Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mass In F Minor - The Electric Prunes

Mass In F Minor
The Electric Prunes
Reprise RS 6275

The third album by the Electric Prunes, arguably the most pretentious rock album of the 1960s.  I first encountered it watching the movie "Easy Rider" as a young teen.  The movie was over my head, I couldn't figure out what they were looking for, but the music impressed me particularly "Wasn't Born to Follow" by the Byrds and the excerpt from this album's "Kyrie Eleison" that was used.  The album was the brain child of David Axelrod who has become an unlikely cult figure and who has been much sampled by hip-hop artists.  He composed the entire record.  The album is a departure from the psych-garage band sound of the group's first two albums but you can still hear some similarities.  Although the group's lead singer James Lowe sings throughout the album, only the first side is performed by the actual Prunes.  On side two only a couple of members play augmented by session musicians.  The record basically destroyed the band who broke up shortly afterward (although two more albums would be released by a bogus band.)  I have mixed feelings about the record as a result.  As a big fan of their earlier work, I resent that this record was imposed on them, but on the other hand I really like the record.  It is indeed a religious album, delivered entirely in Latin using classic texts from Roman Catholicism.  The opening song "Kyrie Eleison" is my favorite.  With its heavy reverb, sizzling psychedelic guitar solo and prominent bass riff, it sounds the most like the Prunes classic recordings.  I think it deserves to be ranked with their best songs.  Liturgical organ opens up "Gloria" which is augmented by orchestral accompaniment.  There is another smoking guitar solo with lots of feedback, yummy.  Mark Tulin follows up with a lengthy bass solo which calls to mind Jack Casady's jams with the Jefferson Airplane.  "Credo" opens with more orchestra before the band kicks in with some heavy riffing.  The band and orchestra awkwardly battle each other through the song, although I kind of enjoy the cacophony that results.  The latter part of the song is extremely psychedelic.  Side two starts with "Sanctus" which also begins with just voice and orchestra before the rhythm section joins in.  The orchestra is dominant on this song, but the session guitarist does get off a nice high flying solo.  "Benedictus" gives the guitarist more space to stretch out supplemented by a keyboard and bass solo as well.  The lack of reverb and feedback results in a jazzier sound, recognizably different from the ferocity of side one.  The song picks up some heaviness at the end for the riff on the repeated line "Osanna in excelcis."  The final song "Agnus Dei" is also built around a strong riff delivered both by the band and the orchestra.  There is lots of feedback, relentless drumming and the song rocks out as strongly as any on side one.  It is my other favorite song on this album.  I can't deny that this record is ridiculous, but it is also a lot of fun.  I'd rather listen to it than many of the more respectable records released in 1968 and from a psychedelic standpoint this album delivers in spades.  I think if this music had been used in actual masses, I might still be going to church.  Recommended for ex-Catholics who dig the Jefferson Airplane and the 13th Floor Elevators.

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