Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. This week, we go back before the dawn of recorded time (1980) to cover the JPT Scare Band’s prehistoric jams on Sleeping Sickness (Monster).
So, here’s the thing about Sleeping Sickness: it actually came out in 2000. However, if these songs were actually recorded in this millennium, they wouldn’t be nearly so notable. Still awesome, don’t get me wrong; just not as notable. This is actually a compilation of tunes recorded between 1973 and 1976. Much like Pentagram, the Kansas City power trio of Jeff Littrell, Paul Grigsby, and Terry Swope (see how they got the name?) never managed to secure a record deal during their initial run. They did, however, record their legacy on to some reel to reel tapes in someone’s basement, which were later dug up and issued on several LPs in the 90s. Those versions were edited, though. This CD release contains the full insanity.
These guys weren’t really metal, per se. Possibly proto-metal. The band themselves have said that they don’t consider themselves metal, but would take any attention that they can get. Besides, who else is going to listen to this stuff in this day and age besides metalheads (and acid casualties)? They drew heavily from Cream and Jimi Hendrix, with some Blue Cheer thrown in, but then they took it to the extreme via endless jams. Heavy, fuzzed-out grooves stretch into eternity, Terry Swope’s non-Euclidean guitar work threatening to skid off the rails and into a whole new dimension. Don’t expect song structure; these are improvisations, the sound of three friends enjoying each other’s company and the interplay of their instruments.
That isn’t to say that these aren’t distinct tunes, though. “It’s Too Late” is probably the closest thing to a single here, with its touches of Blue Oyster Cult and Grand Funk Railroad. “Acid Acetate Excursion” fits its title perfectly, with loads of wah-wah pedal and distortion-soaked spirit journeying. The one where they really take off into the cosmos has to be “I’ve Been Waiting,” which starts off like a low-key Led Zeppelin live cut and briefly pauses for a flute solo before Swope lights a fire under his guitar and it traces through the air like a firework.
The JPT Scare Band predated Earthless and pretty much the rest of the Teepee roster by a few decades. Hell, if that label had been around in the mid-70s, these guys probably would have found a happy home there. Alas, they never had their moment in the sun back when they would have been hailed as the innovators that they were. They’ve been pretty active this decade, though, putting out a series of releases cataloging other basement recordings in addition to new material. So check out Sleeping Sickness; it’s a long, strange trip, but it’s an immensely satisfying one.