Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ladies W.C. (1969)

The toilet motif is no secret from the start. W.C. stands for wash closet, the album art is a painting of a toilet, and the very first and last thing you hear on the album is a toilet flushing. But it doesn't go any further than that, as not much else has anything to do with toilets or toilet humor for that matter.

Ladies W.C. consisted of Venezuelan-born American bassist/vocalist Steve Scott, two Venezuelan brothers named Mario and Jaime Seijas, and Venezuelan guitarist/organist/artist Adib Casta. Casta, who produced the album art, would become more famous for his paintings. Scott and Costa co-wrote most of the songs, which were inspired by the likes of Paul Butterfield, early Steve Miller and Cream. This was their one and only album, which is mostly upbeat blues-based psychedelic rock. With that said, it does drift into more gentle territory quite often, with some choice ballads and introspective songs.

The harmonica is used heavily, usually in a raucous blues-style but sometimes in unexpectedly creative ways. In "To Walk on Water," as the vocalist sings "Gonna hear the sound of the moon in the trees," the harmonica suddenly breaks into a peculiar melody and rhythm that increases in pace and intensity as the lyrical phrase ends. It's as if the harmonica is imitating whatever sound the moon might make in the trees, and it's actually quite convincing.

Featured just as heavily as the harmonica is Casta's blistering acid lead guitar. Sometimes the guitar is in a typical blues style, but just as often it ventures into heavy wah-wah and fuzz madness. The rhythm section is on point, providing thick, rhythmic bass lines and head-bobbing beats. The vocals are pretty solid, with an admirably loose and simple approach. The songwriting is never exceptionally brilliant, but there are many gems and not one bad song to speak of. One element that's consistent throughout the album is the use of various sounds to segue between songs, like crowds, babies crying, orchestras tuning, etc. While it's not all that groundbreaking, it does provide another level of interest and occasionally supports the themes of the songs. Ladies W.C. took a while to grow on me, but I sure am glad I gave it a second chance after shrugging it off during my initial foray into psychedelic music.

"And Everywhere I See the Shadow of That Life"

Download Ladies W.C.