One of the oddest San Francisco Bay Area bands of the late '60s, Berkeley-based Mad River cut two albums that are highly regarded by psychedelic collectors. After releasing a rare EP on a tiny local label in 1967, the band signed with Capitol and released their self-titled debut the following year. Perhaps the most ominous San Francisco band of the time, the group often sounded like an extremely dark version of Quicksilver Messenger Service with a bit of Country Joe & the Fish's minor-key melodies thrown in. Their material veered between drawn-out angst jams and frenetic numbers, spotlighting David Robinson's shimmering, blistering guitar leads and leader/songwriter Lawrence Hammond's mournful, quavering vocals. Unpredictably, their second and last LP (1969's Paradise Bar & Grill) found the band drifting into laid-back country-rock with less memorable results. The dark side of the psychedelic experience, sounding like a soundtrack to a bad trip with its bleak, enigmatic lyrics, swirling, somewhat dissonant arrangements, and relentlessly minor melodies. The longer tracks meander at times, but the hell-bent jerking tempos of "Merciful Monks" and "Amphetamine Gazelle, " as well as the chilling closing lullaby "Hush Julian, " still pack a punch. The 1985 British reissue of this LP (on Edsel) adds extensive liner notes, and restores the album to its correct speed (the original master ran too fast). AMG.