It only took a little over half a century for 60’s folk artist F.J. McMahon to receive the recognition warranted by his one and only album Spirit of the Golden Juice. The enigmatic 60’s folk artist released the transient nine-track album in 1969, playing in bars up and down the California coast, sometimes for nothing more than spare tips tossed into his hat.
The album feels so familiar after a few listens, so much so that it’s difficult to believe it wasn’t one of the seminal albums that defined the Woodstock era or that it wasn’t featured on the Forrest Gump soundtrack. The beautiful, bendy acoustics paired with McMahon’s placid vocals perfectly convey post-Vietnam anti-war sentiments. “Five Year Kansas Blues” in particular explores the lose-lose battle regarding the decision to either be drafted into war or spend five years behind bars.
McMahon’s music was not just inspired by his service in Southeast Asia, Vietnam & Thailand, but also by a more existential perspective on the human experience. Of course growing up in Santa Barbara, surrounded by surf rock and psychadelia, informed his lo-fi instrumental style to some extent, but the overarching theme of the album seems to be about a person’s purpose, the decisions they make, and how that relates to how they engage with the world around them. The album’s titular track, “The Spirit of the Golden Juice,” is about how one derives meaning in their life from both positive and negative experiences.
After almost a decade on the road, McMahon decided that rock n’ roll was ebbing, and disco was flowing, and he decided to throw in the towel. He took a job in the Navy that evolved into a decade’s long career as a computer field engineer. Now, more than fifty years later, Anthology Recordings (reissue arm of Mexican Summer), is re-releasing Spirit Of The Golden Juice, out August 11th.
In honor of the re-issue, contemporary psych-folk outfit Quilt (also on Mexican Summer) will be backing McMahon while he plays songs from his acclaimed album. Tickets for the one-night only event can be purchased here, on Mexican Summer’s web store, where you can also pre-order the LP.
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