Monday, October 14, 2013

BYG Actuel 10: Alan Jack Civilization - Bluesy Mind

The tenth album in the BYG Actuel catalog was never issued on that label. Instead, it was transferred over to a much more suitable home over on BYG proper, where it was ultimately released in 1970. Listening to Bluesy Mind, it makes perfect sense why it didn’t find a home on BYG Actuel. For a label whose hallmark was relentless experimentation, with artists pushing past the established boundaries of their music and intrepidly exploring what lay beyond, it’s amazing that those in charge would ever consider releasing an album of generic blues rock long enough for it to be assigned a catalog number before being pulled at the last minute.

Nothing about Alan Jack Civilization’s Bluesy Mind is bad. It is a very competent record. But that’s precisely the problem. The label’s first outright failure, Michel Puig’s Stigmates (Actuel 07), is at least a document of an artist that went out on a limb and tried something new. Puig’s failure is a noble and memorable one. By being merely competent, the Alan Jack Civilization managed to create an album that isn’t any more memorable on its tenth listen than it is on its first. None of the nine songs, with the exception of the sprawling “Middle Earth,” which is just barely interesting, stick in any way. Any blues rock fan would be much better off reaching for their copies of Projections, East-West, Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, or Super Session, to say nothing of albums by superstars like the Rolling Stones, Cream, the Yardbirds, and the Animals.

It isn’t one hundred percent clear just why Bluesy Mind’s release was canceled, but I’d like to think that the Actuel executives wanted to preserve the legacy of experimentation that they had already done so much to build with the label’s first nine releases. That they would follow the aborted Bluesy Mind with the second of six albums that Archie Shepp recorded for the label is wholly unsurprising. When it comes to persistent experimentation, Shepp was one of the surest things in the label’s stable. 

Coming up in the weeks ahead:
Actuel 11: Archie Shepp – Poem for Malcolm
Actuel 12: Alan Silva and His Celestial Communication Orchestra – Luna Surface
Actuel 13: Paul Bley – Ramblin’
Actuel 14: Acting Trio – Acting Trio
Actuel 15: Anthony Braxton – B-Xo/N-0-1-47a

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