Perry Leopold

Equally influenced by classical icons (Beethoven, Bach and Stravinsky), psych-beat music of the 60s (The BEATLES, The VENTURES, PINK FLOYD et al) and the political folk boom (TIM HARDIN, ERIC ANDERSEN, PHIL OCHS, DYLAN…), troubadour PERRY LEOPOLD (b. 1949) and his trusty guitar stamped the street corners of his hometown Philadelphia, while travelling to small coffeehouses and bars as far as New York and Boston. With drugs an integral part of late 60s counterculture, the man recorded his first long-player in June 1970 during a 5-hour stint inside a basement under a shoe repair shop. A paltry 300 copies were almost immediately handed out free to people on a street corner; little did they know the LP would later fetch upwards of $3,000 – note: be warned of bootleg sets.
Entitled EXPERIMENT IN METAPHYSICS (1970) {*7}, it bore two contrasting sides, one “Kommercial: Smoke”, the other “Acid-Folk: Drop”, which just about described the album to a T. More than a little pretentious and criptical, it kicked off with the stark and brooding JANSCH-meets-FAHEY cue, `The Absurd Paranoid’, although side one itself delivered nothing out of the ordinary, standard folk template. Side two, however, broke the prog/psych-folk mould on more than one occasion; the part-conceptual three-piece mini-suite climaxing with the closing 7-minute magnum opus, `The U.S.S. Commercial’. Finally released on CD by Gear Fab Records some three decades later, bonus tracks such as `Jets They Roar’, `The Prophesy’ and `The Dawning Of Creation’ showed the folky singer-songwriter getting back to basics.
Some three years in the making, with a plethora of new backing musicians (including Jon Gillaspie on clavinet, bassoon and recorders), album number two finally surfaced. CHRISTIAN LUCIFER (1973) {*8} was steeped in medieval-like madrigals somewhat akin to psych peers, The DOORS or MU (example `The Windmill’). Lengthy opener `Sunday Afternoon In The Garden Of Delights’ was simply astrodazycal, both spiritual and mystical in equal parts, while layers of complex classical instruments, played minstrel-like, also featured on others such as `The Starewell’ and `The Annunciation’. With BOWIE having patented anything with “Ground Control to Major Tom” in the lyrics on his Space Oddity hit, LEOPOLD’s `Serpentine Lane’ and the nature of this US-only, low-key album release probably went unnoticed – what David B and his legal team would make of it now would be anybody’s guess. Another to hit the plagiarism button, this time in sound rather than lyrics, was the slightly tinged `Stairway To Heaven’-themed `The Journey’ (ditto `Vespers’), although renaissance folk won over rock in this case. Perry would subsequently take a back seat to the new musical genres of glam, disco and a little later, new wave.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Dec2016

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