Bentley's Bandstand: Various Artists: The Psychedelic Sounds of the Sonic Cathedral: A Tribute to Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators

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BY BILL BENTLEY

Various Artists: The Psychedelic Sounds of the Sonic Cathedral: A Tribute to Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators Sonic Cathedral Records

In so many ways, much of modern music is a tribute to the 13th Floor Elevators. They were a largely unknown 1960s band  in Austin, Texas who based their sound and words on the idea that better living through chemistry was the ticket. The group, fronted by a teen-aged Roky Erickson, poured massive amounts of LSD into their cerebral cortexes and hallucinated to the heavens, taking willing listeners with them on a trip to the outer edges. Naturally, not everyone made it back.

Visionary mastermind Tommy Hall, who happened to write most of the outfit’s lyrics and play jug while he jiggled with the very essence of the cosmos, believed that through the reshaping of reality, man could evolve and find pure sanity in a reconfigured consciousness. His songs were so grand that he convinced many who took the time to listen, most of them being musicians then and now, so the influence of the Elevators is still on a rising curve.

Hence,  this tribute album, which is such a rush of remembered brilliance and psychedelic power that it makes the past 45 years feel like a minor blip on the mobius strip of time. Bands like the Strange Attractors, All the Saints, Darker My Love and others, even if they’re largely unknown, tear into songs like “Reverberation (Doubt),” “Don’t Fall Down” and “She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)” intent on proving to the world that the object of their extreme affection, namely the 13th Floor Elevators, deserve to be in the front ranks of proven pioneers. Those players who take chances with pushing the blotter paper to the limit are the ones who reach levitation levels, and are able to inspire longtime fans to heightened states of ecstasy.

This is serious mojo being messed with, and novices need not apply. When the walls start melting and faces under fluourescent lights turn into puddles of plasma, you’ll know the job is being done. And it is then that label host Sonic Cathedral seems like the final destination for seekers trying to find the kingdom of heaven. And, right on time, it’s still where Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators said it was all those years: within you. Going up?

Bill Bentley is a writer, musician, publicist, record producer and A&R director. He once played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins.

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