First Rays is a 1978 album by Ray Harlowe and Gyp Fox, independently released on Waterwheel Records. It’s popular with psych rock collectors and has even been reissued a couple times. It’s a treat for fans of Terrapin Station-era Dead, and Bobby Weir in general. You can find the whole album pretty easily on Youtube if that’s a description which fits your taste. The last track, “Gettin’ Keyed,” was featured on the bonus CD inside Enjoy the Experience: Homemade Records 1958-1992, a well-produced book which collects privately-pressed LP jackets of varying quality.
Our favorite is “Go Ahead and Dance,” which sort of reminds us of those underrated post-Morrison Doors albums. The whole album is uptempo, spacey and fun.
“Go Ahead and Dance”
Some people are surprised when they discover Minnesota was sort of the private-pressing capital of the country for much of the period covered in Enjoy the Experience. There’s an independent attitude to Minnesota music in nearly every genre. Some of our independent music became famous, like “Surfin’ Bird,” but most of it is the sort of obscure stuff record collectors love. If you dig through the archives of the Hymie’s blog you’ll find lots of unusual and rare local records, from Music is a Bunch of Notes to a variety of free jazz and fusion.
This is all, of course, a dream to record collectors here in the Twin Cities — at least to the collectors who are interested in hearing new, original music, instead of just looking for a cleaner copy of some boring Led Zeppelin album. This next record is probably even more obscure than First Rays, and so far as we can tell its never been reissued.
What little we’ve found written about these records describes Ghostdance as an inferior followup to First Rays, but we don’t agree. They’re very different albums, and this second seems influenced by the Lou Reed records of the period. Ghostdance came out in 1980, the same year Reed recorded Growing up in Public. The songs are more hippy-themed than First Rays but the production is slicker. There is a quote from the Paiute prophet, Wovoka, whose visions led to the revival of the Ghost Dance in 1890: “You must not fight. Do no harm to anyone. Do right always.”
gyp fox, whose name is uncapitalized on this second album, shreds a little more on Ghostdance, which features some of the same band. He and co-leader James Dean trade off on lead vocals and guitar. We wonder if drummer Eric Berg is related to Bill Berg, who played drums with jazz fusion band Natural Life around the same time and was a regular at sessions at the Sound 80 studio in the seventies. That would be cool if they were drummin’ brothers.
“Like a Vision”
“Think About the Future”
We found this comment thread where Ray Harlowe said he had more music to release, but so far as we can tell there isn’t another album out there. Still Looking Records reissued First Rays in 2009. It was the first of about a dozen archival releases they put out, one of which was another rare Minnesota record, McDonald and Sherby. We posted about that one when a copy came through the shop a couple years ago. It looks like the label produced its reissues in fairly limited quantities, so they might be as rare as the originals.
As for James Dean and gyp fox, we can’t find them on another record anywhere. We’d love to hear more songs from any of the three, if there are any. gyp fox is sometimes mis-credited as the backing band (he does have a fairly unusual name), and obviously its kind of hard to search for a guy named James Dean and not find the other guy with that name.