12. Bobby Frank Brown
A generation before New Edition hit the scene and one of its members went solo with a hit called "My Perogative," there was another recording artist named Bobby Brown who came from a whole different school of thought. For obvious reasons, he now includes his middle name. Bobby Frank Brown, a psychedelic-spiritual one-man band, has garnered praise from the likes of Kenny Loggins, George Winston, Ram Dass, and Allen Ginsberg, and is somebody I never thought I would be able to get in touch with. His debut masterpiece "The Enlightening Beam of Axonda" (1970) is a sonic anomaly that captures the sound of an innovative solo performer, using oscillators, hand percussion, primitive drum machines, zithers, electrified droning metal pipes, and a six-octave vocal range he is not shy to demonstrate. He traveled all over, living out of his van-cum-soundsystem, and sold thousands of his self-released records and 8-tracks to passers by over the course of his heyday. I managed to track him down on the phone in Reno, NV for an interview, following a panel discussion with Jaysen Lee Peters and engineer Miles Rozatti, and he told us about his participation in the Mexico City Olympics, opening for Fleetwood Mac, his concept for a massive anthology, and why he wants to start a new religion. It's never a dull moment with Bobby.
For the first time ever, Bobby's haunting debut "The Enlightening Beam of Axonda" is available as a vinyl reissue. You can get yours from Light in the Attic while supplies last, click the image for the link.
Bobby's most recent available work, 1982's "Prayers of a One Man Band," is another masterpiece in its own right. Its playful synth motifs often remind me of Martin Rev's work in the band Suicide, while the desperation in the vocals brings to mind Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska record, but this music is unlike anything else ever heard. You can buy it here via Light in the Attic. Click the image to visit their site.
Here is a video he made for a song from that album, "Hawaii Nei I'll Miss You," sprinkled with overlapping texts of his spiritual musings.
This is from his "Live" album, which was a recreation of his performance in which he opened for Fleetwood Mac. This time, the audience was his dog. It's remarkable what he was able to do live in 1978 with no other musicians contributing to the vast sounds he created.