ODE TO QUETZALCOATL by Dave Bixby – Review by Eric Caroffino

Ode to Quetzalcoatl is a fascinating journey of musicality squeezed into only a few guitars and voices.  David Bixby recorded the album in 1969 to eventually have it remastered by Mudshark Studios in Flagstaff, Arizona in 2007.  As the album’s track list progresses, Bixby expertly navigates from Lamentation to Hallelujah, Exodus to Revelation.  One can hear the inspiration of rock and roll, metal, jazz, theatre and folk in this album.  The album reflects clear skill in both guitar and voice, not to mention songwriting.  

What more could an album include?  From the complex works of Lonely Faces and Open Doors, the guitar interludes and touching vocalizations of I Have Seen Him and Free Indeed, each change of each song elicits a deeper emotion and thickens the plot.  Beginning with Drug Song, the listener must realize Bixby is capable of a crafty musical story.  The song is suddenly upon the listener, swelling precisely, creeping through a dark trip of reflection.  His punch lines are timely and this song is a perfect opening track.  Listen to this album all the way through as the content develops around pervasive themes of the human condition.  Love, God, Destruction, Regret, Reflection, Peace all are phrased and rephrased in ways you may not have heard since this album was released!  Bixby’s talent and personality shine through Ode to Quetzalcoatl!

Bixby’s melancholy introduction to Ode to Quetzalcoatl is grandiose, menacing, longing, spaced out.  What is quite impressive is how the song manages to sustain a growing sense of each of these things, culminating in “Even my guitar wonders why I can’t play”.  The song is “Drug Song”, and it eerily captures the paranoia and darkness of being lost to substance.

“Free Indeed” follows with a contrasting tone.  The guitar playing is a perfect accompaniment to Bixby’s heavenly vocals.  The maturity of this album is clear in his restrained joy.  Dynamic control allows the song to gently sweep you up.  This song is a psalm!  It sounds a bit jazzy, a bit choral.

“I Have Seen Him” takes Beethoven approach as varying pluck and strum textures sound along with aggression.  The high notes really feel satisfying, and the song comes home with a circular ending, another detail of this album’s songwriting polish.

“Mother” is a sweet melodic guitar part full of interesting harmony and precise picking.  One could rock back and forth to this tune’s catchy flow.  Bixby gets back to higher notes only to follow it with the sweet melodic guitar.  Bixby has a strong ally in his musicianship, interpreting and employing nuance from section to section.

“Morning Sun” is another jazzy kind of tune, Anita O’Day or Frank Sinatra could take hold of this one.  The song manages to begin galloping before you know it, and Bixbys “Ah” vocalization is absolutely playful and crooning!  It feels like a gentle song even including the fortissimo strum, especially as the lyrics say so plainly, “We love you!”

The harmony in “Prayer” and the extended sections uphold the dreamy feel, and the chords continue to flow and sound new with Bixbys ornamentation.  He transitions through the song well.  Consonance and crisp ornamentation freshen up every part the song, and a nice repetitious hook accompanies it. 

“Lonely Faces” returns to a daunting feel with minor harmony and sweeping guitar strikes.  It’s a definite step closer to rock and roll.  The consecutive down strums help it stomp!  The lyrics yearn, and the guitar rhythm chord-melody is a nice ride!  One moment, it feels rock and roll but then with technical ease there is a slow down and theatrical return.

“Open Doors” is heavily layered compared to all previous tracks, the luscious guitar swells and dual melodies show Bixby has an ear for music.  This is a really cool instrumental until the grand vocal harmony explodes above the whirlwind dance of the guitars.  It is a departure from the other songs on this album, but it plainly reflects the writer’s skillful style.

“666” is more heavy-metal in tone, there’s a Metallica sense though the album predates.  The characteristic Phyrigian Spanish scale helps the ambient melody of the lead guitar achieve panic and sludgy doom.  The song has a prophetic feel like the tone of a God belting warnings of wrath and downfall.  Among the austerity, a hooky melody makes sure you hear “Six, Six, Six” long after you hear the album.

“Waiting for the Rains” holds another wonderful melody and tone.  It is a bright song with just enough drive to keep you “waiting” for each portion.  This is the album’s shortest track.  Although it leaves you wanting more, that’s why the music player has a “repeat” function.

“Secret Forest” continues to broaden the album’s sound with the addition of harmonica.  Pitch-bent vocals and low-to-high ranges remind us of Bixby’s harmonic skill.  There’s something Beatle-y about this one, akin to the sonic energy of the verse to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and a kind of triumphant instrumental refrain.  Perfect for a walk with no destination, here is the album’s longest track.

“Peace” also includes a new instrument choice, though hard at times to identify as a flute or synthesizer, this is a nice way to wrap up such a journey of stories and ideas.  A gentle lullaby ensues and the music moves from colorful tension to relief with full transparence.  Each chord was hand-picked to move you where the writer’s story goes.

-Eric Caroffino lives in Flagstaff, AZ and teaches, writes and records music as well as poetry. Contact him at ecaroffino@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s