Various Artists: White Lace & Strange

Various Artists
White Lace & Strange
Psychic Circle

For whatever reason, most legit reissue labels seem to be allergic to vintage hard rock and heavy metal. As bootlegs of albums like Granicus sell several thousand copies and many hard rock rarities shoot up in value, legit labels seem content to regurgitate stuff that’s already been reissued (three labels have done the same Fred Neil Capitol stuff — why?) and/or rerelease crappy folk, new wave, and sunshine pop titles otherwise lining the bargain bins in used record stores. So hard rock fans are left to either seek out originals or various bootlegs, knowing that the standard reissue label line that “we only reissue what we think we can sell” is, at best, questionable. (Speaking from experience: Sales considerations do enter into the picture, but personal taste is the major driving factor in 90 percent of all small indie label reissues — and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.)

White Lace & Strange, released on a label that has a web site, might seem to buck the trend until you read the fine print. First off, it’s dubbed from vinyl (albeit in quality transfers), meaning it’s basically another boot. In fairness, this stuff — owned mostly by Universal — would never be reissued otherwise (see first paragraph), but with all the hard rock boots out there, the release of another is rather anticlimactic. The main issue, however, is that White Lace & Strange is neither particularly “heavy” nor particularly good.

It’s not that a compilation of (to quote the liners) “old school, heavy, uncompromising guitar rock” from the late ’60s couldn’t work. Put on tracks by obscurities like Peace & Quiet, the Apple Pie Motherhood Band, Warren S. Richardson Jr., and Liquid Smoke (none of which are on here), among others, and you could have the makings of one great comp. Unfortunately, in spite of a few strong cuts, this comp has more mediocrity and wretchedness than quality tracks.

Bands like Banchee, T.I.M.E., Mount Rushmore, and the Power of Zeus have gotten their share of hype from eBay sellers, but their hopelessly run-of-the-mill bar-band blues rock doesn’t jibe with the high prices their LPs now command. Then again, compared with the Yellow Payges and Fields, both released on the infamous Uni label that put out so many bad psych albums, even an average band comes away with flying colors. Much like their unlistenable album, the Yellow Payges’ inept version of “I’m a Man” done Yardbirds-style may be the worst Bo Diddley cover ever, and the best one can say for the Fields inclusion (“Bide My Time”) is that it’s the most tolerable song on their other-wise horrid self-titled 1969 album.

But not everything on the Uni label sucked; a band called Hook, for example, put out two decent psych-rock albums with one truly killer cut, “Son of Fantasy II”, from the second, 1968’s Hooked. With a head-swirling fuzz riff, a phased drum solo, and a speed-freak guitar solo culminating in an apocalyptic choir coda, it’s a cut that’s been begging for reissue (and actually, both Hook albums have been booted). But don’t look here, because the inclusion by Hook is… their average version of John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples” from the first album? Huh?

Other inclusions aren’t so perplexing. “White Lace and Strange” (later covered by Nirvana) was indeed the best cut on Thunder & Roses’ otherwise over-rated King of the Black Sunrise album. Third Power’s “Persecution” is a great one from a great album (Believe), and “Knocked Out” is among the best tracks by Eden’s Children. Kudos also for finally compiling the killer post-Hendrix, wah-wah-heavy rocker by the Noel Redding-led Road, “Spaceship Earth” — an idea that this author actually proposed in this feature two years ago.

Other than “Time Has Come, Gonna Die” by Lincoln St. Exit, that’s about it for the great stuff. There are some surprises by (the American) Genesis, Illinois Speed Press (who knew these country rockers had a gritty blues rock tune in ’em?), Brother Fox and the Tar Baby, as well as singles by the Lemonade Charade (“Hideaway of Your Love”) and Underbeat (“Darkness”), but none of them are revelations. And with over half of this compilation average or worse, it’s hard to recommend it to anyone other hardcore psych fans filling gaps in their collection.

RATING 5 / 10