Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Label: Stable Records
Number Of Tracks: 11
"Escalator" is the only album by the Sam Gopal psychedelic rock band, released in 1969. The band features Ian Willis a.k.a. Lemmy Kilmister on guitar and vocals.
Oliver_White3, on may 08, 2014 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: Sam Gopal is the leader of this band playing the tablas, they do use drums on a few tracks but almost the whole album essentially relies solely on the tablas as percussion with a small bell on one track. These are actually quite nice songs and an uncommon mix of tabla and rock in psychedelic context with the riffs that are quite heavy and a very hard rock of the time, with a bit of an eastern sound not only coming from the tablas being played but also the solos coming from Lemmy's guitar, oh that's right I forgot to mention Lemmy Kilmister plays guitar on this and he does a damn good job at being heavy and using all out heavy rock soloing through a psychedelic medium as that was a common style at the time, this album however bears more of a harder rock resemblance, it is a bit different being back with the tablas, as I was saying this doesn't always happen in rock music and so it is a unique thing that should be embraced as it is quite nice overall, the fusion has a lovely sound with the guitars and drums complementing one another. It's almost as if tabla hard rock psychedelia was just waiting to be and is unfortunately not all that common, the only other thing I can think of along these lines would be Shawn Lee ("Shawn Lee's Incredible Tabla Band") that blends rock with tabla. The drums must be guest appearances otherwise they were dubbed over because the tabla is playing simultaneously with them.
Lemmy is actually a great singer along with guitarist, not using bass but actually guitar on this album, and his guitar is really just insanely good, just heavy with psych riffs while he sings these sad, melancholic, depressing, and compelling songs. The tabla isn't necessarily an Allah Rakha kind of playing, but it is nonetheless great and professional sounding, just maybe not ultra fast and pretentious, that's not really even the goal of the whole band. They are heavy and get a real hard rock sound for this time being the late '60s and it would be another proto-metal album, but it also retains a mellow feel to it at the same time causing an enjoyable listening experience. It is apparent that only Lemmy is the one doing all of the great solos, he may not be the greatest but there is fantastic playing on here, it captures a darker and more gloomy sound, psych fused, yet not the flower power peace and love stuff. There is Phil Duke playing fuzz bass and Roger D'Elia on rhythm guitar, not really that much is heard or known about all the members except Lemmy and not too much information on Sam Gopal, but he is still around and recently released an album.
This is just really like a dark trip and I mean that totally in a positive sense if that's possible, I actually enjoy it, almost like a taste of things to come like Black Sabbath, obviously not as heavy but in the sense of a change in direction of music, as far as what you want your music to be about, changing it and morphing it into a more beautiful and interesting piece, yet a more sadder and depressive sound yet still good. The sound is just insane overall, it is another challenge once again to describe it, the tabla is just banging along and making the epic bass riffs feel like they bring forth the whole tone to the song of darkness along with this wailing guitar and Lemmy's epic and sorrow singing with a set of amazing quality lyrics, I don't care what anyone else says, these are creative and brilliant and this is just from the opening track alone called "Cold Embrace."
The whole thing in a sense just has a psychedelic sound, there isn't actually any real raga to it analyzing it, the thing that gives the music this similar attribute is the fact that the guitar has a slight drone effect when it's left to resonate the strings for a while, this is more of a psychedelic sound, it's just rock sitting on the tabla drums. This is ingenious and I love it, I really don't think anything like it will happen again, I am definitely not trying to put this whole album down; it is truly a godsend for me because I love tabla and sitar, but I feel like that's what the whole thing is missing really, then it would be more of a raga sound. It is hard to explain it, tabla on it's own is psychedelic, it is an exotic instrument adding to that flair of flavor and letting it burst in the music and therefore it is psychedelic in all senses along with these exquisite psych guitar bits but it isn't raga, so they aren't a "trippy raga ensemble," it is a statement made somewhat out of ignorance and I'm not trying to condescend anyone but there is a differentiation. That is as close as I can get to describing the basis of the sound, but the rest is just all added in creativity and aptness from lyrics and Lemmy's vocals, this also adds along, as I was saying to the dark feel, not a peace and love thing a nice affair though at least I love it. Only problem I have with actual recording qualities is that they probably didn't have the best equipment to work with in that area, but they still sound good and the quality isn't hindering it that much, it just sounds ever so slightly lo-fi but not quite there. It is a shame that these guys didn't at least get decent recording gear. // 8
Lyrics: There is always a sense of dark and dismal perpetual subjects and sad lyrical content, yet it somehow attracts me towards it is enjoyable. But for me I don't enjoy the suffering, it's like I can somehow relate to it and it is giving me a feeling like I'm getting the disappointment and all those bad feelings or dark side of everything in my stream of consciousness pulled out and it's not a bad thing somehow, it's enjoyable. This music and the lyrics fit so well it is just pure perfection, everything in here is just so original and I haven't even heard a single cliche in any of it. Lemmy has just the voice to deliver these pre-metal lyrics, it is just his kind of style, it's like he is what is the driving force in keeping the band in this awesome hardcore direction. There is a soft and sad track on here called "The Sky Is Burning," starting off with a really depressing and sorrowful feeling, then with the chorus it just gets you hooked. There is just a message of love and the sadness of it with all the profundity, it's not just some stoner rock, this is really some aptitude here. This band is not some "bill-filler" as AllMusic states.
The track "You're Alone Now" has that same self title later used on Motorhead's second album, it really does sound nice and serious I can see why Lemmy would want to reuse it, it has this really heavy hook to it. // 8
Overall Impression: 02 "The Dark Lord": A Tolkien "Hobbit" reference alluding to Sauron, The Dark Lord of Mordor, this shows more Tolkien influence on music.
06 "It's Only Love": This seems to be yet another song of a relationship with a woman and the whole problems and complications with emotional distraught. The rhythm riff just sliding with Lemmy filling in his mellow psych lead, it is a softer track but with that dark feel again.
08 "Angry Faces": One of the real harder rock tracks of the album with those impressive vocals and crazy wails of electric guitars backed by the pulsing rhythms of Sam Gopal, this is a great piece off the album, the dual guitars wailing together and just going all hard is splendid to hear.
09 "Midsummer Night's Dream": Definitely paints a vivid imagery of greenery with all sorts of crazy soloing. There are also more dark scenes painted with that heavy drone guitar.
This is a must have obscure proto-metal heavy psych album of the late sixties especially if you love Lemmy and want to hear what he sounded like before, you won't be disappointed I can assure you of that, a nice rendition of Donovan's "Season of the Witch" is in store for you. // 9