This album comes out of the mind of Phil Pearlman; a veteran of the American 60’s rock scene and the brains behind such epic psych albums Beat of the Earth and the great Electronic Hole. Relatively Clean Rivers’ only album was released in 1975/76 though it sounds straight out of 1969. This album is extremely rare and has proven to be quite a controversial privately financed release.
Some feel this album is the second coming, with strong apocalyptic acid visions and wonderful musicianship. Others feel that it’s a solid rural rock record with strands of late period psychedelia. It’s important to note that Relatively Clean Rivers was name checked as an influence in a recent interview (via Record Collector magazine) with Wilco concerning their latest release, calling the record a 60’s guitar album that is “economic.” Regardless, RCR may not be the second coming but it’s still a great album from a period in rock (1974-75) that was thought to be void of such hidden country psych gems.
It’s really a quiet, flowing, rural record that has many unsettling, strange moments. At first listen “Hello Sunshine” immediately stands out amongst the crowd sounding like a stoned underground version of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Everything comes off very natural and the music never sounds forced or dishonest. Much of the record is predominately acoustic, though “Journey Through The Valley” has some strong electric guitar acid leads. Other tunes like the effects laden “Babylon” are very spacey and almost veer towards progressive rock. The album closes with the reflective “A Thousand Years.” It’s another strong composition with some eastern influenced acoustic guitar playing, lyrics with bizarre religious overtones and backward cymbals. Relatively Clean Rivers is not bound to be everyone’s cup of tea, though fans of rural rock should investigate this great private press release. words/ j. nardelli