Bull of the Woods [Limited Edition 2CD]

by: 13th Floor Elevators

While the 13th Floor Elevators' debut album caught them as they were still buzzing with the excitement of their musical journey through inner space, and Easter Everywhere found them exploring the possibilities of the recording studio as well as their own creative process, their final studio set, 1969's Bull of the Woods, documented a band that was running out of gas. Legal problems were dogging the Elevators and preventing them from touring, they were justifiably unhappy with their record company, lead vocalist Roky Erickson was beginning to buckle under the group's steady diet of LSD, and lyricist and founder Tommy Hall was growing tired of the demands of group after the difficult process of writing Easter Everywhere. As a consequence, guitarist Stacy Sutherland became the de facto leader of the group during the recording of Bull of the Woods, writing most of the songs and singing lead on several numbers, and in his hands the 13th Floor Elevators were a very different band. Sutherland's compositions on Bull of the Woods are more languid and pastoral than the material that dominated the first two albums, and while there's still a psychedelic undertow to this music, Sutherland's lead was gentler and his lyrics more solidly grounded in the real world than what he created in tandem with Erickson and Hall. At the same time, Bull of the Woods also showcases Sutherland's consistent strength as a guitarist, and his fluid lead lines and melodies rooted in country and blues figures are Texas psychedelic music at its purest and most refreshing; after the psychic roller coaster of the 13th Floor Elevators' first two albums, Bull of the Woods is a relatively quiet trip to the countryside, and it's joyous, frequently beautiful stuff. The final version of Bull of the Woods was compromised by producer Ray Rush, who overdubbed incongruous horn charts on several numbers at the insistence of International Artists Records, but for Charly/Snapper's deluxe reissue, a newly remastered edition of the album is accompanied by A Love That's Sound, an alternate version of Bull of the Woods (originally compiled for the box set Sign of the 3-Eyed Men) that presents the material in a manner closer to Sutherland's original intentions, without the horn overdubs and employing several alternate takes and tracks that didn't appear on the final mix. Accompanied by a superb historical essay from Paul Drummond, this is an excellent new edition of an often-overlooked album that's a testament to Stacy Sutherland's role in one of America's truly visionary rock bands. (Serious fans should note that all this material appeared on the Sign of the 3-Eyed Men box set, and through this is a two-disc set, it contains less than 70 minutes of music, which would have comfortably fit on one CD.) ~ Mark Deming

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