F.J. McMAHON: SPIRIT OF THE GOLDEN JUICE

August 8th, 2017 | Album reviews

F.J. McMAHON
Spirit Of The Golden Juice
Anthology

F.J. McMahon’s … Golden Juice is an album so painfully and brightly in contact with the dread and hope of 1969 that it still speaks directly to the dread and hope of … well, whenever, and especially now. Recorded after a year of Air Force duty in Vietnam and Thailand, McMahon’s desolate but resolute folk rock sounds and feels like it was recorded in some isolated front-line listening post, a strange back-roads Californian mix of P.F. Sloan’s not-so-Dylan-y downers and maybe Lou Reed’s darker demos—“Early Blue” suggests a VU song in a few different ways. Juice is more raw than reissued contemporaries like Jim Sullivan or Rodriguez, who had the semi-comfortable production of various middleweight labels behind them, and more rocked-out than Kauffman and Caboor, whose drumless folk album drips with abject desolation. And it’s also more optimistic than Gary Higgins’ gutted Red Hash, since McMahon at least seems like he feels the future is possible, although far from perfect or even guaranteed. Per “Sister Brother,” which opens the album like blue dawn light through fog: “I’d like to see everyone smile / I guess it won’t happen / not for a while.” As happened with its brother rediscovered albums, the flaws that probably dogged Juice as it was made turned out to be its strange specific strengths—particularly the lack of major financial support, which forced a rough but winning make-it-work sound and which freed McMahon from second-guessing company-man interference. (Stand-out “Five Year Kansas Blues,” a bleak look what I guess is the military deserter’s fate in Leavenworth, would not have earned enthusiastic corporate investment.) It’s one of those strange 60s underground classics, an obscurity swimming in and out of and back in to print again on a committed combination of word of mouth and clarity of vision. Think of it as album with a message, and a simple one: “Is there anybody out there?”

—Chris Ziegler

F.J. McMAHON’S THE SPIRIT OF THE GOLDEN JUICE IS OUT FRI. AUG. 11 ON ANTHOLOGY.