'The Quintessence pop group is strongly influenced in their lives and their music by Eastern mysticism. They represent two of the three forces which probably unite the elements of the alternative. Pop music, an interest in Eastern non-intellectual argument. And drugs...'
The old hippy dippy. Quintessence, on the Island Record Label in the late sixties and early seventies, an almost definitively 'out there' outfit. Their debut album 1969's In Blissful Company predictably is a mixed bag. The record sleeve gives their game away. It's India immersed religious mysticism and there's plenty of garbled pretension on show.
Musically though, they're pretty tight. At least at this early stage of their development. With an early Julian Cope sound alike on lead vocals, (actually South African Shiva Shankar Jones, most of them took on Indian pseudonyms in addition to the names they were born with), they took elements of the American West Coast Psychedelic sound, (I kept hearing traces of It's a Beautiful Day), stirred it up with ingredients from London's late sixties brown rice community and occasionally made it fly. Notting Hill was probably the nearest thing they come to a signature tune. It's something of a counterculture anthem. During the track that follows, nine minute album closer Midnight Mode, they truly flip their collective lids into raga territory, and you might feel you're on the banks of the Ganges.
Certainly not to everyone's taste, I imagine then just as much as now. However, there's a committed fervour to much of the record I warmed to. Ridicule, as someone once said, is nothing to be scared of and I rather enjoyed listening to it yesterday afternoon. I'll tread rather more warily I imagine with their later records.
'Things look great in Notting Hill Gate...'