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Hapshash & The Coloured Coat - Featuring The Human Host & The Heavy Metal Kids (1967)

Grupa Hapshash & The Coloured Coat to bardzo ciekawy eksperyment. Początkowo była to grupa uzdolnionych grafików projektujących okładki płyt i plakatów do muzycznych przedsięwzięć związanych z psychedelicznym boomem na Wyspach Brytyjskich. Współpracowali z undergroudowym zinem International Times i londyńskim klubem muzycznym UFO jako Osiris Vision Agency. Zainspirowani kontaktami towarzyskimi z wieloma muzykami tego nurtu postanowili spróbować własnych sił na polu muzycznym. Mając takie "chody" udało im się podpisać kontrakt z wytwórnią Liberty, dla której w 1967 nagrali swój pierwszy longplay (właśnie prezentowany). W sesji wzięli udział muzycy gupy Art, która później przekaształciła się w Spooky Tooth. Na płycie zawarty jest przedziwny amalgamat brzmieniowy: od psychedelii, orientalny folk aż po chorały gregoriańskie. W 1968 grupa nagrała drugą płytę Western Flier również dla Liberty. Brzmieniowo różnił się znacznie od debiutu i był bardziej stonowany i mniej surowy oscylując w kierunku bluesowo-folkowym pewnie dzięki Tony'emu McPhee z Groundhogs. Z grupą współpracował również Mickey Finn z Tyrannosaurus Rex. Pod koniec 1969 roku drogi artystów rozeszły się, a właściwie zakończyły wraz z samobójczą śmiercią Nigela Waymoutha i zamknięciem w szpitalu dla psychicznie chorych Michaela Englisha.

Michael English - vocal, percussion
Nigel Waymouth - vocal, persussion
Guy Stevens - vocal, guitar, keyboards
Eddie Tripp - bass
Freddie Ballerini - violin
Michael Mayhew - guitar
Andy Renton - drums

Michael English, Nigel Waymouth, Guy Stevens

If they are remembered at all nowadays, Hapshash & The Coloured Coat are remembered for being a design outfit that produced an array of noteworthy album covers (including Cream's Disraeli Gears and Art's Supernatural Fairy Tales) and posters from the psychedelic era, rather than for their lasting contributions to music. That might be expected when two out of your three band members were not musicians, but graphic designers and boutique owners. However, with founding Procol Harum member-music producer Guy Stevens on board and with backing by the members of Art (who later went on to form Spooky Tooth with Gary Wright), Hapshash unleashed one of the truly wild albums to have been christened in the diethylamide seas. And yeah, they did the album cover.

Looking at said album cover and song titles, Featuring the Human Host is an entity obviously begot and bred in Anno Domini 1967. The album must have somehow made it out of the U.S. to Germany, for it is a startling and pretty undeniable antecedent of Amon Düül I, with heaps of communal percussion and primal, improvised chanting. Düül must have intercepted it, listened to it by day, howled along with it by night, basically absorbed it into their bloodstream. The only major difference between this and an album like Psychedelic Underground is that Hapshash's songs are typically grounded in one chord and that apparently was one chord too many for Düül.

(Osiris posters gallery)

On the first track, the lead singer belts out "H-O-P-P-Y" over and over again in full zeal. There's no way it would have the same charm had it been "H-A-P-P-Y," which I suspect is probably what he was actually intending to sing if he wasn't fried out of his mind on acid. "The New Messiah Coming 1985," apart from having one of those ominous 1960s prediction titles a la Hendrix' "1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)," is a strangely beautiful parade of acoustic guitar, slide guitar, various percussions including gong, and lunatic falsettos near the end.

(Osiris posters gallery)

No doubt about it, this is the real hallucinogen deal…the sound of guys going the full, Icarus distance, and fuck all whether or not they return. It seems they didn't, by the way, or not entirely. According to the liner notes, the legend is that one of them soon died as the result of a bad trip (presumably Stevens, who died in 1981), and a second member was psychiatrically institutionalized. Listening to this music leaves little doubt about the veracity of such claims.

(Osiris posters gallery)

Definitely an album that should be heard at least once in your lifetime, and dare I suggest it, you should own. No, you might not like it, you'll probably very well hate it in fact, but you should keep it just the same and play it every once in a while if but for principle alone. H-O-P-P-Why? This is an album that is about as unshackled from the constraints of record company intervention as one can get, while still containing music that still remains oddly listenable. True, as philosopher Blaise Pascal once said, "It is not good to be too free" and I'm not defending Hapshash's dodgy means to attaining this spirited end. But especially in today's manufactured, utterly non-spontaneous popular music climate, you are not likely to find anything approaching the freedom found here. (Joe McGlinchey)

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