Alexander Spence is a veteran San Francisco musician who played a formative role in two of the Bay Area's biggest bands, Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape. After enduring drug addiction and incarceration in a mental hospital following an axe-related incident during the recording of the second Moby Grape album, he entered Columbia's Nashville Studios and cut his debut, and to date only, solo work in a day, whilst still only 22 years old. Spence wrote, produced and played all of the album's twelve songs, enshrining the results to the studio's ageing, primitive 3-track machinery.

If you're experiencing a sense of 60s casualty dj vu, a la Syd Barrett, Roky Erickson and Arthur Lee, then you'd be right. "Oar" exists in a similar parallel universe to that explored by the aforementioned lysergic travellers, being a curious melange of psychedelia, country, folk and nursery rhyme, all woven together by Spence's warbling singing and cracked, Beefheartian logic. It swerves from being beautiful to funny to poignant, usually within a single song. Probably the best way to describe it in words would be to imagine the early Pink Floyd interpreting "John Wesley Harding"-era Dylan (one song, "Broken Heart", being more than a little reminiscent of Mr Zimmerman's "I Pity The Poor Immigrant"). If you flock to the kind of fringe-dwelling music usually dismissed with the 'cult classic' tag "Oar" is highly likely to float your boat.

This reissue has been produced by the good folks at Sundazed, also responsible for the best Byrds product currently available. Pressed on 180 gram high-definition audiophile vinyl, and chiselled from the original first-generation master types, as the sticker on the cover says this version of "Oar" is indeed "The nicest thing you could ever do for your stylus", uncovering every creak and shuffle.

Moby Grape