Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Ramases- Space Hymns (1971) -Classic weird dude album!

Pop-psych clashes with acid drenched madness to create a superb album of hippy rock with moogs, sitars and guitars to the fore!

There are many rumors and legends regarding Ramases and his wife, Sel; they were from another planet and departed Earth soon after their second album, Glass Top Coffin, was recorded; Ramases believed he was the reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian god; Ramases eventually killed himself in the 90's. With a bunch of stories like these, there was only one label crazy enough to produce this first Ramases album--Vertigo, and they did. With some of what was to become 10CC backing them, Ramases and his wife, who had been struggling to break into the late 60's psychedelic singles market, recorded the first fully-formed realization of his religious/environmentalist/alien vision. It remains today a wholly successful (albeit predictably strange) venture, and if it doesn't fully live up to the bizarre mythology Ramases invented for himself, it's still interesting and compelling to listen to as an artifact from different days.

Spacey sound effects fade into audibility at the beginning of "Life Child," followed by a grooving acoustic guitar riff. When the band kicks in, it really starts grooving, and when the bassist cranks up the overdrive on his amp, it downright rocks. Ramases bitingly spits out a list of humanity's failings as stewards of the earth, mockingly but sadly referring to us all as "life child." After this opener, you know you're in for a pretty entertaining trip. "Oh Mister" is a lot folkier, with Sel's vocals in the background more noticeable. Hand drums give this one a nice groove, and though the lyrics aren't substantial, they reinforce the first track's implication that Ramases is an observer from afar, trying to make sense of the way human civilization works, and why we do the self-contradictory things we do--probably the most fascinating and dominating concept of the entire album. "Oh Mister" also introduces a couple of the elements of Ramases' sound that get a little grating eventually--Sel's vocals are a bit rough; she often sings in unison with Ramases in a nasaly voice, which makes me wish she'd either not sing, or at least pick out a simple harmony part to soften it up a bit. The other thing is that many of the lyrics on the album are repetitions of the same line, which can sometimes seem a bit boring and lazy, though sometimes it works to great effect.

"And the Whole World" is a really hippie-folk apocalyptic ballad, not unlike the Bee Gees' "I Started a Joke," reaching some surprisingly emotionally accessible heights. "Quasar One" seems to be a hymn to the "home world," and features some gnarly backing from the inventive studio musicians. "You're The Only One" is blasted by another review here, since the lyrics repeat "You're the only one, Joe, the only one" over and over. Yeah, if you're not listening closely this is simply annoying. But in the context of Ramases' conceptual framework, the song eerily illustrates that feeling we all get sometimes--the feeling that you are the only one who is really alive, really real--with a creepy immediacy that makes it one of the most effective cuts on the album. The modal, chant-style "Molecular Delusions" is a pretty ominous depiction of Ramases' quite interesting belief that "We are most probably existing on a molecule inside the material of, perhaps, a living thing in the next size up," though it's repetitive and seems to go on a bit too long.

"Balloon" is moderately catchy folk-rock (which didn't stop the single version from disappearing immediately), and "Jesus" is the kind of generic hippie-Christian folk rock (complete with some really un-adventurous rhymes) that you wouldn't really expect from an alien. The album's closer, though, "Journey To The Inside," is one of the most interesting and trippy tracks, full of spacey synthesizers, pulsing with energy. It ends in turbulence, with clips of Ramases extolling some of his mystical beliefs.

In the end, Space Hymns is a very rewarding experience, full of interesting sounds (thanks to the very creative backing of the studio musicians, which adds many layers to the singer's songs) and some excellent ideas. I wish more of it rocked as hard as "Life Child," which ends up being one of the strongest songs on the album--at the very beginning. It's best listened to closely, on headphones or a decent stereo--otherwise, it may seem less interesting, subtly compelling, and sonically-detailed than it actually is. Repertoire's reissue is typical of their sound and packaging quality--excellent remastering, a beautiful digipak booklet with a small poster of the awesome church/spaceship cover art, and 4 bonus tracks, none of which are essential, as is usually the case with bonus tracks. Recommended for adventurous folk rock fans, and people interested in weirder prog and spacey 70's music. Maybe someday Repertoire will release Ramases' second album, Glass Top Coffin, which has never seen CD reissue...we can only hope and wait.

Life Child
Oh Mister
And The Whole World
Quasar One
You're The Only One Joe
Molecular Delusions
Dying Swan Year 2000
Jesus Come Back
Journey To The Inside

Molecular, baby!!