Thursday, 21 June 2012

LINK: Merrell Fankhauser review

Fankhauser, Merrell - The Best of Merrell Fankhauser

Review by: Daniel Pavlica
To say that Merrell Fankhauser’s career was marginally diverse would be a masterpiece of understatement. In the last four decades he tackled a truly extraordinary cocktail of musical genres, more or less successfully reaching from surf, folk rock and blues rock to spaced out psychedelia. Happily for all, compiled on a two CD set, this Merrell Fankhauser “best of” will undoubtedly satisfy anyone wanting a user friendly Fankhauser overview, as it brings joy for the more determined music collector too.

Check you secret pockets for any pills you may have unknowinglymisplaced because this is a trip where daydreams and imagination dance hand in hand. As soon as things get rolling we find Merrell Fankhauser perching on top of a weird mix of musical styles. Clearly Merrell was into everything and anything whenever the smallest opportunity popped up. Its fascinating how often this seemingly enthusiast like experimenting came up with extraordinary results. Even if extensive radio play remained elusive a good indication of the numerous possibilities was given. With “She’s Gone” Merrell and the Exiles walk the peculiar path between typical 60s R&B grooves and spongy The Beatles like tunes. “Driving Sideways (On A One Way Street)” drops in some extra acid and pychedelia, while “I am Flyin’ Home” draws parallels with a non offending Rare Earth caricature.

The MU period is presented with four numbers. Here lay a reminder of how unconventionally innovative this remarkable outfit really was. “One More Day” is a great blues inspired tune feathered with beach like lightheartedness while “The Land Of MU” dives straight into folk rock psychedelia. When going solo Merrell proves much mellower and theme focused. “On Our Way To Hana” sees him practicing hippie love, while “Make A Joyful Noise” and “Some Of Them Escaped It All” are again both folk tinged gemstones.

Disk two is a showcase of Merrell’s works from 1978 onwards. In this time experimenting with styles and moods became much more streamlined. At this point accessible stuff starts creeping in to the detriment of musical creativity Fankhauser is famed for. Much of Merrell’s personality gets lost with numbers like “Waterfall”and “Queen MU”. Here Merrell is at his best when dressing up in syntetisized colors of “Calling From a Star” and ska influenced “Alien Talk”. Notwithstanding the fact that Merrell’s style shifting may seem chaotic or at least hard to follow still the general consensus remains that surf is the best and the man’s most representative tool of trade. On “Two Vegetarians” he returns flashing some of the old surf magic. A quick dive into previously unreleased tracks proves to be a thing of mixed fortunes (just try tackling the fabricated melancholy of “When Merrell Met Jane”) except for the long running fans who will undoubtedly treasure these uncovered workouts. Speaking of those hard to come by moments, “Haiku Jam” is definitely worth checking out. “Surfin’ Prismo” may lack the spark and sparkle of his best works, but in the end still manages survive somehow as one of the disks bright spots.

6 out of 10

A review copy of this album was provided by the record label Gonzo Multimedia

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What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.