Album Reviews

Father Yod & The Spirit of ’76: Kohoutek/Ya Ho Wa 13: Savage Sons of Ya Ho Wa (Drag City)

Drag City’s taken on the task of archiving the vast material from The Source Family’s musical vaults, resulting in the release of music that at times can be challenging, humorous, and quite over-the-top. Based around the philosophy of millionaire turned cult leader Jim Baker (no relation, surprisingly!) who took the name Father Yod, the group was unique in that a large part of their time was devoted to jam sessions, making music, and recording all the things related to both.

Father Yod & The Spirit of ’76’s album Kohoutek was released in 1973, and is, well, a very unique record. It’s actually a twenty-six minute long trance/chant/incantation in praise of the comet Kohoutek, which was to reappear that year, and which they felt would be the beginning of a new spiritual age and enlightenment. It’s hard to fully serve justice to this number; it goes from spoken word to a psych-rock freak-out and back again, and the tape hiss that shellacks the piece only makes it even more peculiar. As odd as it is, there’s a sincerity about Kohoutek that is undeniable; as weird and as strange as it is to listen to, you can’t experience this and come away not feeling that the Source Family is totally into what they’re doing—and furthermore, it’s appealing enough to make you wish you were there when it happened.

Even more compelling is Savage Sons of Ya Ho Wa, credited to Ya Ho Wa 13, was released in 1974, and though this was his band, he’s not performing here. His eccentricities as a performer are matched—if not completely outdone—by vocalist Electron. At times, the band turns in a Grateful Dead-style blues rock that’s actually rather kick-ass, like on the instrumental jam “Oh Ya Ho Wa” and the funky “Edge Of A Dream” and “Make A Dollar.” But it’s the numbers “Fire In The Sky” and “Man The Messiah” where things get really weird, turning into a bizarre, demented, spiritually possessed Tom Waits. These moments are striking, disturbing, and oddly compelling; the first listen might make you hit the skip button, but if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself fighting the desire to listen to it again, to see if you get it.

Don’t fight this desire. Listen again. You’ll be glad you did.

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