Intensifications (MEA, 1965; reissued on CD by Locust Music in 2004)
Recorded in 1965 at Gene and Sara Estribou's home, the former Spreckels Mansion at 737 Buena Vista Avenue, San Francisco. This magnificent house was built for sugar baron Richard Spreckels in 1887. Jack London and Ambrose Bierce both lived and wrote here, while more recent residents included musician Graham Nash and actor Danny Glover. The boxy, putty-color Victorian—today a private home—is in mint condition.
Gene Estribou was an early producer for the Grateful Dead, producing the single Stealin' in 1966 for Scorpio Records. Gene and J.P. converted the top floor ballroom of the Spreckels Mansion into a recording studio, where Intensifications was recorded. Gene plays songs he wrote for guitar on one side of the album, and J.P. plays songs he composed for banjo on the other side.
"Pickens' portion of the record smokes from the start. On "Coo Coo Bird", Pickens begins with a wash of strings before launching into some swift and hyper-rhythmic but still remarkably melodic Americana banjo. Burner "Shady Grows" sounds like a Celtic woodwind ditty performed at Rescue Ranger speeds, albeit also with a high degree of melodic retention. And the sprawling "G.R." is Pickens' answer to the variety of playing styles Estribou displays on "Eeee Minor", as he places non-gimmicky rubato one-liners between dense, swift packets of terrific strumming. In a fictitious world where virtuoso folk guitarists contest for title belts, "G.R." would cinch Pickens' victory over Estribou. But there's no need for a grudge match here: Intensifications features impressive performance from both artists." Click here to read the rest of the review on Pitchfork.com
The Serpent Power
In 2007, The Serpent Power was named number 28 of 40 Essential Albums of 1967 by Rolling Stone Magazine in a special Summer of Love issue (honoring the 40th anniversary of the founding of the magazine) with a special mention of the song J.P. plays on, "Endless Tunnel."
David Meltzer wrote recently of playing at The Coffee Gallery in San Francisco in the early 1960's with J.P. and James Gurley: "Jim, JP, & I wd improvise at The Coffee Gallery on Monday, hootenanny night. We were playing very outside avant stuff & people wanting the Kingston Trio wd either leave or drink more to somehow get adjusted to our joy."
A review of the album by forcedexposure.com states “…the epic 13-minute-long 'Endless Tunnel,' an Eastern-tinged acid jam spiced up with an electric banjo, is worth the price of admission alone.”