CHARLES MANSON – Lie: The Love and Terror Cult (1970)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Jonathan Birch

Well, I hear you say, “this only goes to show that a tormented soul not a good singer songwriter maketh!” Apparently, Charles Manson was well aware of this, as he gained more notoriety as a motivational speaker. He even diversified into religion, where he became more of a guru than he thought he could become in folk rock.
So what does it sound like? The production style is somewhat primitive, putting it firmly in indie territory. Instrumentation is simple: acoustic guitar, some light percussion and some female backing vocals. Some songs seem unfinished: “Garbage Dump” for example seems stuck in the “Scrambled eggs” phase of The Beatles’ “Yesterday”: he’s toying with some ideas but chooses not to follow his muse, leaving the song in demo stage.
“Look At Your Game Girl”, however, is a pretty nice song, that could have fit on Self Portrait by Dylan (or the corresponding Bootleg Series Vol. 10). On some tracks he tries to emulate Captain Beefheart. On others he sounds somewhat like Tyrannosaurus Rex (the early acoustic outfit, consisting of Marc Bolan and Peregrine Took). “I Once Knew A Man” sounds suspiciously like the beginning of “Woman and Man” by Ween. Also, if you allow for his somewhat snarling voice, there is some Nick Drake deep inside, as interpreted by Roger Waters or Lou Reed.
“Cease To Exist” was covered by the Beach Boys around the time, almost unrecognizable so, with a different title (“Never Learn Not To Love”, a line that’s included in “Cease To Exist”’s lyrics). This might have been his big break through, but unfortunately the Beach Boys at the time were quite irrelevant.
On the whole I’d say this is certainly not extremely bad: it’s shows promise and is possibly one of his greatest accomplishments. It is my opinion that he should have pursued this direction some more. Unfortunately, he chose to focus on his other talents.