Celebrating Aldebaran's Return

Long goodbyes are no fun. But, worse still is never getting a chance to say hello. 

Such is the case of Farewell Aldebaran, a 1969 release from beat-era folk legend Judy Henske and her husband Jerry Yester (himself a bit of a pop / rock producing legend having worked with the likes of Tim Buckley, The Association and Tom Waits, among others). 

AR-ad225.jpgThis album was issued on Frank Zappa's short lived Straight Records label (home of seminal releases from Captain Beefheart and Alice Cooper) and more or less disappeared from public consciousness.

Indeed, it has been such a rarity I've only seen copies on vinyl in used record shops a couple of times and they were quite pricey... too pricey for me to take a chance without having heard it before.  The only track I'd heard a lot however was one I liked a bunch, the bubblegum homage piece "Horses on a Stick" (which appeared on the Warner Brothers' Loss Leader mail-order only LP compilation called "Zapped").

It was so elusive that I accepted the dream that I'd someday find a copy out in the wilds of record collecting at a garage sale or flea market. 

Well... That never happened.... 

However....

Now .... nearly 50 years later (!!) the album is being reissued officially for the first time thanks to the good folks at Omnivore Records.

It was worth the wait! 

Farewell Aldebaran is one of those records gleefully ignoring concerns for stylistic continuity in favor of pursuing a vision the writers heard in their heads at that time.  Frankly, it is an album very much of a period when it was accepted and considered cool to offer up disparate songs which ricochet across genres like an intergalactic pinball game played off all the planets in the Universe.   

The album works much in the way that The Beatles Sgt. Pepper and The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle hold together blending rock, psychedelia, vaudeville, folk, art song, jazz, theatricality, classical and perhaps even operatic influences. 

Farewell Andromeda is a time traveler's dream... of possibilities explored...

AR-henskeyester225.jpgThe album opens with the scorching soaring "Snowblind" featuring raunchy electric guitar riffs and solos from The Lovin' Spoonful's Zal Yanovsky and is then followed immediately by "Horses On A Stick" -- which sounds like what might have happened had The Archies hosted an alternate universe Acid Test at Riverdale High for Ken Kesey.

Then up comes "Lullaby" which feels like a lost Kurt Weill piece which Marianne Faithful should consider recording. "St. Nicholas Hall" reminds me of one of those wonderfully tongue-in-cheek songs from the musical Hair, yet with a sort of trippy passion, no doubt supplemented by the sampled operatic vocal notes played on a Chamberlain (a sort of early version of the Mellotron, a tape-driven synthesizer of sorts...). 

The whole album goes like that with contrast after contrast. It's no wonder they made the cover a photo-negative image of the back cover (which shows the young couple and their family in the backyard, a scene of domestic bliss), lending an other-worldly feel that mirrors the magical music within. 

Curiously enough, reading the liner notes we find out that chemically induced mind trips were not what this album was about. No, really... Judy Henske apparently was very sick with strep throat and wrote the title track amidst an "illness induced delirium."  

"I had a high fever for days and my brain went to a whole other place," she said in the liner notes for the Omnivore Records reissue of Farewell Aldebaran.

AR-Snowblind225.jpgSo, put away all those preconceptions that this album might be just some acid casualty flake out session. No, Farewell Aldebaran is a carefully crafted work that took a long time to create. It features high caliber session players including no less than three iconic bassists from the rock, pop and jazz world: Ray Brown, Jerry Scheff and Joe Osborn. Moog Synthesizer is played by none other than Paul Beaver (of pioneering electronic music duo Beaver and Krause).  

Can we talk street cred, kids?

Ok, so the question some of you reading here on Audiophilereview.com probably are asking is whether you should spring for the CD or wait for the LP?  I recommend you get the CD because it will be available first and has five non LP bonus tracks.... 

This way you can get familiar with the album now - it travels well in the car and walking around town on your iPhone, iPad, iPod or Android. 

And, if like me you fall in love with the CD you can then get the LP which will be coming out in multi colored vinyl! 

So, let's all give a gleaming post-Summer of Love big bear hug to Farewell Aldebaran for passing the audition, getting beyond Woodstock and finding a comfortable place in music history's garden as a timeless lost classic.

Which thankfully is no longer lost...

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