plays it with the fierce, double-and-triple tracked speaker-shredding abandon of 1970 King Crimson. It’s heavy enough to make Cream sound like the Critters, or the Jetsun Milarepa Experience sound like Spanky and Our Gang. And this right after a soothing slice of soft pop. Must be a left brain/right brain kinda thing.

Sadly, Welcome to My Head, despite its brilliance, didn’t make Zoot into an international pop star, and so his solo career went on hold until 1980’s Mr. Money. But in between, Zoot kept himself busy with various projects, including Centipede, Kevin Coyne and Kevin Ayers. He’s even got an acting career on the side. Zoot marches on.

SQUID POP METER SEZ: 7 out of 10
BEST SERVED WITH: Ritalin, Potassium and Head Cheese

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