June 2005

Roky Erickson - I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology
Shout Factory D2K 32556
Released: 2005
Format: CD

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

In the liner notes to I Have Always Been Here Before, Bill Bentley says of Roky Erickson’s breakthrough band, the 13th Floor Elevators, "…psychedelics created them." Bentley appears to approve of the band’s use of LSD, but anyone reading about Erickson’s life will wonder if it was worth the sacrifice. If we judged solely based on the nine tracks by the Elevators that are included in this collection, we might tentatively say "Yes." While Bentley makes the case for the 13th Floor Elevators as the earliest psychedelic rock band, their impact proves longer lasting and more profound. Any number of punk and garage bands owe what they do in part to the example set by this Texas band on "You’re Gonna Miss Me," "Tried to Hide," and other raw and powerful songs.

Erickson was their guitarist, co-songwriter, and vocalist, and his life since their demise in the late '60s has been a troubled one, including two stints in mental hospitals. Although he was blessed with friends in the music business who tried to help him, including CCR’s Stu Cooke, he never saw royalties from the records he made. I Have Always Been Here Before includes a generous helping of tracks from each of those recordings, and they are often harrowing -- "Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)" is as brutal as anything by the Stooges. The producers have done a good job with the varying sonics.

In the last few years, Erickson’s brother has helped him get some long-overdue help, and he’s made tremendous strides. Perhaps this anthology will give him some well-deserved financial security.