(Click on the photo to download a larger, high-resolution version of it)
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 Beatlesí "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. Included on this CD reissue are two songs from this era, one of which, "Houses",
features Neil Young wielding his distinctively ripping guitar sound.
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!
- written by Andrew Rieger December, 2000