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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 this album tend to be long, heavy psychedelic rock pieces, with a couple softer, acoustic ballads — plus one long, communal chant.
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 here a strange one. Perhaps it was just more economical for the musicians — though that doesn’t explain why 1976-7 also saw the vinyl release of three Yodship albums.
In 1982, Psycho Records re-released Golden Sunrise 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 a range from 60 to 150 mentioned. 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. 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 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. Golden Sunrise was made available for download in the new millennium.
The album sessions
It is also unclear when exactly Golden Sunrise was recorded; most reviews assume it was recorded shortly before it was released, i.e. 1976-7, but in an interview years later, Djinn Aquarian mentioned 1973 sessions in response to a question about the album. That is also the era that Sky Saxon’s other recordings with the Source Family were made, music which also was unreleased until 1977.
On the other hand, Djinn may have been speaking generally, and not about Golden Sunrise specifically. Also, the music on Golden Sunrise is not particularly 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).
Whenever it was recorded, at least its personnel is better known than the mysterious Yodship sessions. According to the 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 on four. His voice first crops up on the mid-tempo two-chord track “New Revolution” in a great, passionate vocal performance that shares the floor with a curious psychedelic guitar swooping around. Sky also holds his own on the album’s loosest, wildest moment: the searing acid rock guitar-led “Wolf Pack” (not the Syd Barrett song!). There is also a sort of return to The Seeds’ controversial 1967 blues album A Full Spoon Of Seedy Blues on the song “Come To The Ocean”, an unexpectedly conventional tune which features a I-IV-V blues chord pattern and a heavy, crunch-funk rhythm.
Arelich/Sunlight also lends his support to the closing track of Golden Sunrise, the ten-plus minute “Celebration”. Poorly recorded and not particularly absorbing, this track 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.
Elsewhere, Golden Sunrise features either instrumentals or another, uncredited vocalist (Djinn?). The opening track sets the tone for the album: “Time Travel” is an echo-y, feedback-laden instrumental guitar jam with dark, hard rock undertones. It leads directly into “Food For The Hungry”, a very catchy, conventional pop-rock tune that will, like nothing else on the album, stick in your head after you’ve heard it. Like most of the album, there is also much excellent psychedelic guitar work.
“Voyage” sports a weird, a cappella and electronic noise intro, and then becomes a minimalist instrumental jam, definitely psychedelic and with something of an emphasis on percussion. “Atlantians”, one of the album’s best, is heavy rock with a great vocal melody, led by noisy guitars with some adventurous drumming. It leads into “Go With The Flow”, a very short piece of 1970s hard rock with some soaring vocals.
The remaining two tracks are sometimes compared to Neil Young, and they do indeed resemble his palm-muted, acoustic-guitar approach. “Across The Prairie”, especially, sounds like a Neil Young song he might have performed with CSNY; its short companion piece “Just Moving On” is nice but not quite as good.
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 is Sky Saxon: on this album, Arelich is fired up and clearly enjoying himself. His dynamic vocals stand in contrast to the repetitive, glacially-paced, out-of-his-mind moments 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 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.
1. “Time Travel”
2. “Food For The Hungry”
5. “Go With The Flow”
6. “New Revolution” – [with Sky Saxon]
7. “Wolf Pack” – [with Sky Saxon]
8. “Come To The Ocean” – [with Sky Saxon]
9. “Across The Prairie”
10. “Just Moving On”
11. “Celebration” – [with Sky Saxon]