Most assuredly not the Springsteen-penned title track to the Joan Jett/Michael J. Fox bar band expos?, Kilroy?s album is a varied, some might say frightening amalgamation of bowel-cleansing whoops and yelps, white boy blues, and avant acid folk soul cleansing that must have scared any potential audiences (not to mention its label, Elektra) half to death wondering what to do with it upon its initial release 40 years ago. Complete with Kilroy?s flowery, hippie-dippie liner notes (sample excerpt: ?In?Big Sur?, a slowly growing awareness of an existing universal unity started to find its way into consciousness. I could feel the pulse of the river?s gurgling song in harmony with the rocks, and with the treetops? sacred whisper, all blending their holy melodies through each day?s cycle?), the album was inspired as much by ?the sturdy work chants of Hebrides Islanders, the lively moods of Spanish gypsies, the magnetic pulsations of Africa?s hypnotic drums, [and] the eerie wave of Middle Eastern dances? as the writings of Hesse, Huxley and Gurdjieff. Not surprisingly, the album didn?t sell worth a damn!
However, it does opens promisingly with acoustic guitars, tablas and flutes permanently grafting ?The Magic Carpet? into your synapses. (The latter instruments are played by Kilroy?s bandmates in The New Age, Bob Amacker and Susan Graubard, respectively, and some sources even credit this as a New Age album.) But Kilroy?s shrieking attempts at Jew?s harp-driven, white-boy blues (?Roberta?s Blues?) is best left forgotten. Let?s just say he?s more Tiny Tim than Robert Plant! But then the tables are turned once again with a complete aboutface on the hesitant, rambling ?Cancereal,? which kicks off with a meandering Crosby, Stills, & Nash vibe a la ?Suite: Judy Blue Eyes? and doesn?t let go. (Kilroy predates Crosby?s debut, ?If I Could Only Remember My Name? by a good five years, and this, along with the album?s traces of acid folk and avant garde, genre-defying pop-soul-blues that was released the same year as label mates, Incredible String Band and Tim Buckley?s debuts, and also predates Captain Beefheart and The Mothers, is one of the reasons this album has garnered unbridled praise in collector circles.) The track is sloppy, stoney, loose and groovy, which, come to think of it, would?ve been a perfect title for this album!
Jim Welch emulates a veritable drum circle to accompany Kilroy?s soulful scat wailing on ?The Pipes of Pan? (which could be a typo for an intended punny title, ?The Pipes of Pat??), but these too-frequent strained attempts to come across like a male Janis Joplin are better off falling on deaf ears ? pun intended! And while Leon Redbone might be able to breathe a little hipness into ?Mississippi Blues,? Kilroy seems overly distressed ? the blues never sounded this painful. Side two fares somewhat better, opening with the avant folk trappings of ?Vibrations,? which features Kilroy and Graubard?s endearing glockenspiel backing and ends with the universal meditative chant, ?Aummmm?.? The title track is a straightforward (for Kilroy!) strolling, folk tune with lovely backing from his New Age partners, and would sound wonderful in the repertoire of one of our favorite current British folksingers, Pat Orchard
Ultimately, a challenging, albeit frustrating piece of work, combining vestiges of folk, soul and blues, occasionally in the same song. Unfortunately, Kilroy doesn?t seem to have decided where his strengths lie, thereby leaving the curious listener to ponder just exactly what type of album this is supposed to be. It?s the epitome of a debut artist biting off more than he can realistically chew and thus taking a stab at every style of music imaginable. So I?m afraid that few outside the devotees of Buckley?s late period releases (e.g., ?Sefronia,? ?Look At The Fool?), the Beefheart and Mothers camps, and the more experimental efforts of the Incredible String Band will find much to connect with here.
Following the album?s release, Kilroy and The New Age toured extensively around the Bay Area, including numerous stops at San Francisco?s Jabberwock club (several posters for the band?s performances can be viewed on the club?s archival site
). They frequently performed alongside Country Joe & The Fish (most famously at the San Francisco Human Be-In exactly 40 years ago on January 14, 1967) and appeared briefly in the exploitation film, ?The Love-In.? In fact, it has been suggested that Country Joe wrote two songs about the band, ?Pat?s Song? and ?Colors for Susan,? and Stefan Grossman, who contributes guitar to the proceedings here, recorded ?Requiem for Patrick Kilroy? on his ?Crosscurrents? album. Sadly, Kilroy and the band?s careers were tragically cut short when he died on Christmas Day, 1967. Denise Kaufman, an original Merry Prankster and guitarist/vocalist with contemporary San Francisco all-girl rock band, The Ace of Cups (and who also released, via her Thermal Flash Music label, another outre folk/psych masterpiece, Ernie Fischbach & Charles Ewing?s 1967 ?A Cid Symphony?), wrote a poignant poem remembering Kilroy?s final days, which you can read here
. 6/10 -- Jeff Penczak (30 January, 2007)