Big Wheel and Others
Starting with a recorded snippet from Ralph Arlyck’s 1970 documentary Sean, where a four-and-a-half-year-old child casually discusses drug use in a hippie household in San Francisco, Cass McCombs’ double album Big Wheel and Others starts its long journey through a California state of mind, which includes songs that lurch with a Grateful Dead–like flow and others that capture a laid-back country-rock sound. “Brighter!” shows up twice on the album: McCombs handles a sweet falsetto alongside pedal steel guitar for version one, and there's a guest vocal from actress-singer Karen Black (who died before this album's release) on version two. “Joe Murder” has a Neil Young, On the Beach–style churn. For nine minutes, “Everything Has to Be Just-So” plays like a bizarro version of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” The silly “Satan Is My Toy” blasts off with an early-'70s hard boogie, while a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Honesty Is No Excuse” feels like another lost country-rock number.