Zodiac, The


Band members                              Related acts

- Paul Beaver - instruments, synthesizers

- Cyrus Faryar - spoken word

   

 

 

- Beaver and Kraus (Paul Beaver)

- Mort Garson (solo efforts)

- Modern Folk Quartet (Cyrus Faryar)

 

 


 

Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Cosmic Sounds of the Zodiac

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS 74009

Year: 1967

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1311

Price: $20.00

Cost: $66.00

 

Geez, this is a weird one.  It's not exactly psych, or even progressive, but is odd enough that it might well appeal to fans of either genre, especially those who are into exploito efforts such as The Animated Egg.

 

Produced by Alex Hassilev, 1967's "The Cosmic Sounds of the Zodiac" was a concept piece built on the twelve signs of the zodiac.  The idea was apparently the brainchild of Elektra President Jac Holzman, with Mort Garson and Jacques Wilson responsible for penning all twelve tracks (Garson wrote the music and Wilson furnished the spoken word lyrics).  Modern Folk Quartet vocalist Cyrus Faryar was brought in to handle the hysterically overblowm spoken word segments, while Paul Beaver (of Beaver and Kraus fame) was responsible for most of the instrumentation.. You've probably already figured out the concept - twelve selection with each correlating to an astrological sign.  In an overly serious manner Faryar breathlessly intoned some of the traits associated with the sign - "Venus contemplates a serene flower the color of an hour of love".  I'm a Taurus and had to laugh at 'Taurus - The Voluptuary'.   While the album deserved a negative five rating for sporting some of  dumbest lyrics you'll ever hear, some of the music was actually quite good.  'Cancer - The Moon Child' sported a nifty fuzz guitar segment, 'Leo - The Lord of the Lights' featured a neat mix of sitar and beach guitar, while keyboardist Beaver kicked in some early Moog synthesizer moves.   Today the whole thing sounds kind of goofy and pompous (geez, it probably did back then too), but there was a quaint and somewhat naive charm to much of the album.


"The Cosmic Sounds of the Zodiac" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Aries - The Fire Fighter -   (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson) - 3:17
Geez, I'm guessing Cyrus Faryar must have been pretty stoned, or paid some big bucks to intone crapola like "Aires is first to face the flames ...".   Funny but the tune was actually pretty good in a Doors-meets-television-soundtrack fashion.   rating: *** stars

2.) Taurus - The Voluptuary  (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson) - 3:38

Flute, harpsichord, and synthesizers made 'Taurus - The Voluptuary' mildly interesting, though I have to admit to taking great delight in Faryar's deadpan delivery of the pompous "insights" associated with Taurus.  If a kid turned in a paper this awful, you'd fail him in a heartbeat.   rating: *** stars

3.) Gemini - The Cool Eye   (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson)- 2:20

Hum, Garson and Wilson rock out ...  well, relatively speaking. Always wondered about the weird percussion sounds which recalled someone rattling pencils in a tin cup.   rating: *** stars

4.) Cancer - The Moon Child   (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson)- 3:27

'Cancer - The Moon Child' started out as one of the trippiest tunes, but also had some of the best fuzz guitar.   Had it not been for the hideous spoken word segment, this would have been a pretty good psychplioitation tune.   rating: *** stars

5.) Leo - The Lord of the Lights  (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson) - 2:30

'Leo - The Lord of the Lights' sported one of the most mainstream melodies with some tasty jangle rock moves.   rating: *** stars

6.) Virgo - The Perpetual Perfectionist(  Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson) - 3:02

Harpsichord and what sounded like Coral electric sitar ...  nice.  Shame the spoken word segment interrupted this one  . rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Libra - The Flower Child  (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson) - 3:28

Side two started with unexpected 'Libra - The Flower Child' adapting an unexpected and surprisingly soothing oriental flavor.   rating: *** stars

2.) Scorpio - The Passionate Hero  (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson) - 2:31

Time for some outright experimentation with lots of kettle drum and gurgling synthesizers, along with some heavy duty lyrics.   rating: ** stars

3.) Sagittarius - The versatile Daredevil  (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson) - 2:06

Hum, a circus theme ...   not a particularly good way to go though the electric guitar solo was kind of rockin'.   Sadly the bells overshadowed the guitar solo.   rating: ** stars

4.) Capricorn - The Uncapricious Climber   (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson)- 3:30

With the most rock like arrangement, 'Capricorn - The Uncapricious Climber' unfortunately also suffered from some of the most pompous spoken word segments.   rating: *** stars

5.) Aquarius - The Lover of Life  (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson) - 3:48

Nice harpsichord groove and one of the album's prettiest melodies, but The old Fifth Dimension hit was a better timepiece.   rating: *** stars

6.) Pisces - The Peace Piper  (Mort Garson - Jacques Wilson) - 3:19

Well, I liked the percussion on this one and now I know that if you were born a Pisces,moonstone is your mineral.   rating: ** stars

 

All told, I have to admit this album somehow managed to make Astrology surprisingly dull.

 

Garson and Wilson went on to record a series of twelve follow-on LPs for A&M; one for each astrological sign  (catalog numbers SP-4211 through SP-4222).  Anyone ever heard them?

 

 

 

The Zodiac : Cosmic Sounds" is a collaborative concept album on the theme of the signs of the Zodiac released by Elektra Records in November 1967. The basic idea for the album came from head of Elektra Records Jac Holzman. The idea was fueled by the grand commercial succes of the debut album by The Doors which was also released on Elektra Records.Jac Holzman hired Alex Hassilev (The Limeliters) to produce the album. Alex Hassilev asked Mort Garson, whom he had a production company with, to compose the music for the album and the lyrics were written by Jacques Wilson. Different session musicians were brought in to contribute to the recordings most notably Paul Beaver who played Moog and other electronic instruments and narrator Cyrus Faryar.

According to Alex Hassilev the album was recorded in about four sessions but Cyrus Faryarīs recitation of the poems (the lyrics) and the recording of the moog parts were done at another time and then overdubbed. All parts of the tracks were played/recitated and recorded live though except the moog parts. A rather stressful task for percussionist Emil Richards who according to Hassilev had to run around in the studio to play his many different percussion instruments (according to Richards he owned over 700 diferent ones).

The "The Zodiac : Cosmic Sounds" album is generally considered to be one of the first commercial albums to feature the use of the moog synthesizer. Itīs not the first though. But the moog that was used for the recording of the album actually had to be rented as nobody on the US West Coast scene had started to work with the moog yet. Hassilev had heard about the instrument and went to the Audio Engineering Society convention to meet Robert Moog (the inventer of the moog) and to check out the moog. After being very impressed by what he heard, he hired the demonstration model which was the only existing one in that part of the country at the time. The instrument turned out to be quite the challenge though as there were problems with keeping it in tune (the oscillators were unstable and the instrument had to be warmed up before use). So the recording of the moog parts proved difficult.

The music on the album is psychadelic rock with lots of spacy moog sounds, loads of different percussion instruments, West Coast guitar blues rock riffs, Harpsichord and organ. On top of that thereīs the recitation of poems by folk singer Cyrus Faryar (whose voice is very similar to the voice of Jim Morrison). Thereīs no singing on the album only recitation of poems on the theme of the signs of the Zodiac. Thereīs a mystic aura about the album that some might find cool and others will probably find tacky/kitchy. There are 12 tracks on the album each named after the 12 Zodiac signs and the lyrics (which are rather strange) reflect the theme.

The musicianship on the album is impeccable. Itīs easy to hear that these musicians are all experienced session musicians. So donīt expect drug induced sloppy playing. This is psychadelic rock but the musicians behind the project werenīt necessarily into this kind of music. Thatīs of course a paradox that many will probably complain about and I fully understand the objection but that doesnīt mean I canīt enjoy the music without prejudice.

The sound production is very professional, organic, warm and well sounding. A quality sound production considering the album was recorded in 1967. Itīs a great deal more polished than most other psychadelic rock albums of that era, which is probably due to the background history of the album (a pre-fabricated product backed up by a label boss and played by session musicians). If you listen without prejudice, "The Zodiac : Cosmic Sounds" is still quite a great psychadelic rock release with a captivating atmosphere and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

 

The Zodiac Cosmic Sounds is a visionary album by Electronic music pioneer Mort Garson (who was in his mid-40's when he recorded this), containing many important innovations that would become common in rock music in the years to come.

 

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