* Prices may differ from that shown
To the first time listener, this album may not seem to be particularly remarkable, in order to understand the true beauty of the album, it helps to know about the rise and fall of Roky Erickson. This album marks the return of an artist that many never expected to see make music again. Erickson's story is not too dissimilar from Syd Barret's, a musical genius, good looking, charismatic, he was the energetic frontman of 60s psych-rock band the 13th Floor Elevators. After a particularly bad acid trip, he never quite seemed to be the same again and found himself in the clink on drug charges for a small possession of marijuana. Erickson was in a mental institution where scientific experiments took place and found himself out of his league, fellow inmates included child killers, murderers and rapists. When he came out, he set up Roky Erickson & The Aliens.
His schizophrenia worse than ever, he had a lawyer draw up a contract to say that he was not of the human race. The material generally featured guitar-heavy psychedelic rock, tracks were written about zombies, two-headed dogs, demons and aliens. It was about this time that he grew an unhealthy obsession in responding to letters of all kinds, including bills and spam, also going as far as stealing neighbours post and writing letters to dead celebrities. He called it a day and became a recluse, Erickson lived the best part of 30 years in a chaotic room, paying little attention to his looks and needing constantly loud feedback created by aerials in order to get to sleep. A film was produced about his life and released in 2005, towards the end of the film, you can see his brother, having won the rights to take care of him is making an effort to get him back to full health. Incoherent and distant, fans at the time could only hope for a reasonable quality of life and no one expected another release but 5 years later, there it was - True Love Cast Out All Evil with Okkervil River backing him, a band who had invited him along to perform with them a couple of years earlier and are all accomplished musicians in their own right.
Stripped down and far less hectic than the 13th Floor Elevators and without the horror type themes of the Aliens, comes a stripped down almost country sound. Despite being slightly frayed, Erickson's vocals are still impressive, no spring chicken, they have that aged quality that Cash's had on his ultimate album - Hurt. For the first time in possibly 4 decades, the artist has got his head straight and is reflecting on his chequered past.
One of the interesting things on this album is that Erickson seems to have gone 'all country', hailing from Austin, TX, it is in fact his natural voice. Roky has dropped the powerful psychedelic wail of yesteryears in exchange for a more sad sounding style that is still full of conviction and clarity. Goodbye Sweet Dreams is my second favourite track of the album and probably his most energetic too. Be and Bring Me Home has a warm, comforting feeling, the lyrics are moving and Okkervil River do a stellar job of ensuring that the music embodies the words. You can't help but feel that 'Please, Judge' is somewhat about himself, a plea to a judge to not send a young man down for a minor crime, a soft track with piano played on it, it later turns into a storm, screaming and general mayhem for a few seconds before returning to its gentle earlier period. Interesting but not everyone's cup of tea, next up is John Lawman, which has a cracking little riff and is as good as any of his songs past or present, including the likes of Monkey Island and You're Gonna Miss Me. Roky's vocals are at their strongest here because he's singing, where as for a lot of the album, it's more like listening to an older man reminisce, as is the case on Bring Back the Past, Devotional Number One. To some extent it also applies to True Love Cast Out All Evil, simple yet effective this track is another heart-warming number, as is Forever. His songwriting ability really comes out in these thoughtful but not overly sophisticated tracks
Bring Back the Past is the black sheep, not a track that appeals to me that much, it doesn't seem to fit in, sound wise. The album finishes off with a grainy version of 'God is Everywhere' a song that was recorded inside the prison for the mentally ill, raw and barely audible, it's not his greatest song but might be interesting for fans all the same. Think of As One, preaches caring about the ones closest you and is followed up by yet another calm track in the form of Birds'd Crash, again a rather emotional track, which may seem somewhat odd coming from a chap who used to sing about zombies and the like. If you're a fan of Roky, then definitely go out and buy it. If not, then give some of it a go on Youtube before buying.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Devotional Number One
2 Ain't Blues Too Sad
3 Goodbye Sweet Dreams
4 Be And Bring Me Home
5 Bring Back The Past
6 Pease Judge
7 John Lawman
8 True Love Cast Out All Evil
10 Think Of As One
11 Birds'd Crash
12 God Is Everywhere