Bobby Beausoleil & The Freedom Orchestra - Lucifer Rising (Early 70's)
Bobby Beausoleil was active in the underground music scenes in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the 1960's. He somehow became an associate of the Manson Family and murdered a drug dealer in 1969. Unfortunately for him, a couple of the Manson girls were with him and because of the Manson connection he was sentenced to the maximum and is still in prison today. All the music on these two discs credited to the Freedom Orchestra was created by men who were imprisoned at the State Prison in Tracy, California during the 1970's. The music is real dreamlike at times, and who knows how to dream better than a prisoner. I have scanned the entire booklet and the lengthy liner notes are a fascinating read. Or you can just google his name and get a butt-load of information on Beausoleil's involvement with Manson and film maker Kenneth Anger.
Anyway, the music;
The soundtrack on disc one walks the often dark and shadowy realms between orchestral music, experimental electronic music, and exploratory psychedelic rock. Imagine Walter Carlos jamming with the late 60’s Pink Floyd and a small rag tag orchestra and you might have an idea of what it sounds like. This is evocative, brilliant stuff that doesn’t need a film to go with it to be enjoyed. What it does need is a willingness to lay back, close your eyes and float into a lost past that had its roots in the Summer of Love, when everything was about freedom, and ended in a place where freedom was at a premium. This lost past was a time when experimenting was part of the very fabric of youthful life, and music was one thread in that vast fabric. Beausoleil’s soundtrack, with its washes of primitive electronics, raucous percussion, whooping horns, bluesy guitar, and hypnotizing organ seems both earthy and cosmic at the same time. There’s not much more that I can say about it, because no description would really accurately capture the nature of the music. This needs to be heard.
Disc two kicks off with two vintage tracks of Beausoleil’s original band, The Orkustra. The first of these recordings, Punjab’s Barber, sounds somewhat as if Sun Ra had decided to play rock music instead of jazz, still with lots of horns and a classical influence, belied only by the electric guitar snaking through the mix. The second of these, Flash Gordon, is more of an electric romp, with a touch of hoedown twang to the avant-classical rock sound. From there, we move onto The Magic Powerhouse of OZ, with their original recordings for the Lucifer Rising soundtrack from 1967. This is different music altogether from the soundtrack Beausoleil would eventually produce. This is much rougher, and doesn’t display the electronic experimentation that would form the backbone of the eventual soundtrack. Still, it’s a fascinating listen; a great, big, loud stew of rock and experimental jazz. Chaotic, almost orchestral style drumming propels 60’s electric guitar jamming while horns and a flute punch their way through the mix. Again, the avant-jazz, Sun Ra influence can be heard as the band stretches out, exploring the possibilities. This is a true and unique time capsule; a glimpse into the wild experimentation that was going on in the Summer of Love; a glorious and somewhat dark celebration of sound, freed from the constraints of rock, classical, and jazz, yet incorporating all three.
The early Freedom Orchestra sessions show considerable advancement in an early approach to the final soundtrack. The electronics are here now, and Beausoliel has taken a more dynamic and planned out approach to the sound, as it careens back and forth between minimalist electronic soundscapes to full out rock jams. The roots of the final soundtrack can be heard in this more primitive, rougher version. Still, it’s intriguing to think that inmates in a prison performed this. Beausoleil either lucked out in finding a group of prison inmates who all happened to be into taking such an way-out approach to music, or his vision truly inspired them. Either way, it makes for a fascinating trip into something almost impossible to imagine. (Jeff Fitzgerald, www.aural-innovations.com)
1. Lucifer Rising, Pt. 1 (4:10)
2. Lucifer Rising, Pt. 2 (5:57)
3. Lucifer Rising, Pt. 3 (5:43)
4. Lucifer Rising, Pt. 4 (1:45)
5. Lucifer Rising, Pt. 5 (15:44)
6. Lucifer Rising, Pt. 6 (10:16)
1. The Orkustra - Punjab's Barber [excerpt] (3:02)
2. The Orkustra - Flash Gordon [excerpt] (3:08)
3. The Magick Powerhouse Of OZ - Lucifer Rising (24:21)
4. The Freedom Orchestra - Lucifer Rising Sessions (28:01)
Bobby Beausoleil / Electric Guitar, Bass
Richard Sutton / Electric Keyboard, Fender-Rhodes Piano
Steve Grogan / Electric Guitar
Chuck Gordon /Bass
Randall Chalton /Drums
Andy Thurston /Drums
Tim Wills /Fender-Rhodes Piano
Herbie Rascone /Trumpet
Robert Gadbury / "Sparks"
Well gotta go, see you later!