This double disc various artists collection from U.K. label, Fruits de Mer Records, is a marathon of classic psychedelic covers. The carefully crafted gatefold cover houses two discs of green colored vinyl (in two shades no less). The artwork throughout is intentionally tongue in cheek (in that special British way) and evocative of the 60s psychedelic style.
But really this review is about the music and as mentioned above there is a lot of it here. First, let’s explain what it is. Although it is a record of covers, all of them have been specially selected to recreate the mood of a free form radio session of the late 1960s. The titans of psychedelia are covered here like Jefferson Airplane, John’s Children (Marc Bolan), and Nazz (Todd Rundgren) but selections from artists better known for their pop ventures represent their psychedelic side here too – The Beatles, The Byrds, and Pink Floyd. Assembled in one collection the selections offer a variety of familiarity and discovery.
Many of the performing artists are not necessarily names you might know unless you are a devotee of revivalist psychelia, but that does not mean that there are not some stand out performances. We’re long-time fans of Atlanta’s own Seventh Ring of Saturn and their rendition of “Ten Thousand Words in a Cardboard Box” by the Aquarian Age is a standout. Bandleader Ted Selke has a special gift with his ability to deliver gentle vocal lines with a crispness and clarity that doesn’t get lost in the swirling mix. The flip side of disc one introduced us to the bands Gemini and The Godz as ably performed by Zombies of the Stratosphere and Hills Have Riffs.
The highlight of the double record set is side four. A thumping reworking of Jefferson Airplane’s legendary “White Rabbit” leads the side that includes the best music offered here. Again, the crossroads of familiarity and discovery are in full effect here. Tomorrow’s big hit “Revolution” is treated gently but with plenty of reverb by Sky Picnic. I might not be entirely sold on Langor’s cover of “Rain” it is nice to hear somebody take on this personal favorite from the Lennon/McCarney cannon. The record ends with a delightfully wistful version of Traffic’s “Utterly Simple” which only begs the question why Dave Mason didn’t just stop writing songs when he was ahead.
All in all, Keep Off the Grass is a solid journey through the past by a number of contemporary artists who are intent on keeping this influential form alive.