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H. P. Lovecraft

Live May 11, 1968

Review by Gary Hill

H. P. Lovecraft were a fairly short-lived psychedelic outfit that came out of Chicago in the late 1960’s. The group are featured in more depth in my book The Strange Sound of Cthulhu: Music Inspired by the Writings of H. P. Lovecraft. This live album is a killer one that showcases their trademark sound. Perhaps the most distinguishing thing about this band was their vocal delivery of two different singers belting out the same lyrics but not precisely in sync. I’d compare that aspect to Jefferson Airplane. This disc has quite good sound quality, especially considering the recording technology of the time. I like it a lot and it makes for a great introduction to this essential act.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Wayfaring Stranger

Combining a more folk rock element with keys that call to mind The Doors, we’re off and running right out of the gate. They take us through a series of variants and alterations. At times the guitar leads the way. At other points the keyboards provide the soloing. The drums even get some solo treatment. They move out into spacey textures here and there. All the time this is quintessential psychedelia. It’s about five minutes in before we get vocals. They are typical H. P. Lovecraft style with two voices singing the same part, but not precisely in sync. I could see this bothering some listeners, but personally I think it’s a great stylistic touch and trademark. The percussion is simply wailing during the vocal movement and we get a smoking keyboard solo after. We get another vocal segment down the road and then they fire out into more killer instrumental motifs.  A final vocal segment (with increased keyboard presence) closes it out.

The Drifter
They bring this in with a motif that’s not all that different from the opener, but perhaps a bit less meandering. The vocals come in pretty much right at the start on this one, but they move out into more psychedelic wandering after the first set of vocals end. The doubled up voices approach is present here (as it is on the whole disc), too. The percussion really carries a lot of this, but I love it when the guitar starts soloing while there is still a vocal line moving along. We get another Doors-like jam after this next singing segment. As this extended excursion continues there is some killer guitar soloing in a motif that resembles a more acoustic version of Iron Butterfly. One more vocal outing takes it towards the end and the instruments continue soloing amidst this. The segment with non-lyrical vocals toward the end reminds me of Jefferson Airplane. 
It's About Time
They open this in a mellower motif and this is another track that reminds me quite a bit of the Airplane. It powers up quickly and they carry on from there. They drop back to some more sedate modes for the psychedelic musical excursion. As it builds up the drums really drive it and it seems very much in a progressive rock style to me. They fire back into the vocals with a vengeance. There is one more short instrumental movement before they close it out. 
The White Ship
The first of a two-fer of songs based on H. P. Lovecraft the author’s visions, this is a mellower motif. It’s got more of a folk goes psychedelic texture, but begins gradually growing upward. They bring this into some spacey jam band territory as musical visions of distant lands merge with something not that distant from early Genesis. Eventually it moves back out to the song proper. 
At The Mountains Of Madness
This is another based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft – the writer from Providence, Rhode Island. In many ways the vocal segment here doesn’t differ a lot from the rest of the disc, but the vocal performance itself seems more urgent. They take us out into one of the spacier jams as the extended closing section of this. This piece is shorter than a lot of the rest. 
The Bag I'm In
This one seems more accessible than some of the other. The vocal hook is certainly catchier and there’s a bit of a blues rock element to this at times. There are some psychedelic jamming bits here and there, but overall this is a less dynamic, more straightforward cut. 
I've Been Wrong Before
A slower, mellower number, this grows gradually. They take it into harder rocking textures at times, but overall this is like a bluesy psychedelic ballad. It’s a cool tune and really showcases the keyboards quite a bit. 
Country Boy & Bleeker Street
The opening motif here feels like something from Yes’ self-titled debut. It moves from there into a powered up psychedelic jam and then gets vocalized. Here is another with a bit of a blues angle to it. I’d think of this rather like The Doors meets Willie Dixon. It’s a strong tune and a great closer.
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