# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Mu - Return To Mu

  by Andrew Carver

published: 5 / 8 / 2003

Mu - Return To Mu
Label: Sundazed
Format: CD


Surreal comeback album from 60's guitarist Merrell Frankhauser, who as well as fronting MU, was also the driving force behind groups such as the Exiles and HMS Bounty

The full appreciation of this album — billed on the cover as 'William E. McEuen Presents Merrell Fankhauser: Return to Mu' — requires a bit of history. Fankhauser had turned out some tough pop music in the 1960's as the driving force behind such groups as the Exiles, Fapardokly (the unfortunate consequence of taking the first two letters of each band member’s name) and HMS Bounty, a lot of which sounded like a good combination of The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane (but without a female singer). Among the many, many musicians who made their way through these outfits was Jeff Cotton — a.k.a. Antennae Jimmy Semens of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band , whose guitar playing was such a vital part of 'Trout Mask Replica'and the 'Mirror Man' sessions (the Magic Band’s John “Drumbo” French was another early acquaintance). After Cotton fled the Magic Band, he and Fankhauser united in MU; they had a mutual interest in lost civilisations, a shared musical history and a well of creativity, all of which surfaced in spades on their first album, 'MU'  in 1971. As Fankhauser recounts in the liner notes to Sundazed’s reissue of MU’s collected discography the band  — which was rounded out by Jeff Parker on bass and Randy Wimer on drums — learned of a possible connection between the lost continent of Mu and Hawaii, and decided to move to the latter. They recorded a second album in 1974. The band split after Cotton and Wimer decided to study for the Christian ministry. Fankhauser stayed in Maui and continued to produce music that showed a growing Hawaiian influence, and a growing interest in native civilisations of the Americas, as evidenced on albums like 'Flying to Machu Picchu' and 'Jungle Lo Lo Band', both released on France’s Legend Music label in the early 1990's. Now it’s 2003, and Fankhauser has decided to 'Return to MU'. Here’s where things get odd. The sticker on the cover, which says 'Return to MU’ not only flashes the utopian spirit of the Summer of Love, from which the original cult-fave MU album came, but it also features, alongside of guitar-hero Merrell Fankhauser, many of its original participants — "John Cipollina, Jay Ferguson, Ed Cassidy, John McEuen, Nicky Hopkins, and others!” Well, those fine performers may all have been part of the Summer of Love, but if they took part in the MU albums, their names all mysteriously escaped the credits. This is my longwinded way of saying that if you were thinking that 'Return to MU' was, well, a return to 'MU', it isn’t. The fact is, 'Return to MU' is more like 'Return of the Jungle Lo Lo Band' or 'Flying Back to Machu Picchu'. A lot of material is reprised from those two discs: 'Mystical Land',  'Queen Mu', 'Matthew’s Dream'  and 'Polynesian Dream' from the former ; 'Pictures of the Past' and 'Prospectors Moon' from the latter. That is no bad thing in itself, but with the absence of Jeff Cotton (and, for that matter, Wimer and Parker) you aren’t getting MU. It’s more like nu-MU. Onward! So what does Fankhauser and Co’s current musical output sound like? It centres on Fankhauser’s groovy, clean guitar work. The keyboards are  twinkly in a way I haven’t heard since the 1980's. An overwhelmingly mellow vibe permeates the album.    As for the lyrics, Fankhauser’s oblique references to reincarnation, UFOs and the glories of a long lost past have come right out into the open (the picture of Fankhauser on the cover, dressed in a purple robe and proffering a small blue-and-white pyramid might have been a bit of a giveaway). 'On Our Way To Hana', to give but one example, is a straightfaced tale of seeing flying saucers. Some people put great store in lost continents, time travel, space ships and their associated phenomena, and they’ll feel much comfortable with Fankhauser’s areas of interest. Personally, I found it all a bit daft ('Goin’ Down To Atlantis' ? Ahem ....)   I much prefer songs like 'Unknown Writer', where, in an allegory for lost opportunity, Merrell attempts to locate a bunch of stuff forgotten on the beach and the instrumental 'Mother Sea'which has some great electric guitar, and an overall heavier feel (I could have done without the bubbly sound effects, mind you ...). If you’re wondering about the contribution of former Quicksilver Messenger Service guitar god John Cippolina’s contribution, it’s some very nice slide guitar on'Waterfall'. Rolling Stones session pianist Nicky Hopkins meanwhile reprises his performance on 'Queen Mu'. People who bought the Sundazed reissues of the 'Fapardokly' and 'HMS Bounty' albums will likely find little in common with those works. And without Jeff Cotton, I wouldn’t compare it with the original MU either (though they do reprise, quite appropriately, the second album’s 'Land of Mu'). Merrell Fankhauser is obviously still in hot pursuit of his hippy dream, and making pretty music to go with it, but it’s all a bit flaky for me.

Track Listing:-
1 Mystical Land
2 Waterfall
3 On Our Way To Hana
4 Pictures Of The Past
5 The Unknown Writer
6 Queen Mu
7 Mother See
8 Beckoning Maiden
9 Polynesian Dream
10 Time Travellers
11 Prospectors Moon
12 Goin' Down To Atlantis
13 The Land Of Mu
14 Under A Maui Moon
15 Matthew's Dream
16 Lordu's Mu Chant
17 The Mothership
18 Mu Rainforest

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