As one of the original purveyors of garage punk and psychedelic rock, Roky Erickson's status as a true innovator of his generation is already set in stone. As a founder member and main songwriter with The 13th Floor Elevators, his creative zenith may have taken place over four decades ago but the three studio albums bearing the Elevators' name still stands the test of time today.
Indeed, listening back to the likes of 'Slip Inside This House' from 1967's Easter Everywhere (covered by Primal Scream on their Screamadelica opus, though not featured here) and 'Roller Coaster' from its predecessor The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators - likewise re-interpreted by Spacemen 3 on their 1986 debut Sound Of Confusion, it's hard to envisage either of those bands or many others that formed in their wake existing without the influence of Erickson and the Elevators.
Whether by coincidence or otherwise, Erickson's first new material in over a decade has also arrived this month, the Okkervil River accompanying True Love Cast Out All Evil having already received a highly favourable 9/10 on these very pages. Here, the excellent Sonic Cathedral imprint has pulled together an impressive array of artists obviously in awe of Erickson's work to create a startling tribute that collects 13 interpretations of his most feted achievements both with the Elevators and beyond.
The opening 'Roller Coaster', a live performance featuring Erickson himself on guest vocals with The Black Angels ably sets the scene. Although over half of this album is culled from The Psychedelic Sounds... era, very few versions stick to the template of the original recordings. A Place To Bury Strangers turn 'Tried To Hide' into a death disco noisefest while All The Saints' opulent take on 'Don't Fall Down' and Sarabeth Tucek's dreamy vocal throughout 'Splash 1 (Now I'm Home)' gracefully re-evaluate the original songs rather than simply pay homage. Likewise Lower Heaven's 'Fire Engine' and Hush Arbors' 'Dr Doom' (from 1969's Bull Of The Woods) both typify the boisterous spirit of the Elevators whilst taking on a mantle of their own.
It's the introduction of the big guns towards the album's final third though that really set pulses racing. Cheval Sombre's take on 'You Don't Love Me Yet' and Le Volume Courbe's reading of 'I Love The Living You', featuring contributions from Sonic Boom and Kevin Shields respectively, both illustrate the formidable aspects of Erickson's largely underrated solo work. Couple these with Black Acid's (aka Richard Fearless and friends) nine-minute excursion through 'Unforced Peace' and the closing I Break Horses bringing things back into 2010 with their interpretation of recent single 'Goodbye Sweet Dreams' and you're left looking at one of this year's most inspired compilations thus far, that acts not just as a fitting tribute to Roky Erickson, but also a dazzling showcase of the legacy his music has spawned ever since.
8Dom Gourlay's Score