LP with 4 page insert
Numbered edition of 500
Cover taken from the original LP
Other four letter words (6:23)
Essence of its own (5:50) mp3
It's true (3:17)
Greatest hits - love your navel (2:24)
In the middle of nothing (4:13)
Baked beans (3:37)
They're through (5:53)
Eine kleine Hayakawa (1:25)
Do you understand what I'm trying to say? (3:19)
Poop for sopranos and orchestra (7:57)
This is the word (1:44)
total time 49:46
This New York based duo released their one and only LP in 1968 on Columbia Masterworks, just months after Zappa released Lumpy Gravy in California. Although the 2 projects have some superficial similarity in structure(text/electronics/freak out), it would seem that this later LP must have been made (at least largely), without any knowledge of the Zappa masterpiece. Another reference point might be The United States Of America who also released their LP in1968.
Originally released simultaneously with Terry Riley's In C and Walter Carlos' Switched On Bach, this new edition of Marks and Lebzelter’s complex 50 minute heady mix of spoken word, electronics and experimental psychedelia is taken from the master tapes and consists of a suite of 13 tracks. Where Lumpy Gravy uses orchestral settings, here we have a combination of theatrical text and sung vocals by the Gregg Smith Singers, and on one track a full baptist gospel choir praising the virtues of baked beans.
The core of this album though comes from interviews conducted by J Marks for his book, also called Rock And Other Four Letter Words (essentially a book of photos by Linda Eastman, soon to be McCartney, with quotes from many of the leading US and UK rock bands of the time). Included on this LP are numerous cut up and processed excerpts of these interviews with many young rock stars including Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, Brian Wilson, Grace Slick etc. Add to this concoction, dense arrangements of tape loops, psychedelic rock, electronics and a huge guest list of contributors including jazz players Alan Silva, Andrew Cyrille, Roswell Rudd and Burton Greene and the scope of this project begins to be seen.
It’s hard to believe this is their first time in a studio, such is their confident musicality and bold handling of these varied talents. No doubt much of this is due to the helping hand of the in house engineers and John McClure who produced this, along with 100s of other recordings at CBS, including the Harry Partch records.
After this album Lebzelter (1942 - 1986) went on to found The Trees Community, who released a legendary Christian folk album in 1975. Marks (c1930 - 2001) subsequently changed his name in the early 70s to Jamake Highwater, which is how he is best remembered; writing books, making documentaries and setting up his own foundation for Indian art and culture.
This long overdue reissue comes in a standard sleeve with a 4 page insert that includes all the original artwork and more.
Here’s a genuinely unhinged oddity from way back in 1968, back before the first Stooges album was even invented! It’s a bizarre mish-mash of performance art, ‘60s hippie shouty chanty bits, bonkers falsetto-voiced pop weirdness, ambient swooshes, distant operatic voices, overdriven Funkadelic-style guitar, Hair-style rock opera bits, disjointed loops and tape manipulation...none of which appear for long enough to really allow the record any sort of definitive style besides a schizophrenic and very ‘60s one which the press release rightly compares to Zappa’s contemporaneous ‘Lumpy Gravy’ LP.
That said, the way it’s been constructed is very modern-sounding in a way, and the mixture of pure pop ideas and outright experimentalism are incredibly charming, almost naive-sounding in their 40-plus-year-old context in a world where the lunatics have somewhat taken over the asylum when it comes to unhinged experimental stuff, but it’s still crazy enough for Phil to exclaim that it is “bonkers” and “a total acid trip”. And he’s got a point. Even now this stuff sounds deranged and druggy but most importantly it’s a lot of fun.
According to the sleeve a lot of the vocals have been assembled from interview footage made while one of them compiled a book, so there’s loads of famous people on here like Brian Wilson, Ginger Baker, Pete Townshend, Moby Grape, Tim Buckley, Stephen Stills and many more. Figuring out where they appear on the record is another matter entirely though. Frankly it’s a cryptic and borderline insane LP that’ll keep you scratching your head for months to come.
Up until the mid-70s, Rock And Other Four Letter Words was one of those albums that everyone seemed to have heard of, though less than one per cent had actually heard; of that one per cent, 90 per cent never wanted to hear the sodding thing again. Originally released in 1968, it was strong drink for the time, and its appearance on Columbia’s Masterworks imprint merely added an intimidating veneer of high-mindedness to compound the avant-garde felony.
As for us, we ain’t scared: we love it. Originating from interviews with pop and rock iconoclasts conducted by J Marks for his book of the same name, Rock… is an early masterpiece of tape manipulation, Moog scribbles and musique concrète atonality. It’s most often spoken of in the same breath as Frank Zappa’s Lumpy Gravy, though Only In It For The Money is a closer cousin: witness the “creepy whispering” of Other Four Letter Words, collapsing into a torrent of soundbites (from Brian Wilson and Pete Townshend, among others) treated with heavy, hallucinogenic echo. Similarly, Eine Kleine Hayakawa is a paroxysm of stuttering, stitched into a collage – and painstakingly transcribed on the sleeve – while the repeated title of Essence Of Its Own becomes a narcotic mantra. (Oregano Rathbone)
Unlikely vinyl reissue of this 1968 concrete/tape/electronic/free music masterpiece with appearances from Alan Silva, Andrew Cyrille, Burton Greene and more: Shipen Lebzelter is perhaps best known in underground circles as the founder of The Trees Community, whose 1975 LP The Christ Tree is revered as one of the greatest Christian psych albums of the period. But this is even stranger, an album originally released on Columbia Masterworks only a few months after Frank Zappa’s Lumpy Gravy and simultaneously with Terry Riley’s In C and Wendy Carlos’ Switched On Bach with Lebzelter and Marks culling original tapes of interviews with counter-cultural rock stars of the era that were made during the production of Marks’ book, Rock And Other Four Letter Words, a book that was largely a collection of photos by Linda Eastman (McCartney)accompanied by pithy quotes. Tapes of people like Moby Grape, Grace Slick, Pete Townshend, Tim Buckley, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Page, Pigpen and Big Brother and the Holding Company are combined with wild, slashing electro edits, dubbed over choirs, flashing west coast psych rock, weird ethno-drones and extended passages of purely out free improvisation to realise a stunning concrete soundworld that is somewhere between the electronic experiments of the first United States Of America LP, The Electric Prunes’ Mass In F Minor, Basil Kirchin’s Worlds Within Worlds and the wildest Zappa experiments. The list of guest musicians is mind-boggling, with free jazz bassist/cellist Alan Silva, drummers Andrew Cyrille, Laurence Cook and Warren Smith, trombonist Roswell Rudd, the Greater Abyssynian Baptist Choir and more. The album functions as a teleport to a period of dazzlingly accelerated creativity, exploding a bunch of parallel free music and avant garde currents while documenting the excess, beauty and stupidity of the era like little else. Massive kudos to Paradigm for rescuing this one from the void, beautifully packaged with repro sleeve, heavy vinyl and a 12” four page booklet. Highly recommended, you’ve never heard anything quite like it! (David Keenen)
Rock And Other Four Letter Words, released in 1968 as a companion LP to a book of the same name. is a joyful exercise in organised chaos and a pioneering work of counterculture subversion. The book was aimed at the US's mainstream rock audience. It contained interviews by writer J Marks (an associate of Stockhausen, to whom the LP is dedicated, and later an activist for Native American issues) with the likes of Brian Wilson, Jefferson Airplane, The Mothers Of Invention. The interviews were illustrated with photos by Linda Eastman (later McCartney). The accompanying record, however, made with Shipen Lebzelter, a musician who later found himself in the orbit of the monastic Christian organisation and recording group The Trees Community, was an entirely different proposition.
It uses fragments of the interviews conducted for the book as its raw material, but slices these recordings into extremely sophisticated tape collage works and combines them with freak-out musical interludes. The interview quotes are sometimes comically decontextualised (Mickie Most: "It's hard to believe that 200 million people who live in the United States are that gullible"), or diced into pure sound poetry (Judy Collins: "Ta'a-nita'nit Exifit s-if it's-of-ahah-if it's-ah'). The record's obvious parallel is the early work of Frank Zappa, but there's almost nothing rock about this record — it's far closer to an extended piece of musique concrete, albeit one colored with psychedelics and pranksterism. To make matters even stranger, the record's composed musical segments feature an impressive cast of jazz players, including Alan Silva, Andrew Cyrille and Burton Greene, supplemented by a number of equally talented vocalists.
None of the tracks remain rooted in one place for long. "They're Through", for instance, features an a cappella chorus reciting/chanting a text railing against war and authority, tape loops, synthesized noises, sampled machine-gun fire, snatches of a "found' opera recording and a plethora of other trippy sounds.
While bootleg copies have been circulating in lo-fi MP3 form for years, this authorised reissue has been pressed from the original master tapes, and sounds better than ever. (Dave Mandl)