Saturday, June 10, 2023

The KVB: “Artefacts (Reimaginings From The Original Psychedelic Era)” (2023) CD Review

Fifty years ago, a double album titled Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (1965 – 1968) was released. This compilation featured various gems from the period. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of that record’s release, The KVB recorded new versions of some favorites from the time.  Interestingly, only one of the songs the band chose to cover was included on that original Nuggets album, though others were included on later volumes in the Nuggets series. The KVB is the duo of Nicholas Wood and Kat Day. It began in 2010 as the solo project of Nicholas Wood, with Kat Day joining in 2011. The name, by the way, is an abbreviation for Klaus Van Barrel, a name suggested by a friend to use as an alias when Nicholas Wood began making music.

They kick off the album with “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker,” a song written by Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz. While not included on that original Nuggets double album, this song, done by The Brogues, was included on the 1998 four-disc boxed set version, bearing the same title. The KVB takes this garage rock tune and gives it a cool, somewhat darker vibe from the start. It has a rather smooth flow to it, which is delicious. Then that instrumental part is where the more psychedelic element comes in. This approach totally works, and by the end there is an undeniable beauty to it. This is one of my personal favorite tracks. That is followed by “Circles,” an early Who song I had completely forgotten about. It was written by Pete Townshend. This version by The KVB has quite a different vibe from that original recording, with something of a 1980s pop feel to certain elements. It’s surprising how well this approach works.

Next they tackle “Reverberation,” a song by The 13th Floor Elevators, and included on that band’s first album, which came out in 1966. This version by The KVB begins almost like a dance number, seeming to take the song in a different direction. But when the vocals come in, there is a strong trippy vibe to the track. I love the vocal work here. There is something almost ominous about the sound and the approach. Interestingly, it was a different 13th Floor Elevators song that made it onto that first Nuggets album, “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” That original Nuggets double album included “Dirty Water,” the most well-known song by The Standells (and one that is still played at Fenway Park). The KVB covers a different Standells song on this disc, “Medication,” a song that was on the Dirty Water LP, released in 1966. The KVB’s rendition is like a trippy, dark dance, like when you’re a bit out of your mind and just letting the movement on the dance floor take over your world, wherever it might lead. It has that feel to it.

The most interesting choice of the album is “I’m A Living Sickness,” a song by Calico Wall, the band that gave us “Flight Reaction.” This song was apparently the other side of that single, and it’s a wild number. This version by The KVB might be more controlled, but it is still intriguing, and still has that sense of impending danger. They take the song and move it into a sort of science fiction/horror realm, which works perfectly. They go from what is probably the album’s most obscure song to one of its most well-known, The Troggs’ “Night Of The Long Grass,” which was released as a single in 1967. They give it an electronic sound, with a sort of dreamy, haunting atmosphere, which is incredibly effective. That is followed by “Primitive,” a song originally recorded by The Groupies in 1966, that version included on that 1998 four-disc boxed set. This rendition by The KVB has the same sort of vibe to the vocal line, though here backed by electronic sounds, which is interesting, creating a compelling atmosphere.

“Pictures Of Matchstick Men” is a seriously cool song by The Status Quo, and it was included on the four-disc set Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964 – 1969. Camper Van Beethoven later had a hit with it. Now The KVB delivers a cool rendition, with different phrasing, particularly on the chorus. I like the way this duo handles this one, maintaining what people love about the song while exploring different facets of it. That followed by a cover of The Pretty Things’ “Midnight To Six Man,” a song also included on the Nuggets II four-disc set. This version by The KVB kind of creeps in, making us feel a bit uneasy at the start. Then that thumping pulse comes in, taking it more into the dance realm.  “Liar, Liar,” a song originally by The Castaways, is the only song on this disc that was included on the original Nuggets double album. It was also on the 1998 four-disc boxed set. This rendition is a bit slower, giving it a somewhat different vibe. They wrap up the album with a cover of “I Can Only Give You Everything,” a song written by Phil Coulter and Tommy Scott, and originally recorded by Them. This version is quite a bit mellower, smoother. It then begins to build in power toward the end with the repetition of its title line.

CD Track List

  1. I Ain’t No Miracle Worker
  2. Circles
  3. Reverberation
  4. Medication
  5. I’m A Living Sickness
  6. Night Of The Long Grass
  7. Primitive
  8. Pictures Of Matchstick Men
  9. Midnight To Six Man
  10. Liar Liar
  11. I Can Only Give You Everything

Artefacts (Reimaginings From The Original Psychedelic Era) was released on May 12, 2023 on Cleopatra Records.

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