What if everyone owned a copy of Songs from the Source? The album — in reality a recovered rehearsal tape from 1973 — has an admittedly tiny appeal: Of the small number of people who have heard of Father Yod and his Sunset Strip restaurant, the Source, fewer have actually heard the nine records released by his band, Ya Ho Wa 13.
Children of the Sixth Root Race, however, is not that band. The group we hear on this muddy recording is the Spirit of ’76, a precursor to Yahowa 13, which metamorphosed into the still-active Children of the Sixth Root Race after Father Yod’s hangliding death, in 1975. Considering Songs from the Source as part of the cult/commune’s official recorded output makes sense technically, but considering that this album will be most people’s introduction into a legendary lost discography, it’s misleading and disappointing.
The messages behind these songs are consistent with the Source Family’s beliefs — and, in the midst of another oil crisis, tracks like "We Are the Dinosaurs" seem prescient. But the music itself, an overheated mish-mash of R&B, rock and show tunes, has little to do with psychedelia.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver on its own terms, either. The "outsider" quality in this music is sometimes the most appealing: the moments in "Godmen" when songwriter/singer Djin Aquarian gets too close to the mike and overdrives the tape, or the way that the female backup singers seem to be pursuing their own agenda, unrelated to the song that Djin and the rest of the band are playing. There are also some fleetingly lovely melodies: the way that the verses of "Beggar" meander and build into choruses is a small pleasure, but not convincing enough to allow the listener to forget that it’s derivative.
At its least interesting, Songs from the Source hammers the listener with questions and scenarios that function like Scientology diagnostics. The first words heard on the album are, "How long in time/ Will you persist/ In ways that hurt you/ And think they need to exist?" There’s the vague sense that the answer lies in the ecstatic (but ultimately overbearing and exhausting) collectivity we hear on tape. Unfortunately, the music is neither inventive nor technically accomplished enough to really seduce.
Songs from the Source was never intended for release. The fact that this tape is coming out now really only confirms that there are people who have heard the original albums and vetted this CD as a historical document. For those of us who haven’t been initiated into the mysteries of the Ya Ho Wa 13 catalog, Songs from the Source is entirely irrelevant.