BACK TO THE GARDEN - The Seeds (Global Recording Artists)

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do." - Jack Kerouac

There should come a time in every noteworthy musical figure's life when they can be not only comfortable with their body of past work but with what they are (and aren't). Creativity doesn't have to stop. Sky Saxon's a misfit, a rebel and all the things about which Kerouac waxed lyrical and this album's proof that's he's happy be so.

To most people, The Seeds are remembered for "Pushing Too Hard" and "Can't Seem To Make You Mine"; the former was one of the best balls of grimy, down-and-dirty 'tude to come rolling down the bowling alley of '60s punk, the latter an aching teen tale of unrequited lust/love. Both are standards of the Nuggets era.

The Seeds were also the band for whom the term, Flower Power, was first coined (Scott McKenzie eat your heart out). A couple of startling albums (and one misguided exercise in blues) pre-empted their fast fade, as their charismatic singer Sky Saxon moved into a world of macrobiotics, cult membership and relative obscurity. Some people will tell you all but the last one are prerequisites for living in Southern California - so Sky had to be contrary and move to Hawaii. Rumours of his departure to another planet proved premature.

Anyway man now known as Sky Sunlight Saxon has been back on the mainland for years, turning out little-heard albums and playing shows in the US and Europe. Let YouTube be your friend.

My own Sky Saxon moment came in the Powerhouse Bar in Hollywood in 2002 when, at a loose end and passing through, I saw a gig listing in the LA Weekly for Sky Saxon at a bowling alley in North Highland. Unfortunately by then I'd put away enough beers to make renting a car the act of a fool. The ex-linebacker bartender with Agent Orange eyes and a million 'Nam stories nearly choked when I started talking about catching one of LA's cabs (they're rarer than a virgin in a roomful of Sydney City Bulldog football groupies anyway) to an area where even he wouldn't venture after dark. I resigned myself to my fate - lying under a room fan in a cheap motel room while not-so-cheap watered-down beer and jetlag sweated out of my pores a la "Apocalypse Now" - and ordered another Stroh's.

So to this album which teams Sky with classic line-up Seeds keyboardist Daryl Hooper and a floating crew with names like Mars Bonfire and Mark Aquarian. If you're expecting "Son of Pushin' Too Hard", think again. "Back To The Garden" is hard to pin down, swinging from gentle soul ("We The People") to lilting rock ("Many Years Ago") and dreamy reflection "Miner"). The most "garage" moments are probably "Halt" with its scuzzy guitar line or the mildly raunchy "Power Tripper" but this leans mostly on the side of hippy-trippy.

Sky's vocals are a particular strong point, channelling The Big O hisself on the Spanish guitar-flecked "Just a Dance" and positively brimful of warmth on the acoustic "Tell Me The Time". The guy can still sing.

Sometimes the waters run a little too languidly for my tastes, the flowery "Summer of Love" being a case in point, but jarring, tuned-down guitars and brutal bottom-ends that crush hearing like an elephant herd are a million miles removed from Sky's world where nothing seems to push too hard.

It's probably not technically possible to embed smell-o-vision into discs, even in this era of BluRay box sets, but I swear you can smell patchouli when you play this album.

The long dedication in the liners contain more blessings than a Papal World Tour (including a shout-out to wolves and dogs) but before you snigger you'd do well to consider Kerouac's words and ask yourself: Who's happier with their lot - Sky Sunlight Saxon or you?




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