OPAL : "HAPPY NIGHTMARE BABY" LP......
I am fortunate enough (I think) to be able to say that I saw the DREAM SYNDICATE
live a few times in the 80s, but I'm not so lucky as to have caught "the Kendra lineup" - the 1981-82 one that recorded one of my Top 10 fave records ever, "The Days of Wine And Roses". Kendra is KENDRA SMITH
, and she's always been sort of a witchy psychedelic mystery lady. She was persona non grata for a year or so after the album (the
album), and then all of a sudden she had this new band in 1984 with Dave Roback from the RAIN PARADE
called CLAY ALLISON
& a great gentle psych EP, and then a couple years later, pop - out came the 1987 album by her new band OPAL
, who were actually the same
band, and on SST records no less (then regularly polluting the bins with October Faction and Swa
records). No tours, no big hoopla, just a fantastic psychedelic/kraut/paisley guitar record that sounds even better to my ears in 2006 than it did back then."Happy Nightmare Baby"
for years actually took a backseat in my eyes to the posthuomus 1989 OPAL
record called "Early Recordings", which had all the Clay Allison stuff + a few extras. That one was really folky, sometimes-acoustic Velvet Underground-inspired shaman rock, with a lot of the mystical swirling weirdness of their later stuff only hinted at (and it's great). But today I'm thinking "Nightmare" is the real lost classic. Roback plays guitar & feeds back like the lost son of Syd Barrett and Michael Karoli, but in a really restrained, strum-and-nod off sort of way that sets the flickering-candle mood perfectly. It's funny, I saw Roback live with MAZZY STAR
around 1990 and his stage presence - dressed in black head to toe, sulking, unsmiling, totally too cool and "above it all" - was so off-putting that I mentally wrote him off as a big poseur for years. But that wasn't very fair, now was it? And Kendra Smith's vocals are just the most
, you know what I mean? The careful, even way she doles out her words is a beautiful thing, most fully realized on the classic "She's A Diamond", a blues that's maybe the best thing they ever did. I'm also partial to the psych-by-numbers "Magick Power", which could have come off "Piper At The Gates of Dawn" (it's that good). A record with some obvious staying power this great should have been released on CD, don't you think? I think it may
have been at one time, but good luck finding it now. That ain't right; for now, go visit Endless Mike
- he'll set you up.
Oh and hey - I have a question as well: Did OPAL really
ever play live? I lived two hours from Los Angeles during their lifespan and never once heard of a show. Did you?