Golden Sunrise is an album originally released in 1977 by a consortium of Source Family devotees under the collective name Fire, Water, Air, a translation of “Ya Ho Wha”. Sky Saxon sings on a few of its tracks but does not appear to be involved in the others. The songs on Golden Sunrise tend to be long, heavy psychedelic rock pieces, with a couple softer acoustic ballads. To cap it all off there’s one long communal/tribal chant.
The album sessions
It’s a tad unclear when exactly Golden Sunrise was recorded; most sources assume it was recorded shortly before it was released, i.e. 1976-7. But in an interview years later, Djinn Aquarian mentioned some 1973 sessions in response to a question about this album. That’s also the era that Sky Saxon’s other recordings with the Source Family were made, which also remained unreleased until about 1977.
Then again, Djinn may have been speaking generally and not about Golden Sunrise specifically. And the music on Golden Sunrise is not all that similar to the known 1973 Yodship recordings. I believe Golden Sunrise was recorded after Father Yod’s 1975 death — long after Yodship and around the time of Sky Saxon’s garage-rock songs of 1975-6 (“Diamonds In The Rough”, “Starry Ride”, etc).
But who really knows. Whenever it was recorded, at least its personnel is better known than the mysterious Yodship sessions. According to the Golden Sunrise 8-track label, “Fire, Water, Air is Djinn, Arelich, Pythias, Octavius, Sunflower”. These are Source Family names of the musicians on the album. (All Family members’ last name was Aquarian.)
Musicians on Golden Sunrise
Djinn Aquarian — Guitar
Arelich Aquarian [Sky Saxon] — Vocals
Pythias Aquarian — Guitar
Octavius Aquarian — Drums
Sunflower Aquarian — Bass
Sky Saxon’s involvement
Of the 11 tracks on Golden Sunrise, Sky Saxon only sings (and thus appears) on four. His voice crops up on “New Revolution”, “Wolf Pack”, and “Come To The Ocean”. He also joins in for part of the communal chant “Celebration”.
Elsewhere the songs on Golden Sunrise are either instrumentals or feature another, uncredited vocalist (Djinn?).
The lyrics of Golden Sunrise are sometimes pre-written and sometimes (particularly on Sky Saxon’s songs) extemporized. They make frequent mention of American Indians, though other favorite subjects (dogs and, most noticeably, the “Ya Ho Wha” chant) are largely absent. This change in lyrics, along with the different musical approach, are further evidence that Golden Sunrise may have been recorded around 1976-7, after Father Yod had died and his children began inexorably to disband.
Another difference from 1973 is Sky Saxon: on Golden Sunrise Arelich is fired up and clearly enjoying himself. His dynamic vocals stand in contrast to the repetitive, glacially-paced, out-of-his-mind blur that permeated the far stranger Yodship sessions. From the beginning until the end of his long career, Sky Saxon just belonged with garage-y punk, and it is the songs in that style that find him back in his natural groove on Golden Sunrise.
The notable cover photo of Golden Sunrise shows three figures — Sky in the middle — standing together near the edge of a forest, fully and frontally nude. They are smiling blissfully at the camera. To Sky’s left is a woman and to his right… I can’t tell. The picture is double-exposed, with some ghostly shapes mixing with the three revelers, and long hair mostly covers the face, so I have never been sure. I’d say it looks about 60% like a woman. I bet if Sky had his way it’d be a second woman. So perhaps it is. If you have any insight about these figures let me know.
Golden Sunrise was originally released in 1977 as an 8-track cartridge. At the time, 8-tracks as a format were already on their way out, making the choice a peculiar one. Presumably, having a few hundred (at most?) 8-track tapes manufactured was far more economical, though that doesn’t explain why 1976-7 also saw the vinyl releases of at least three Yodship albums (on colored vinyl, no less).
In 1982, Psycho Records re-released the Golden Sunrise 8-track as a vinyl LP. Information is hard to pin down, but it seems this was limited to about 300 (some sources say 319 copies precisely were made). Some were on red or brown vinyl, others were black. The black is thought to have been made in smaller numbers; I’ve seen reports between 60 to 150 given. The Psycho album came in a plain white cardboard sleeve with a small sticker on the front showing the cover and the song list. This is usually described as a leftover 8-track label but it is not — it reflects the two sides of the record, not the four programs of an 8-track cartridge. The stickers were apparently printed just for this album, perhaps as a nod to its 8-track origins.
Later (1980s or 1990s?) Higher Key re-released Golden Sunrise again, this time on CD, adding an ornate border to the cover art and featuring a photo of the 8-track in its booklet. Sky Saxon then included the album in his 13-CD God And Hair Ya Ho Wha 13 box set in 1998. Finally, and surprisingly, Golden Sunrise was made available for download in the new millennium and released yet again on a swirly-colored vinyl LP by Swordfish.
- “Time Travel”
The album opens with an echoey, feedback-laden instrumental guitar jam with dark hard rock undertones.
- “Food For The Hungry”
Very catchy, almost maddeningly so. You could hear this once and be singing it for years. Musically it’s a conventional pop-rock tune that, like most of the album, features much excellent psychedelic guitar work.
Sports a weird, a cappella and electronic noise intro and then becomes a minimalist instrumental jam. It’s definitely psychedelic and has a decided emphasis on percussion.
One of the album’s best. Heavy rock with a great vocal melody, led by noisy guitars and with some adventurous drumming.
- “Go With The Flow”
A very short piece of 1970s hard rock with some soaring vocals.
- “New Revolution” [with Sky Saxon]
Mid-tempo two-chord rock. Sky gives a great, passionate vocal performance that shares the floor with a curious psychedelic guitar swooping all around.
- “Wolf Pack” [with Sky Saxon]
Sky also holds his own on the album’s loosest, wildest moment: this searing acid rock guitar-led freak out. (Note: it’s not the Syd Barrett song.)
- “Come To The Ocean” [with Sky Saxon]
A sort of return to The Seeds’ 1967 blues album A Full Spoon Of Seedy Blues: an unexpectedly conventional tune which features a I-IV-V blues chord pattern and a heavy, crunch-funk rhythm.
- “Across The Prairie”
Sometimes compared to Neil Young, it uses Neil’s palm-muted, acoustic-guitar approach and sounds like something he might have performed with CSNY.
- “Just Moving On”
Another Neil Young-type number, pleasant but not quite as satisfying as “Across The Prairie”.
- “Celebration” [with Sky Saxon]
Arelich/Sunlight lends his support to the ten-plus minute closing track – at first, at least. Poorly recorded and not particularly absorbing, “Celebration” has Sky singing during its first 4-5 minutes but he is not heard after that. Bootleg-quality at best, “Celebration” sounds like it was recorded with a single mic, situated too far from the action and overwhelmed by echo. It is driven along by simple clip-clop percussion, a violin or psaltry-type instrument, and acoustic guitar. Plus, of course, strange religious-cult chants.