The skinny: The Source Family was a religious organization that came together in the 1970s, thriving on the Sunset Strip with a popular vegetarian eatery that drew celebrities (Steve McQueen, for one), rockers (members of prog titans Yes), and a little bit of heat. Led by ex-con Jim Baker, the group lived together in a big commune in the Los Angeles area, first in a roomy mansion, then in much closer quarters. Baker, known as Father Yod to his flock, preached some wild sermons, which often landed somewhere between the Sermon on the Mount and a Lenny Bruce routine. As happens, a few of the youngsters who joined the Source Family were musicians and, as also happens, Father Yod recognized the power of rock music to convey a mighty message. For a few wild years in the 1970s God had His own rock ‘n’ roll band, an outfit that appeared in several permutations and is rumored to have recorded something like 60 albums worth of material.
Thanks to Yod’s desire to chronicle virtually every moment that family spent together, the almost unbelievable story can be relived in great detail as it has been in the recent documentary, named for the Family itself. This soundtrack captures a quick sample of the music that Yod and his children recorded in their time together with acts such as Ya Ho Wa 13, Father Yod and the Spirit of ’76, and Children of the Sixth Foot Race. These records have garnered a cult following, attracting fans such as Billy Corgan, and this sampler shows that, like most outsider music, the Source Family’s songs transform limitations into assets.
“How Long in Time” (from Children of the Sixth Foot Race’s 1973 release Sons From the Source) sounds like cabaret for the devout, with Cinderella’s (Staci Altman) charming lead vocals and the powerful rhythm section of Sunflower (Patrick Burke) and Octavius (Chris Johnson). The Family had a groovy thing going on there as well in the bluesy “Man the Messiah”, which may or may not sound like a Cheech & Chong outtake, “Godmen” (like Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell on LSD), and an excerpt from the piece “Penetration”.
There are some excerpts of raps by Father Yod, including one from a 1974 gig at Beverly Hills High School during which he rambles like an adolescent Jim Morrison with one too many in him. The ballad “Every Morning” is an eerie little number of praise and worship, featuring a pretty and freaky vocal from Ahom. Sadly, there’s less than a minute of a groovy little gem of a jam from Father and the Original Source Family, but if you root around in the expanded discography you can more than make up for that.
This is just a sample of what’s in the archives, and the folks at Drag City have seen fit to unleash, in the truest sense of the word, albums such as Contraction (Yod with the Spirit of ’76), and Penetration: An Aquarian Symphony, recorded by Ya Ho Wha 13.
This is pretty much a must for any lover of outsider music and even a few who are usually skeptical of such recordings. If you were to set a bunch of pros loose in a studio with a bunch of cash, some topnotch instruments, and a detailed outline of what a band like this should sound like, they’d never come close. Beyond your wildest imaginings and all the better for it.