I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology
An underground legend on the order of Syd Barrett and Skip Spence, Roky Erickson spearheaded the psychedelic rock movement in the mid-'60s with the 13th Floor Elevators, making music to take drugs to before the boys in Spacemen 3 were out of nappies. Erickson's musical persona and personal life reveal both the colorful upside and dark underbelly of the experimental lifestyle. As his mental instability and drug intake intertwined, his artistic production reached lofty heights with the Elevators' first two albums, and sporadically thereafter as he battled mental demons on both sides of the institution. This carefully assembled two-disc set chronicles the Texan's musical career, from his pre-Elevators outfit the Spades through his mid-'80s rediscovery to his folksy mid'90s incarnation, refocusing attention on his authoritative, spine-tingling howl, demon-obsessed lyrics, and classic garage-rock songmanship. Even his acolytes will be psyched to hear young Roky yowl through the Spades' "We Sell Soul," the original single version of "You're Gonna Miss Me," and the Easter Everywhere acoustic outtake "Right Track Now," which sit alongside such classic, mind-expanding cuts as "Fire Engine" and "Postures (Leave Your Body Behind)." Nearly a decade -- and several antipsychotic drug treatments -- later, Erickson sounds alternately fired up, on the stomping "Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)," and sweetly tuneful, on the Buddy Hollyesque "Starry Eyes." Roky's increasing obsession with demons and outer space pervades such '70s recordings as the southern rocktinged "Don't Shake Me Lucifer" and '80s tunes like the haunting rocker "Creature with the Atom Brain." Roky wound up his recording career with the folksy All That May Do My Rhyme in 1995, but not before turning out acoustic ballads like "Anthem (I Promise)" and the winsome "You Don't Love Me Yet," searing rockers like "Don't Slander Me," and the blues-drenched "The Beast." I Have Always Been Here Before reintroduces one of rock 'n' roll's most commanding and influential voices -- you'd be wise to turn an open ear.