Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Shangs - A Little Bit Of Semi-Heaven

The Shangs
A Little Bit Of Semi-Heaven


Released 1991 on Judy Gee!
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 11/10/2007ce


Personnel:
Dave Byers-vocals, guitar, harmonica
Ed O'Neill-lead guitar, bass, percussion, vocals

1. Julie Is..
2. Magic Hair
3. Olancha Burn
4. Breezy
5. Timi Yuro
6. Six O'Clock In The Morning
7. Ballad Of Brenda McCann
8. Queen Mindy
9. Getting The Fear
10. Livin' Lovin' Life
11. Blue Love
12. Dennis
13. Complex Contemplation
14. Blues For Shelynne (version 1)
15. Blues For Shelynne (version 2)

The Shangs were, and I'm happy to report still are a wonderful duo from Toronto, Canada. Dave Byers was a founding member of legendary Canadian 70's visionaries Simply Saucer. I just got wind of this superb 1991 album a few weeks ago while browsing the internet late one night as several tracks were loaded onto the Youtube video site. I watched all of the videos and was hooked on this group straight away. I ordered the record the following day and here is my report.

Well for starters I guess I should mention that this album has a theme of sorts, the theme being women both famous and infamous. The Shangs seem to be a bit obsessed with Tennessee 60's combo The Feminine Complex, female singers such as 60's soul belter Timi Yuro, Nico & Julie London and last but not least the female members of the Manson Family. I guess you could call The Shangs music "Golar Wash" rock, if you know what I mean.

The opener "Julie Is.." is a brief guitar instrumental that reminds me a great deal of the Danny Kirwan/Fleetwood Mac number "World In Harmony." Closely following is "Magic Hair" which is a mutant garage thumper that brings to mind late 60's NYC cavemen The Godz, before you know what hits you it shifts into a gorgeous, druggy instrumental called "Olancha Burn" (named after the small California town on route 395 north of Death Valley that is part of Manson lore.), musically this one echoes the trippy guitar passages on Country Joe & The Fish's 1967 debut album "Electric Music For The Mind & Body."

"Breezy" is a beautiful, laid back number that sounds just like it's title, try to imagine early Spirit, "Four Sail" Love & MU and you'd be in the right ballpark. Next in line is "Timi Yuro" which I guess is a tribute to the great female singer of the early 60's, yet oddly this is the most psychedelic and experimental piece on the record, sounding like Mogwai, Main and "Red Mecca" era Cabaret Voltaire, very eerie! "Six O'Clock In The Morning" is a very pretty cover of a song by the group's idols The Feminine Complex, it gives off the same feeling as some of the laid back numbers by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. "Ballad Of Brenda McCann" is a very haunting number concerning former Manson Family member Nancy Pitman that is surely one of the record's high water marks, I'm not quite sure what the song is trying to convey so I won't try and guess.

Changing pace completely is the next piece which is an instrumental that I assume is a tribute to Feminine Complex singer Mindy Dalton, however this one is not warm and fuzzy, instead it is a savage rock and roll assault that recalls "Foggy Notion" era Velvet Underground, O'Neill is a wonderful guitarist and he really lets it rip on this one. Another instrumental follows called "Getting The Fear" (yes another Manson reference) this one is nothing short of spectacular, I just can't believe they terminate it after a minute and a half, this is one of the greatest guitar instrumentals I have ever heard! (on a somewhat related note there was a group called Getting The Fear from the UK which was made up of the members of Southern Death Cult after Ian Astbury left.)

"Livin' Lovin' Life" is a creepy, druggy slow blues that recalls Spacemen 3 and the second side of their 1990 album "Recurring." The Shangs hang a true curveball next called "Blue Love" which is a gorgeous slice of 1967 sounding sunshine pop that sounds like The Association, Strawberry Alarm Clock and "Friends" era Beach Boys. Staying on the subject of The Beach Boys the next song "Dennis" is a tribute to the late Beach Boys drummer/singer that is positively stunning, this thing just burns into your brain like the hot August sun. "Complex Contemplation" returns to the cold blooded assault of "Queen Mindy" this instrumental is in the same territory as 80's desert trippers Thin White Rope.

The record closes out with another beautiful instrumental "Blues For Shelynne" which is divided into 2 parts, the first part brings to mind Jerry Garcia's "Love Scene" from "Zabriske Point" soundtrack blended with Fleetwood Mac's underrated guitar wizard Danny Kirwan. The second part has a bit of a creepier edge that ends the album on a somewhat ominous note, but what a trip it has been. I'm now off to find every Shangs record I can, I have learned the group is back together which makes me feel as good as watching the Cleveland Indians knock off the New York Yankees the other day. If I could use one word to describe "A Little Bit Of Semi-Heaven" that word would be MASTERPIECE!

Some similar albums you might enjoy:

1. The Byrds-Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia 1968)
2. Spirit-Spirit (Ode 1968)
3. Spiritualized-Laser Guided Melodies (Dedicated 1991)
4. Stalk Forrest Group-St. Cecilia (Rhino 2003)
5. West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band-A Child's Guide To Good & Evil (Reprise 1968)
6. Bob Smith-The Visit (Kent 1969)
7. Love-Four Sail (Elektra 1969)
8. Jesus & Mary Chain-Stoned & Dethroned (Blanco Y Negro 1994)
9. Opal-Happy Nightmare Baby (SST 1987)
10. Rain Parade-Explosions In The Glass Palace (Enigma 1984)


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