Crystal Jacqueline – “Sun Arise” (Mega Dodo 2013, CD)

My introduction to UK based Crystal Jacqueline was the 3-song 7″ from Fruits de Mer Records released earlier this year, on which she served up three tasty covers of psychedelic songs from the 60s. Jacqueline is also the singer and keyboardist in The Honey Pot, whose To The Edge Of The World album was released in 2012 and is an impressive set of 60s inspired pop-psych and garage rock (with some great retro orchestrations).

Jacqueline’s debut solo album consists of a dozen songs, both originals and covers. There’s lots of variety throughout the album, and while the pop-psych of The Honey Pot is present, there’s much more going on than that. Spacey psychedelia mixed with dirty Blues is the name of the game on the title track that opens the set. Dream 1 is a dancey rhythmic rocker with trippy contrasting guitar leads. Who Do You Love is a beautiful dreamy psychedelic pop song that’s 60s inspired but with a modern, rather than retro feel. By The Way is an angelic song with an interesting blend of medieval folk and Celtic influenced orchestration, fun freaky effects, and some of Jacqueline’s most passionate vocals of the set. I Break is a stripped down acoustic tune. Of the original songs, my two favorites are Alice and Light Is Love. Alice features scrumptiously lysergic float-on-a-cloud spaced out folky pop-psych, and I love the combination of space-slide guitar and orchestration. Light Is Love starts off as a mind-bending avant-psych song with heavily efx’d guitar, before launching into a high energy pop-psych rocker with a funky tripped out groove and some of the coolest efx’d guitar leads on the album. Nice!

Jacqueline goes for an interesting cross section in her choice of covers. The three songs from the Fruits de Mer 7″ are here. The Troggs’ Cousin Jane is a gently whispering and lightly orchestrated song and the polar opposite of that band’s best known hit. I like the dark piano lead and surreal synth melody, and Jacqueline’s voice is perfectly suited to anything with a 60s flavor. Jacqueline take the whimsical Prog-Psych of Second Hand’s 1968 song A Fairy Tale and gives it an edgier opening guitar segment, a much more psyched out solo later in the song, and makes it all happen at a faster and more energetic pace. The Rolling Stones’ Play With Fire is both hauntingly dreamy and intense, and I like the combination of bubbly psych guitar leads, acoustic guitar, piano and spacey symphonic keys. In Jacqueline’s hands, Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown becomes a dark and dreamy orchestrated psych rocker. But my hands down favorite of the covers is the psychedelic take on Fly A Kite. YES, from the Mary Poppins movie! This is by no means a stretch in terms of song choice because it could be argued that ‘ol Walt’s flicks had more than a few psychedelic moments in them, however unintentional it may have been. The song begins as a lulling and oh so slightly acidic dreamy number, later launching into a heavier rocker with freaky warbling, wah’d and spacey guitar, plus a ripping lead once we’re in full majestic rock mode, before returning to the introductory lull for the finale. Wow, what a great example of taking a song out of its known context and completely reinterpreting it.

In summary, this is an impressive and intriguingly varied set of songs. The production and arrangements are very good and I like the mixture of originals and covers. It can be risky including so many covers on an album but Jacqueline, for the most part, takes the originals and does a good job of putting her own spin on them. The album is out on CD, but I see on Jacqueline’s Facebook page that a Kickstarter campaign was just successfully completed to have Sun Arise pressed in a vinyl edition.

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Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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