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Published: 2003/04/26
by Chris Gardner

Mad Dogs and San Fransiscans – Mushroom with Gary Floyd

Black Beauty Records 72003
The newest Mushroom release reaches back decades, lighting a flame under a
string of covers from Leon Russell to the Spencer Davis Group, The Who to
the immortal Curtis Mayfield. Gary Floyd, the gravel voiced former frontman
of Austin’s The Dicks, lends his blistered pipes to the set as San
Francisco’s intrepid psychedelic adventurers smear a gelled swirl behind
him. Floyd has the kind of rare and stirring voice that can stand on its
own, as it does in the album’s brief intro. You feel it immediately. It’s
a voice to be reckoned with — a voice that can’t be ignored. And Floyd hits
the mark, whether it’s the beaten down defiance of Steppenwolf’s "The
Pusher," the joyous proclamation of "Delta Lady," or the ragged soul of
"Space Captain."
Mushroom is loose in all the right places, wandering far afield on
"Pusherman" and staying in the pocket for Clarence Carter’s "Slip Away."
Their work behind "The Pusher" is some of their best, with eerie, ominous,
and revelatory notes from the analog synth rebounding off distant walls,
bouncing back in the darkness. They take time to stretch their legs on a
pair of atmospheric instrumentals. "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,
But It Will Be Auctioned Off on ebay," launches ideas out into the cosmos.
The players pile up, one atop the other. Wurlitzer, guitar, snake guitar
(whatever that is), cornet — everyone joins the scrum. The rhythm section,
rooted by band leader Patrick O’Hearn Thomas, remains steady and straight,
but all other thoughts are downright crooked. The second instrumental may
well be the album’s highlight. "Even the Beatles Had Beards" drifts
beautifully, buoyed by a warm Wurlitzer and decorated by guitar noises that
chime and drone off into the expanse, radar pings and busy signals paving
the way for the coming horns.
This disc seems to jump out of a bygone era, all the way down to the
rose-washed fold-out nudes on the album art. You get the sense that
Mushroom is "freaking out" rather than "jamming." The vocals here matter,
which further distances them from the standard jamband fare. They take
themselves seriously, but it’s more a cosmic seriousness than
intellectual seriousness. You are more likely to call it "heavy" than
"sick." Their approach is intuitive rather than thoughtful, and their
product feels genuine. If you dig through their music collections, you are
more likely to find vinyl than burned shows, and that sensibility translates
itself here into a damn fine long player, whatever era it springs from.

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