The Vintage Anthology 1971-1980

by: Brainticket

Perhaps no band of the '70s was more misunderstood -- by itself as much as by critics and the general public -- as Brainticket. With an ever evolving cast of musicians and other assorted characters (the only constant was founding member Joel Vandroogenbroeck), they left behind a catalog of five albums issued between 1971 and 1982. This box set on Cleopatra's Purple Pyramid imprint assembles their first three studio recordings (leaving out the early-'80s Voyage and Adventure) -- in a sense, since it splits part of them up on the latter half of disc three. Brainticket's bona fide hippie classic, Cottonwoodhill from 1971, is here in its entirety, paired with a disc from a Vandroogenbroeck side project called Drum Circus and the album Magic Theater from the same period, which juxtaposed his organ, piano, flute, and sitar in the company of three drummers, two vocalists, a bassist, and a saxophonist. While the former is an acid-damaged art rock beauty, the latter is just a mess. Disc two combines the band's best-known recording, Psychonaut (1972), a pretentious but essential bit of space rock, with Celestial Ocean from 1974. The rub is that the seven-piece is paired down to a trio from one album to the next, with Vandroogenbroeck trying to use electronics to make up for the lost bandmembers. While Psychonaut was a very focused record with cosmic overtones, Celestial Ocean is a mess with some pretty playing in places. Disc three features a brilliant yet dark 1980 Vandroogenbroeck solo project entitled Biomechanoid, which is akin Vangelis at his most abstract. Disc four features an official bootleg gig of Brainticket playing live in Rome in 1973, showcasing material from Celestial Ocean and long free-form jams. There are exquisite moments of improvisation as well as excess on display with OK sound quality. The disc is balanced by some truly awful bonus tracks from 1968, with Vandroogenbroeck playing piano in a straight-ahead jazz-cum-R&B band (including Gato Barbieri) called Barry Window & the Movements as well as a couple of equally horrible tracks with Santucci Scoppa from 1971. For most seeking out individual reissues of Cottonwoodhill, Psychonaut and Biomechanoid, will do the trick--unless you're a completist, that is. If the latter is the case, this set will fill in the cracks. ~ Thom Jurek

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