Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Tangerine Zoo - Tangerine Zoo

The Tangerine Zoo
Tangerine Zoo

Released 1968 on Mainstream
Reviewed by Certif1ed, 21/07/2008ce

Forced to change their name from "The Flower Pots", because of the "obvious" drug reference, The Tangerine Zoo missed out on a place in the history books by turning down the opportunity to play at the Woodstock festival in 1969.

Had they played there, we would have remembered them as, you know, they played at Woodstock, man - and their output may well have been something very interesting instead of, well, very interesting... certainly interesting enough to support acts such as Deep Purple, Van Morrison and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Opening the album with an intense cover of Van the Man's Gloria, reworked into a 6-minute epic, with swirly Hammond and feedback-drenched psychedelic noodling a-plenty doesn't seem like a good way to avoid the mainstream and do your own thing, but the band manage to stamp their own style on this classic, in a much more interesting way than renowned cover-butchers Vanilla Fudge, bringing it well and truly into the Summer of Love, albeit 6 months too late. Swathes of the Doors dynamic and aggressive style make this stand out from the standard "Love and Peace" fayre, with tightly controlled breakdowns, instrumental solos from everyone, and noises off creating a jazzed-out, frenzied atmosphere.

If you thought that was good, it's the next track that's the real beginning of the treats; "Trip to the Zoo" is so thinly disguised it's laughable, with stonking basslines creating a jazz-flavour to the heavy freakout music that is to follow, and lyrics like "They pick my brain, brain, brain, brain" leaving you in no doubt what sort of trip they were having - but leaving me a little mystified as to what actually happened at the zoo... This track is pure musical LSD - you don't need to take anything, except this album at ear-splitting volume, the way it was intended to be heard. But if you do, please make sure your head is screwed on tightly.

The musical mind expansion continues with the next track - something that sounds like a glass harmonica provides an eerie opening to an angsty, bluesy tale of woe relating something akin to Stockhalm Syndrome, as the Hammond ripples and sweeps menacingly through something that sounds not unlike the roots of Progressive Rock, reminding me particularly of the unsung Scottish band Clouds (formerly 1-2-3), who supported Hendrix on some of his British gigs - clearly Hendrix's booking agents had a taste for this kind of unpredictable, wild and progressive music.

"Nature's Child" is a title that summons up visions of drippy hippy music, but this is again closer to the sound of the Doors, with plenty of Garage energy, dynamic, and more of that angsty melancholy, concerning Barry McGuire's world of destruction. Here the instruments are pushed to recording equipment breaking point, as ice-pick harmonics ring out, threatening to shatter tweeters and ear drums simultaneously.

"The Flight" is more of the same as the above, you'll be glad to hear - great, foot-tapping no-nonsense psychedelic rock with plenty of Hammond Swoops, thumping bass lines and feedback-drenched fuzz guitar noodle.

"Mommy and Daddy" is rather odd, though, having a kind of Scottish flavoured instrumental following the childish Barrett-inspired vocal section - I mean, what's this all about?

Just part of a very odd trip, I suppose, as the music continues into "Symphonic Psyche", a rather manic piece designed for hungry heads - and very catchy. Shoulda been a hit!

The last two tracks, the imaginatively titled "Crystalescent Heaven" and the less imaginatively titled "One More Heartache" are a slower, more mellow number and a manic, uptempo rocker resepctively, that don't add anything more musically, but make a fine ending to a very rounded and very capable debut album which really should command a lot more recognition than it ever got, especially when you put them up against those eternal bores, the Grateful Dead.

Essential pick for fans of Garage/Psyche rock the world over.

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