31 Flavors – Hair (1969)

This is a real rare and strange collector´s item from the era of heavy psych rock:

FrontCover1.jpgFor some reason, this album seems to be constantly overshadowed by the Firebirds release. However hard it may be to believe, this album is actually far heavier. The only huge difference is that it’s not nearly as consistent.

Every song here comes in pairs. The first pair, “Hair” and “Aquarius”, is complete garbage and should be avoided as much as possible. Just like the previous album, the label decided to start it off with something that won’t offend people (unoffencive as in not heavy), but it’s far worse this time around. Just like before these two songs weren’t even recorded by this band, and I’m assuming there’s two of them because there wasn’t enough material for one extra Firebirds song.
The next pair, “Free Fuzz” and “Free Drum”, is just tying up loose ends from the previous album. Although the previous album has these two tracks listed, they weren’t actually on that record, so the label put them here instead. These tracks are much better if you listen to them in succession, starting with “Free Bass” from the previous album, because they were indeed recorded in one continuous take.

The penultimate pair is “Protest” and “One-Two-Three-Four”. Finally we get to the new material that was actually recorded by The Firebirds in a completely different session than on the previous album. These two tracks are very good, but they’re really odd when you compare them to the Light My Fire songs. You can tell that the band really matured here. The singing sounds so much better, and it actually sounds like the guy has his own style, instead of the poor Jack Bruce rip-off he did before. The lyrics are no longer corny Hendrix rip-offs. They now sound like serious song-writing attempts, and the singer’s improved style gives me an impression of sincerity. The drummer settled down, and sounds much more professional. The bassist is the only member who didn’t necessarily clean up his style. His tone is now really heavy, in that it sounds like it’s been detuned to a really low octave. And the guitarist now plays with hardly any distortion compared with the last album (relax, only in this pair of songs). He uses just enough to give his riffs a cool, dark feeling (and it somehow manages to be heavy), and it complements the singing pretty well I think. He even changes to a smooth guitar tone at the end of “One-Two-Three-Four” for a nice little blues solo, which is unlike any of his sloppy blues solos from the previous album. And although I’m not really an expert in the intricacies of guitar tuning, it really sounds like the guitarist detuned his strings along with the bassist, which I guess could be a reason that it sounds so dark, and it makes even more sense when you listen to the last pair of songs, because he reaches a low frequency of fuzz I never even thought was possible in the 60’s.

Which brings me to the the last pair, “Real Far Out” and “Distortions of Darkness”. This pair is such a masterpiece of stoned sludge, I just cannot comprehend how I’m the only person who seems to rave about it. Unlike the last pair, these are pure instrumental tracks, and the guitarist finally uses his fuzz-box, seemingly to its highest setting. The first one is a blues workout, namely the song “Steppin’ Out” which I associate with Eric Clapton, but for all I know it’s probably originally performed by somebody else. It starts off as nice and fuzzy heavy blues, but as the song progresses the guitarist delves deeper and deeper into some sort of nightmarish acid trip, and his guitar follows him into some really sloppy sludge. It really does sound real far out.
And finally, they save the best song for last. They really could not have come up with a name as accurate as “Distortions of Darkness”. This shit is pure fucking evil. It’s actually an instrumental form of “Reflections” from the previous album, but as I mentioned earlier, the detuned bass and guitar just bring this song to what I strongly argue as the heaviest levels of the 60’s. An essential track for anybody who considers themselves a fan of proto-metal.

That first pair of tracks is so damn grotesque that ideally this album should be rated much lower than I have it, but I maintain that these aren’t even from the same band, so just delete them and add the rest of the tracks onto the end of the Firebirds album. This is a great solution, because not only do you never have to hear this excellent band being smeared with association to that shit, but you can order the “Free” songs together for a far better listening experience.
Undoubtedly among the best musicians of the decade, too bad nobody has any idea who they even are.. Oh, and it’s not Jerry Cole, so please stop spreading that misinformation if you happen to see somebody telling you that. (Andrupchik)

And yes … these unknown guys knews how to play … listen to Real Far Out (Steppin´ Out) !


Alternate frontcover

A bunch of unknown studio musicians


01. Hair (*) 4.40
02. Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (*) 4.14
03. Protest 3.57
04. Free Fuzz 2.25
05. One-Two-Three-Four 4.04
06. Real Far Out (Steppin´ Out) (**) 3.02
07. Free Drum 3.09
08. Distortions Of Darkness 5.03

(*) written by Galt MacDermot, Gerome Ragni, James Rado
(**) written by L.Z. Frazier aka Memphis Slim