Dantalian’s Chariot were a textbook example of British R&B veterans who, after suddenly finding themselves old hat when caught in 1967’s psychedelic revolution, traded their mohair suits for kaftans, wrote LSD anthems and performed against eye-blasting liquid light shows.
In their previous life they had been Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, formed in 1961, releasing records and remaining a hot ticket on the club circuit. With psychedelia sweeping the UK by mid-1967, the band reinvented themselves, Zoot already well-acquainted with London’s hip scene (his house was the unknown Hendrix’s first stop after landing at the airport in London in 1966). They took their new name from a 17th-century demonology compendium and acquired a spectacular San Francisco light show for their debut performance at 1967’s National Jazz and Blues Festival debut (wearing white to highlight its effect). During their short life, they released one single, Madman Running Through The Fields, inspired by their collective LSD experiences. They recorded enough music for an album but were dropped by their record company and split soon after. This left their unreleased album reimagined nearly 30 years later by Tenth Planet and now reissued by Cherry Red.
Leading off with that fabulous single, it reveals a band gamely stabbing at ’67 psych’s rotating pig-on-a-spit, straddling psychedelic awakening in Sun Came Bursting Through My Cloud, workaday whimsy on Four Fireman, sitar ragas (Soma parts one and two), exotic travelogues (This Island), fuzzy freakbeat on World War Three and a counterculture call-to-arms with High Flying Bird, referencing San Francisco. After his Chariot ran aground, Zoot joined Eric Burdon’s Animals while guitarist Andy Summers struck gold playing with The Police. Zoot’s sterling work as an overlooked R&B pioneer is soon to be honoured with a box set but this brief psychedelic dabble shows how adeptly he coped with changing times and remains a period classic.