Review: Bull of the Woods

Posted on: December 8, 2023
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// By Ryan Nims

Being a vinyl junkie, you might think Record Store Day is my favorite day of the year, but between the lines, the crowds, and the limited releases, I tend not to get too excited about it. But this Black Friday, I made an exception, and sat in line at End of an Ear solely for one RSD Release: the reissue of the final album from local legends 13th Floor Elevators!

Bull of the Woods (International Artists Records, 1969) is a bit of a different animal from the band’s previous two albums, primarily because lead singer Roky Erickson performs on only four of the record’s eleven tracks. In that way, it serves as a document of a band that was coming apart at the seams—in fact, the band would break up before the album’s release.

By no means does that make it a bad album; quite the contrary! The album is bluesy garage rock with a healthy dose of psychedelia. That said, Tommy Hall’s trademark electric jug—a staple of the Elevators’ sound—appears to be mostly absent, or else placed far back in the mix.

Album opener “Livin’ On” is very much typical 13th Floor Elevators, with its fuzzy guitar intro and Erickson’s unmistakable vocal delivery. Roky’s songs, “Never Another,” “Dr Doom,” and the album’s closer—the epic psych-rock song “May the Circle Remain Unbroken”—are among the most psychedelic of the collection.

The remaining songs are written and sung by guitarist Stacy Sutherland, his voice more folksy and subdued. “Til Then” and “Scarlet and Gold” could be mistaken for the Byrds. Other songs remind me of the Doors more than the band’s earlier sound.

French label Culture Factory published this reissue, with original artwork for the cover and labels, with a nice printed inner sleeve and Obi strip advertising the record’s features. The record itself is pressed on pristine white vinyl and sounds great!

While not my favorite of the band’s three albums—that would be their 1967 sophomore release, Easter Everywhere—I am happy to finally have this long out-of-print record in my collection. If you like Rocky’s program Le Chateau Daddy-O (Tuesdays at 4:30 pm) or Vallogallo’s Love on the Dole (Sundays at 4:00), chances are you will dig this one.

Being a Record Store Day limited release, I’m not sure how easy this will be to find, but check in with your favorite local record shop to see if they still have a copy or two for sale.