Roky Erickson, I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology (Shout! Factory, D2K 32556) 2CD

From the opening yelp of “We Sell Soul,” his debut single as lead singer of the Spades (remember, p.c.-activist types: this was TEXAS in the mid-1960s), to the final cuts from his 1995 solo LP All That May Do My Rhyme, there is not an inessential cut on I Have Always Been Here Before, the finest retrospective of one of America’s most twisted musical treasures ever produced. I’m talking about Roky Erickson, people, and if you’re not familiar with or weren’t impressed by what you may have heard, take another listen. I’m not going to be so bold as to say that American psychedelic music wouldn’t exist without him (despite whatever Mayo Thompson might say, heh), but it shore would be a whole lot more boring planet without Roky’s music to see us through. Disc One begins with the aforementioned Spades a-side, then delves into the early essentials from Roky’s stint as leader of the legendary 13th Floor Elevators: “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” “Reverberation (Doubt),” and “Slip Inside This House” are the hallmarks, but there’s a few more classic (though less fetishized) Elevators tracks. Only complaint is or could be: where’s stuff from Bull of the Woods? The liner notes insinuate that it ain’t “full-tilt” enough, but I don’t think a track like “Dr. Doom” would be far out of place. Whatever. Anyway, stuff from post-incarceration Roky, mainly tracks with the Aliens, round out the disc, and that’s a great thing. Personally, though I love the Elevators, my absolute favorite Roky stuff is the late-70s-Stu-Cook-from-Creedence-produced Aliens stuff, and both discs have plenty of it. Basically, what Roky made with the Aliens remains some of the creepiest yet most strangely beautiful rock music I’ve ever heard, and I still get chills when I hear “I Think Up Demons” (presented here with its correct title), “Bloody Hammer,” and “If You Have Ghosts,” like I did the first time. This anthology could stop there and satisfy me, but it includes more, and fortunately that’s a good thing. The later tracks, in particular, are revealing, making me think that either Roky got an unfair shake from the music press when Openers and All That May Do My Rhyme came out, or maybe I just did listen right, or something. Either way, you gotta get this.

Buy I Have Always Been Here Before from Shout! Factory.


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