There is no running theme in this outing, aside from the strong new music that has come through in late summer – warm, chunky blues from veteran guitarist Elvin Bishop; Communion, a four-sided conceptual blast from the Canadian power-pop band Sloan – and a lot of names starting with R: the California grinding-blues band Rival Sons, currently blowing up in the U.K.; British psychedelic explorer Robyn Hitchcock; the teenage R&B phenomenon Raury from Atlanta; and, via a Beatle-esque tribute by the Seattle folk-rock project Case Studies, the late poet-novelist Richard Brautigan.
A San Francisco Renaissance icon whose work frequently appeared in the early pages of Rolling Stone, Brautigan was a paradox of compact, free-associative eloquence and self-destructive alcoholic rampage (he took his own life in 1984, at 49). His life, work and combustible relationships with a period army of bold-face names in writing, film and music – including Allen Ginsberg, Peter Fonda, Janis Joplin and, for a time, Jimmy Buffett – are examined in overwhelming but magnetic detail in William Hjortsberg’s definitive 2012 biography, Jubilee Hitchiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan (Counterpoint). The book is especially valueable for Hjortsberg’s forensic account of the San Francisco that exploded around Brautigan, from 1964 into the Summer of Love, including his eccentric solidarity with street activists the Diggers.
Brautigan was, briefly, a recording artist: A 1970 LP, Listening to Richard Brautigan, featured the author reading poems, stories and passages from his breakthrough novels A Confederate General From Big Sur, Trout Fishing in America and In Watermelon Sugar. The Beatles were Brautigan fans, and he made the album in late 1968 and early ’69 for their short-lived avant-garde extravagance, Zapple Records. The LP eventually came out on the British progressive imprint Harvest after Zapple abruptly folded. That album, reissued on CD in 2005, is not on Spotify. But Brautigan was also a spiritual and financial supporter of the great Bay Area acid-rock band Mad River, earning him a dedication on their 1968 debut LP, Mad River. That is also missing from Spotify, except for the raw, dreamy “Orange Fire.” Here it is.