Rock and Other Four Letter Words
This New York-based duo released their one and only LP in 1968 on Columbia Masterworks, just months after Frank Zappa released Lumpy Gravy in California. Although the TWO projects have some superficial similarity in structure, it would seem that this later LP must have been made (at least largely), without any knowledge of the Zappa masterpiece. Another morphogenetic reference point might be the first LP by The United States Of America, which also dates from 1968. Originally released simultaneously with Terry Riley's In C and Wendy 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, stems 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 U.S. 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 (1930 - 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.