Detroit musician Ted Lucas spent decades quietly pursuing musical greatness in and around his hometown. Throughout the '60s and '70s, Lucas' name was attached to several regional rock bands, session work for Motown before they left Detroit for Los Angeles, and even time spent studying the art of raga with Ravi Shankar. He continued playing up until his death in 1992, leaving behind only scattered documentation of his various output, the most lasting and visible article being this self-titled album from 1975, first released by Lucas himself on his OM Records imprint. Recorded largely in his attic apartment, the album is divided into a first side of six spare tunes of soft psychedelic folk and a second side with two instrumentals and a wandering blues jam.
The first half is a non-stop string of winners, beginning with the looming minor-key proclamation "Plain and Sane and Simple Melody" and continuing through to the grinning, sing-song mellowness on tracks like "It's So Easy (When You Know What You're Doing)" and "It Is So Nice to Get Stoned," or the more weary, broken feelings on "Now That I Know" and "I'll Find a Way (To Carry It All)." These subtly composed tunes are on par with some of the best "lost classic" psych folk albums of the era, Lucas' multi-tracked layers of his own harmonies reaching the same sometimes spooky, often beautiful heights as those of Judee Sill, and the entire album shares the same psychedelic hitch-hiker feel as Skip Spence's Oar does. Lucas' musicianship is masterful but never showy, even when stretching out on the woozy "Love and Peace Raga" that closes the album. Instead, he chooses straightforward arrangements that better serve the themes of idealism and compassion that sit at the center of even the most heartbreaking tunes. The shift in presentation between the near-perfect acid folk of side one and the more instrumental-minded expansion of side two makes for a somewhat polarizing listen, but both are valuable looks into Lucas' talents, even the jammier tracks feeling like deliberately placed statements instead of filler to reach full album length. Though the album lingered in deep obscurity during his lifetime, a reissue campaign in the 2010s brought the album to a new audience hungry for just this type of privately pressed '70s psych folk; the kind that is so captivating it's a mystery as to why it didn't catch on in its time. Ted Lucas' album is a perfect example of this trope, ranking up there with Nick Drake, Index, the Contents Are,Anonymous, and other artists who made astonishing albums that got lost in the shuffle in their day. While a lot of those private press albums are fascinating in the context of their histories, Ted Lucas' sole album borders on timelessness in its best moments and soars from start to finish. AMG.
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