Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Ill Wind - Flashes (1967)

The psychedelic group Ill Wind released just one album, and even though it was for a fairly big label (ABC), it was indeed ill-distributed and heard by few at the time. Like a number of late-'60s bands from Boston, Ill Wind suffered from the lack of a consistent musical direction and uneven material and production that didn't make the most of the bandmembers' assets, though there was some instrumental and vocal talent in the group. Their album, Flashes, was a tense, brooding stew of folk-rock and freaky psychedelia that didn't quite coalesce, with the stirring, assertive vocals of Conny Devaney the best ingredient. Although it was produced by one of the best producers in 1960s rock, Tom Wilson (who had worked with Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, the Mothers of Invention, and others), it didn't do much, and the Ill Wind disbanded at the end of 1968, though the group re-formed for a few months in 1970
1 Walkin' and Singin' 2 Sleep 3 Little Man 4 Dark World 5 L.A.P.D. 6 High Flying Bird Wheeler 7 Hung-Up Chick 8 People of the Night 9 Full Cycle
Flashes does indeed have more flashes of potential than many of the countless other one-shot psychedelic albums of the late '60s, but this Boston group's sole effort is quite erratic, and not graced with much good material. The best points in their favor are the bracing vocals of Connie DeVanney, whether she's singing alone or blending with male voices in a manner reminiscent of (and probably highly influenced by) early Jefferson Airplane. But despite the presence of Tom Wilson at the production reins, the production often sounds underdeveloped, and the songs frequently meander in a derivative twilight between folk-rock and psychedelia. There are some fair driving folk-rockers in the 1967 Airplane style here, like "People of the Night" (with a lengthy Eastern-style psychedelic guitar break), "Hung-Up Chick," and "High Flying Bird," the last of them a folk song covered by numerous rockers in the last half of the 1960s, not least Jefferson Airplane themselves. "Dark World" is haunting folk-rock-psychedelia, and the best solo showcase for DeVanney's voice, while "Sleep" has some almost gothic male-female vocal interaction. But the album also has some overlong blues-rock noodling and psychedelic droning, mediocre good-time jug band-influenced stuff, and self-consciously heavy social commentary.

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