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Randy Holden - Population II

Randy Holden
Population II
by Dani Bandolier at 07 February 2020, 12:41 PM

When we are talking proto-garage and psychedelic acid metal music legends, RANDY HOLDEN is not a name that comes up often, but his involvement with BLUE CHEER and their recording “NEW! IMPROVED!” (1969) put him into the sphere of California acid-rock legion with the likes of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE and THE GRATEFUL DEAD.  In his short career he also recorded with the FENDER IV, SONS OF ADAM, UGLY THINGS and THE OTHER HALF. This release “POPULATION II” (actually the band name as well) recorded in 1970 was for many years mostly available only as a bootleg, a real shame as this is one interesting acid dipped relic. This, the mighty sound of just two guys throwing down bass, guitar, drums and Randy singing.

“Guitar Song” leads off with some interesting John McLaughlin octave lead waves breaking into vocals in a moovin’ and groovin’ acid-blooze song structure punctuated with Sunn burned and stinging lyrical guitar lines stage blocked with blues licks and tricks. This whole release is hard to listen to and not compare to Hendrix, such was Jimi’s gigantic impression and influence on the rock guitar universe. Randy Holden was able to continue in that acid-rock direction adding his Steve Marriott tinged singing - sans the white blues shouter affectations – a California man indeed; but more mill-town eastern USA in his singing roots like Rob Tyner of the MC5. And man, this cat had some serpentine guitar lines that slithered and snaked way down the rabbit hole. The FAR OUT intro for “ Fruit & Icebergs” has Sunn feedback induced theremin whammy bar guitar effect going on – it is a trademark sonic signature and it is all over this release - before allowing the disjointed guitar lines to assemble themselves into song. “Between Time” again goes for the sheer guitar volume theremin geetar lines, no stomp box amplifier trickery here. Like the man says “you just got to get it on!”.

This is the sound of mighty Sunn amplifiers peeling paint off of an old opera house’s walls. “Fruit & Icebergs (Conclusion)” picks the whammy-bar feedback guitar line up again and ends it short and sweet at under 2 minutes before dropping on a dime into “Blue My Mind” with Randy warning us to “watch out!”. “Blue My Mind” is a standout cut and impressive composition featuring left-right hard panned guitars (all over the disc, actually),  with synchronized distinctive dual-tracked leads and a “Wild Thing” stomp. Looking closer at this comparison, while the afore mentioned “Wild Thing” never really gets past the I-IV-V box and really, it doesn’t need to in Jimi’s version thanks to his over the top guitar pyro, “Blue My Mind” does catch more song lift-off with the warbling octave guitar, sly-boots vocals and interstellar feedback drive switched on. I dig it mates.

The last track #6 “Keeper of My Flame”  trots out country-caveman blues rock showing just how much the long-haired imagination was peaking back in the 60’s; here with wheeling call and response leads, multiple mid-song crescendos and Jerry Shirley HUMBLE PIE grooves channeled via drummer Chris Lockheed. We go up the mountain, jump off and float down spinning and laughing to do it all again. This is trip-happy music, mind expanding with no come-down bummer. Randy Holden left the music biz for over 2 decades after he recorded “POPULATION II” and never saw a proper release, a bankrupt musician with no equipment, self-exiled to Hawaii. He much later recorded “GUITAR GOD” in 1994 which was released in 2001 followed by the 2008 release “RAPTOR”. I hope he is still playing. This would be one hot-acid hootenanny to see live.

For you cool kids that want some bangin’ hang music, check out my Spotify playlist which includes my reviewed bands ¡!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1.  Guitar Song
2.  Fruit & Icebergs
3.  Between Time
4.  Fruit & Icebergs (Conclusion)
5. Blue My Mind
6. Keeper of My Flame
Randy Holden  Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Chris Lockheed  Drums
Record Label: Riding Easy Records


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