Psych aficionados will want to hear Pan & Regaliz.
From the first song on its only album, psych-prog rock group Pan & Regaliz quickly suggests a version of Jethro Tull led by the 13th Floor Elevators front man Roky Erickson. It’s too bad the Barcelona group wears that vocal influence so proudly on its sleeve. Vinilisssimo has reissued the 1971 album, which documents a band well on its way to a distinct sound but falling just short of finding its own voice.
The name translates to Bread & Licorice, which suits music that provides a certain comfort, a little sweetness and a bitter edge of anise. A la Ian Anderson, Guillem Paris leads with flute and vocals, the latter of which regularly veer off into a snarling Ericksonian drawl. Paris’ bandmates are good musicians who have latched on to a sympathetic groove, and that often makes up for his vocal shortcomings, but the impersonation can still be trying, especially because it almost always sounds like he’s straining for effect.
“One More Day” launches the album with a crunching beat, flute frills and Paris’ 13th Floor affectation snarling the end of his lines. It’s a spirited performance, and even better is “Waiting in the Monsters Garden,” which percolates with an almost voodoo rhythm that’s quite a bit funkier than Jethro Tull. Still, that growling Erickson tremolo gets distracting, and you spend much of the album’s brief 32 minutes wishing Paris had invented his own power animal.
The band is more impressive when the vocals lay out, as on “Dead of Love,” which turns from uninspired lyrics to fuzz-guitar and Santiago (Jackie) García Cortés’ furious drums. And fortunately, the group shakes up its psych-blues-prog template with the music hall track “A Song for the Friends.” This tone-shift features the kind of humorous barrel-house piano that psych bands used to like to throw in for a goof, and this one may reference the intro to the Koobas’ soaring ballad “Where are the Friends.”
The sinister rhythm of “When You Are So Bringdown” suggests that, if it loosened up its beats just a little, Pan & Regaliz might have approached the swampy soul territory of Dr. John’s Gris-Gris, which would have made a curious synthesis of New Orleans freak-out and prog (with a touch of CCR choogle). But the group could let loose in its own way: The wild centerpiece “Today it Is Raining,” the longest track on the album, sustains its psych bona fides for most of its nine minutes. This track may be better known as a sample for Madlib’s “Anima.” But it again matches a banal lyric (“It rains on you and me,” you know) with more inventive music. The best match of music to lyrics is closer “I Can Fly,” its dirge like tempo a powerful evocation of someone who knows very well they can’t fly.
The finest moment of Pan & Regaliz’ brief existence isn’t on the album. The 1971 single “Magic Colors” is pure psych pop (with a great fashion show video on YouTube), and it’s no coincidence that Paris’ affectations are kept in check, though his voice is instead heavily distorted. Pan & Regaliz doesn’t quite live up to its reputation, but psych aficionados will want to hear it, and perhaps seek out one of the reissues that included the band’s non-LP 45.