I’m A Freak, Baby: A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych & Hard Rock Underground Scene, 1968-1972 (Grapefruit Records)

By 1968, a new breed of long-haired U.K. bands was sprouting, armed with gigantic amps and loud, aggressive, songs influenced by Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and Blue Cheer, among others. I’m A Freak, Baby is a three-disc set celebrating these bands, who from ’68-’72 invented new forms of angry blues, deranged prog-rock, and brain-melting psychedelia that would set the stage for heavy metal and punk rock which were lurking just around the corner.

It’s an under-celebrated scene, which defies easy categorization and doesn’t even have a widely accepted genre name that can be slapped on it. You could call it proto-metal or heavy-psych, but I’ve also heard it called freak-rock, a more accurate catch-all. This new boxset gives you the best tracks from 48 freak-rock bands, running the gamut from Rock and Roll Hall Of Famers (Deep Purple and Fleetwood Mac on the ascent, and The Yardbirds’ last gasp before morphing into Led Zeppelin), to songs that were previously unreleased until now (The Kult, Hellmet, and Barnabus).

While most of the tracklist is dedicated to hard rockers, the scene’s punkier side is represented by Stack Waddy, Crushed Butler, The Deviants and The Pink Fairies (whose “Do It” is one of the all-time great proto-punk anthems). Jerusalem and Iron Claw show how Black Sabbath’s influence spread quickly, with doom/downer classics “Primitive Man” and “Skullcrusher,” the latter of which provoked legal threats from Sabbath’s management for sounding so much like them. The seeds of heavy metal’s next generation are here too, with songs that would be later be covered by Judas Priest (Fleetwood Mac’s “Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)” – a stone killer that has nothing in common with the soft-rock they’d later be known for) and Iron Maiden (“All In Your Mind” by Stray), as well as a song called “Falling” by a completely different band called Iron Maiden from the late-1960s. However, Lemmy’s ghost looms largest over this set, which is dedicated to his memory. First he’s in there as the singer on Sam Gopal’s 1969 song ,”Escalator,” which sounds a lot like Motorhead would have if Phil Taylor played tablas instead of drums. Then there’s his pre-Motorhead band Hawkwind, who are here with an unreleased pre-Lemmy single, “Sweet Mistress of Pain,” from 1969 when they were still called Hawkwind Zoo. Lastly, while there’s no direct connection, I’ll be damned if the box-set’s title song, recorded by Wicked Lady in 1972, doesn’t sound exactly like Motorhead’s amphetamine rock, three years before their first album.

There’s tons of great material, with remastered sound, informative liner notes, and a reasonable list price (under $25 on Amazon) to boot.