Recently in Cheltenham a Fopp store opened, so I’ve been finding myself down there quite regularly to sniff out a bargain. And I’ve found plenty – The Seeds, Inspiral Carpets – but coming out on top for both obscurity and excellence is Sun Dial’s debut album, Other Way Out.
Mojo say that this is the best psychedelic album you’ve never heard, and I think they’re right on the money. This is really trippy stuff, and anyone who’s ever had a psychedelic coursing through their veins will be taken back to a very warm place listening to this. Shit, even those who haven’t will get high if they play this album.
The first track, Plains of Nazca, is the only one you’re likely to have heard elsewhere (albeit in a trimmed down radio edit) and it’s immediately reminiscent of acid-era Beatles (think Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.) There are some soaring guitars in this once, played over a very mellow rhythm with (of course) psychedelic keyboard jams all over the place.
This is followed by Exploding In Your Mind, which starts off like Hendrix. On acid. Ho ho! But seriously, this is right out of the Haight; 1968 – soaked in reverb, a real paean to the hallucination experience. This contrasts nicely with the much more chilled out Magic Flight, which is almost meditative by comparison. It reminds me of some of the more bluesy Jefferson Airplane; something like High Flying Bird.
World Without Time is more of the mellow style Magic Flight began, but a kind of strange hybrid of Iron Butterfly (fabulous droning guitar riff in the background) and Jethro Tull (other-worldly flutes.) Then She’s Looking All Around brings us back down to earth with an intro that almost sounds like a Black Sabbath ballad. You really expect a pounding bass to start up, but it takes its time and slowly morphs into a sort of Led Zeppelin psychedelic/hard-rock anthem. A come-down song, if you will, after the heights of the previous tracks.
Then Lorne Blues fires us straight back into Hendrix/Cream territory, with lots of reverb played over a slow space-jam. Other Side is probably the most poppy song on the album, taking us back to the sound of the Beatles – but pre-acid, and slightly heavier. And the rest of the album continues as you would expect, with a couple of alternate takes (the Plains of Nazca radio edit and a ‘colour’ version of Exploding In Your Mind.)
To be honest, at first I was shocked that an album like this came out of the late eighties (it was released in 1990.) It goes against everything I understand about the evolution of music – but of course, that’s because I really don’t understand much. The garage-rock revival of the eighties and early nineties returned rock to the raw, rebellious spirit of the sixties, and in lieu of contemporaries to find influence in there was literally twenty-five years worth of great music. Sun Dial prove that if you listen to enough good music from several distinct yet intertwined styles, you can fuse them all together to create – well, a masterpiece.
Own this album.