Rare Finds

A small Tucson record label is making big waves by re-releasing obscure psychedelic albums

Tucson is one of those towns where things don't necessarily announce themselves, and a little sleuthing can reveal interesting and surprising artistic, cultural and entrepreneurial ventures—like, say, an independent, locally owned record label run by a father-and-son team dedicated to reissuing obscure psychedelic records.

Such is the case with Lysergic Sound Distributors. Run by the father-son combo of Steve and Trent Purdy, the label has four archival releases to date, with more in the works. L.S.D. was a logical, long-pondered progression from Steve Purdy's 25-plus years as a buyer and seller of vinyl rarities. He's one of a small group of experts and fanatics dedicated to finding, buying, selling and trading 1960s and early '70s psychedelic and prog records. Before starting his company, he published a sales catalog of rarities called Psychedelic Happenings that eventually morphed into L.S.D. With connections that span the globe and several decades of experience, he's in a perfect position to uncover and obsess about obscure records and bands.

As for the genesis of the label, he says, "I kept finding these really rare records—some really obscure, off-the-wall things that were almost unheard of. I kept thinking, 'Some of these are really good; people need to hear these things.' I always knew, in the back of my mind, 10 or 15 years ago, that eventually, I'd have the time and a little bit of money to maybe license some of these things and reissue some of them so people could hear them. So, finally, it evolved to that point."

For their first release, in 2009, the Purdys put together a compilation of 12 tracks of obscure "Jesus rock," or "Jesus psych," called Electric Holy Land.

"What really kind of got me started was I was finding these strange religious records," Steve Purdy says. "Some of them would have eight or 10 not-very-good songs, and then there'd be one song with screaming fuzz guitar all over it. I found eight or 10 or 15 of these things, and thought, 'You know, somebody should put a compilation together.'" The bands include First Revelation, Earthen Vessel, The Ark, Children of the Lamb and The Four Corner Gospel Experience. So far, the Purdys have sold 700 of the 750 albums pressed.

L.S.D.'s second release was a double-LP by the ultra-obscure, hard rock/psych one-man band Vulcan, called Meet Your Ghost. According to L.S.D., it's "two discs of raw, distorted, overblown, fuzzed-out sludge rock by the eccentric and enigmatic small-town, self-proclaimed son of an intergalactic space traveler who claims to have been visited years ago by the guitar-playing ghost of Jimi Hendrix." This limited edition of 600 albums is sold out.

For their third release, the Purdys came up with something so obscure that it had never even been released: a collection of eight tracks by the late '60s San Francisco Bay Area band Devil's Kitchen, who were a house band at the Family Dog in San Francisco and played quite a bit at the Fillmore West (also in San Francisco), but never released a record. Nearly 1,000 copies have been sold.

L.S.D.'s most-recent release is a true rarity, a re-release of Opus 1, the sole album by the Gallup, N.M., band World, of which 300 copies were originally released. According to L.S.D., it's a "recently discovered 1972 teen soul-funk private-press mega-rarity from rural New Mexico. ... This previously unknown gem is a very accomplished mix of smooth-gliding soul and up-tempo funk, complete with swirling Hammond organ and mellow harmonies to go with the fuzz and funk guitars."

These records are beautifully packaged, with period-perfect cover art and high-quality vinyl; they are also winging their way around the world and bringing attention to the label. Steve says, "People tell me, 'I saw your Electric Holy Land at Intoxica in London, or I saw Devil's Kitchen in Toronto.'" Although the market for this kind of music is not huge, it is devoted and perhaps a little fanatical.

"I found a thing four (or) five years ago from Mexico," Steve says. "It was a Mexican religious psych record. I took it to (the Austin Record Convention), and these guys were practically beating each other up over the thing!" That passion goes for both the dealers/crate-diggers like Purdy, and the collectors they are selling to, although there's quite a bit of crossover between the buyers and the sellers.

Of his search for rarities, Steve says, "I've made almost a science out of it. You have to think: How can I find the stuff when nobody else can? How can I do that?" Being a long-term player in the field certainly helps: "I sell to people in almost every country you can imagine: Russia, Syria, China, Malaysia," he says.

There's always the hope of a lost-cities-of-gold-type find: "There's stuff out there waiting to be discovered that might blow away anything we've ever heard," he says.

Trent Purdy is producing L.S.D.'s next project, which started with his discovery of an acetate in a friend's closet from an early-'70s band in Akron, Ohio, called Bold Chicken. Trent, who has played bass and toured with The Okmoniks, Nobunny and Sneaky Pinks, among other bands, describes it as "very crude proto-punk. The songs are very short—no guitar solos, with crude song topics—very street." Plans are to release it as a four-song 7-inch EP in March.

Both Purdys agree on the need for tight quality control. Steve says, "I always knew that if we were going to do it, we were going to do it right. ... We were going to have really eye-catching, first-class artwork on all of our stuff. I wanted the vinyl to be heavy-duty and well-restored, well-re-mastered."

Steve says L.S.D. also would "really love to do an album, an unreleased album by a Tucson group from the late-'60s or early-'70s who are really guitar-oriented, a heavy rock or psychedelic band."

If that sounds like you, or you're curious, check out the label at www.lsdsounds.com.