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Artist: Iota

Album: Iota

Label: Normal

Review date: Jun. 29, 2003

Slim but Worthy Legacy of Texan Psych

Originally formed in El Paso in the late 60s, this Texan four-piece soon relocated to Memphis and released a couple of singles. Finding that their sound and lyrics were apparently too strong and dark for the times, the band broke up in 1972 leaving behind only a thin legacy. This CD compiles ten songs for a half hour of vintage, rough psychedelic rock, sometimes not far off from Blue Cheer, sometimes more laid-back like many of their contemporaries.

Mark Evans' guitar work ranges from pure fuzzed-out riffing to mildly funkified wah scratches, while Steve Phipps' organ distinguishes the group from many of the dual guitar outfits of the time. Being the band leader and singer, it's perhaps not surprising that Carl Neer's bass lines are often mixed higher than usual for this sort of band, while Rick Ramaka's drums get the job done rhythmically.

The delicate guitar picking during the first bars of "Precincts" soon expands into classic 70s psych, with expansive keyboards and vocals that are nearly-but-not-quite over the top. When the guitar kicks into the lead, it's got the perfect fuzz tone, on the edge of breaking up completely. One of the best songs here, "Love Come Wicked" sports deep riffing, cool organ, and vocals perhaps mildly reminiscent of early Deep Purple. The burning guitar lead in the middle is really something.

Heavier rock filled with distorted guitar and a blues-derived riff, "Glympses" leads into the slower, dark-tinged bit of psych aptly titled "R.I.P." The doo-wah chorus of "Better Place" feels somewhat different, with a vaguely funky feel, while "Bottle Baby" will make you nod your head to the thick bass riff and staccato organ.

The rest of the brief collection includes the spacious feel of "Sing For You" and "The Words Are True," with strong organ and a really compressed distorted guitar sound. "I'm Gonna Be a Man" is a more traditional late 60s garage rock tune, while "Our Love so Warm" is the most “of-its-time” song, a paisley-covered psych tune complete with pure ’60s-era vocal harmonies and jangly guitars.

Great to have Shadoks pulling out items like this from various label archives. This one's a pretty welcome find, whether you're looking for some pretty heavy fuzz-riffs or flower-power psych. Shame it's only thirty minutes, but then, that's all there was to find, which is better than nothing!

By Mason Jones

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