With the ability to discover previously released tunes, in all genres, from the last forty odd years online where do you start? Thankfully compilations like this exist often covering the lesser known areas of a particular genre, and in this case the UK psychedelic and hard rock scene of the late 60s goes under the aural microscope. This is the second compilation in the Grapefruit / Cherry Red series, chronicling a time when moustaches were like handlebars, dresses were kaleidoscopic, hair was long, and everyone waved their freak flag high. The late 60s were a tumultuous time in the UK, and the music seemed to reflect this change, moving from pop dominating the charts to a harder edged sound sweeping its way across the nation, with huge rock festivals happening all over the country, bands shaking the foundations of club venues with sheer volume and power never heard before. The UK was definitely in the throes of a full on rock revolution, and although leading the charge were the more famous names of Hendrix, Cream and Black Sabbath, across the country in every town there were blues-influence hard rockers leading a counter culture resistance. Some of the bands on here only released a single or two before calling it a day, others became global stars, and several had a few albums out but still languished in relative obscurity until now.

With fifty three tracks spread over three CDs, there’s a lot of riffage to filter through, but each one manages to bring something unique, whether it’s the blues-led freakout of Jeff Beck’s ‘The Shape Of Things’  or the heavy fog of ‘Clawstrophobia’ by Iron Claw. Andromeda’s “Let’s All Watch The Sky Fall Down” is a rock master class, John Peel was so impressed he asked the band to record a session in 1968, before they were even signed, plus Andromeda even had Black Sabbath supporting them in their early days. Another highlight is the tune ‘Horse’ by Sam Gopal, written by none other than Hendrix’s roadie, a pre-Motorhead, Lemmy Kilminster, who also provides the vocals. Another surprising discovery is Hull based band The Rats with their fiery blues gem ‘Early In Spring’, featuring Mick Ronson on guitar and Woody Woodmansey on drums – that’s half of Bowie’s Spiders From Mars in their infancy! There’s also great unreleased tracks from bands such as Thor, Tonge and Tarsus (what is it with these bands wanting to sound like gods or goblins beginning with T?), who never made it beyond locally recorded demos and live shows, but are still worthy additions to this musical celebration.

From listening to the first release in this series ‘I’m A Freak Baby’ released in 2016, I discovered a band called Stray, never heard of them before, but fell for their rock n roll stomper ‘All In Your Mind‘ and subsequently bought Stray’s album. They’re also one of the bands who were so good they’ve made it onto the second compilation too, with their equally brilliant ‘The Man Who Paints The Pictures’, and that’s one of the best experiences of listening to compilations like this. The beauty of these albums is that they bring together a load of songs that otherwise might have gone languishing in the vaults forever, or tunes which might be out there already, but ones you wouldn’t have picked up in a million years. You never know where compilations like this might lead you. I won’t get into the whole playlists vs compilations debate here, as they both have their uses, but box set compilations like this, with a hefty full colour booklet, are more similar to a piece of musical art, than a mere digital file. It’s a whole listening and discovering experience, reading about the bands involved, seeing the retro pictures, gaining a greater understanding of the times these songs were made in, and the people behind them. Times may have moved on, but importantly, it laid the riff fuelled foundations for anyone to pick up the baton and create a modern day version – here’s looking at you Black Mountain, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Purson and Queens Of The Stoneage. ‘I’m A Freak 2 Baby’ is a good excuse to indulge in some retro rock gems!

I’m A Freak 2 Baby – out now (Grapefruit / Cherry Red Records)

From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.