As an enthusiastic record collector, I often find myself searching through stacks of records at thrift stores and yard sales, always hoping to come across the "Holy Grail", some amazing psychedelic record from the late 1960's by some long forgotten obscure artist. Over the years, this "Holy Grail" had eluded me, until one day in 1999, while on a cross-country trip, I was rummaging through a box of records in a thrift store in Missoula, Montana and came across a record cover featuring a beautiful and strange drawing of a knight kneeling beside a maiden on her deathbed, with a dragon watching over her. The title simply said "Elyse", and the price was one dollar. I felt compelled to buy it, and when I got home and gave it a listen, I knew I had finally found my "Holy Grail".
The album was a mixture of pastoral folk/rock, tripped out psychedelia, and orchestrated strings and horns in the style of the BeatlesÃ "Sgt. Pepper's" album. What really blew me away was the singing. Elyse's voice manages to be very pretty and melodic, while also sounding very desperate and ragged, quivering and shaking through songs brimming with a sense of impending doom. Scary and magical stuff. Highlights include "John Velveteen", an incredibly moving and tragic narrative about a knight watching his lovely maiden die (this is the song portrayed by the cover art), a heart wrenching cover of Bert Jansch's "Deed I Do", and the acid drenched, sound effects laden freak out of "Iron Works".
Released in 1968, "Elyse" actually received much critical acclaim, and while not a commercial hit, the record sold fairly well, even prompting an appearance on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show". Two more albums were recorded but never released.
Elyse grew up and got her start performing in Toronto alongside friends like Young and Joni Mitchell. She later moved to Los Angeles where she recorded "Elyse", and has since lived in London, New Mexico, and Ashland, Oregon where she currently lives. She still writes and plans to record an album of new material in the near future. I hope you all enjoy this magical and wonderful album, a true lost classic, and one of the best albums of the 1960's or any other time!
This record was re-issued in 2001. Included In the CD re-issue were two songs from this era, one of which, "Houses", features Neil Young wielding his distinctively ripping guitar sound. Buy the album here: http://www.orangetwin.com/elyse.html