The Nightshadows - The Square Root Of 2

The Nightshadows
The Square Root Of 2

Released 1968 on Spectrum Sounds
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 03/02/2008ce

1. Prologue
2. So Much
3. In The Air
4. Plenty Of Trouble
5. I Can't Believe
6. 60 Second Swinger
7. Illusion
8. Anything But Lies
9. Turned On
10. The Hot Rod Song
11. The Hot Dog Man
12. Epilogue


Little Phil Ross-vocals
Ronnie Farmer-guitar
Bobbie Newell-keyboards
Aleck Janoulis-bass
Charlie Spinks-drums

I first became aware of this album in 1980 from it being mentioned in an article in Creem magazine on psychedelic music. "The Square Root Of 2" was sort of dissed as the writer called it "sacred trash guaranteed to blow your nose not your mind." It was lumped in with other notables such as The Godz, Mesmerizing Eye, The Leathercoated Minds and others. So totally ignoring the writer in question I ran out and scored a copy (which wasn't easy, but rare records were so much cheaper in 1980) and well I"ll be damned if "The Square Root Of 2" didn't blow my mind sky high (oddly enough 1980 was the year I quit using drugs for good, yet my interest in psychedelic music has grown with each passing year.)

But all that aside The Nightshadows began life as Little Phil & The Nightshadows in the early 60's in the psychedelic-free state of Georgia (I wonder if they crossed paths with The Hampton Grease Band?) Some might recall Little Phil's garage classic "60 Second Swinger" (covered by The Chesterfield Kings and also re-recorded in an acid drenched version on this album in a dubious live setting.) A few of the early Little Phil songs issued on 45's are included on "The Square Root Of 2" in re-recorded versions (So Much, Turned On & In The Air.) The versions contained on the album are far more psychedelic and druggy.

What's really remarkable about "The Square Root Of 2" is it's overt 13th Floor Elevators influence. I'm not quite certain Little Phil & Co. were digging the Elevators but it sure sounds that way, especially their 1966 debut album "Psychedelic Sounds." The first side of this album is one psych-o-delic cluster bomb after another. The opener "Prologue" is a drugged out slice of dementia that sounds close to Arthur Brown fronting The Ultimate Spinach with a bit of Scorpio Tube sprinkled on top. "So Much" is a a dead ringer for 1966-67 Elevators with a touch of Seeds, this one even has a slight folk-rock jangle ala The Dovers. The redone "In The Air" is also lethal psychedelic folk with lyrics that are obviously describing an LSD trip "the ground you stand on isn't really there", it even features a mutant reworking of the guitar solo of Love's "Bummer In The Summer." On "Plenty Of Trouble" The Nightshadows are once again in full 13th Floor Elevators mode with Little Phil aping Roky Erickson's crazed vocal style. "I Can't Believe" is another first rate psychedelic rocker that allows the group to stretch out a bit in a messy psychedelic jam, the murky production reminds me of early Status Quo mixed with "Crimson & Clover" era Tommy James.

The Nightshadows rework the aforementioned "60 Second Swinger" to where it sounds like The Seeds circa "Raw & Alive", the crowd noise sounds fake but who knows? "Illusion" is another high point where Little Phil really bares his psychedelic psoul! "Anything But Lies" leaps right for the throat in a way that reminds me of Roky Erickson's "Sponge" EP from the mid 70's, and while the fidelity isn't that great there is little room to complain. "Turned On" begins with some slightly annoying studio banter then slips into a sort of lightweight pop thing that sadly signals a bit of a slide towards the end of side 2. "The Hot Rod Song" is a throwaway that sounds like a home demo that was never finished. "The Hot Dog Man" is also a turkey that really should have been left on the cutting room floor. Luckily the album ends with an instrumental raveup "Epilogue" that slightly redeems the lackluster second half of side 2. However the majority of "The Square Root Of 2" is first rate garage-psych that can match almost any group of the era. I'm not sure if the album is currently available, yet re-issues from the 80's still turn up now and then.

Some similar albums I can recommend:

The Seeds-The Seeds (GNP Crescendo 1966)
The Chocolate Watchband-No Way Out (Tower 1967)
The Maze-Armageddon (MTA 1968)
The Index-The Index (Voxx)
Country Joe & The Fish-Electric Music For The Mind & Body (Vanguard 1967)
13th Floor Elevators-Psychedelic Sounds (IA 1966)
The Electric Prunes-Underground (Reprise 1968)
The Music Machine-The Bonniwell Music Machine (WB 1967)
The Freak Scene-Psychedelic Psoul (Columbia 1967)
The Ultimate Spinach-The Ultimate Spinach (MGM 1967)

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