Art Of The Gifted
There’s lots of records by crazy people out there, but albums made by real mental patients are considerably fewer. Here’s one, recorded in 1985 by clients at various mental health facilities in Colorado. The project was the brainchild of Dr Alan Melinger, and upon scrutiny it appears to be a partial vanity trip for the good doctor himself, seeing how he inserted a few numbers of his own creation into the mix. These lean towards an unexceptional 80s Springsteen/Bon Jovi muscle rock sound, and include the 45 pick “Live For A Friend”, composed and sung by the bearded Dr Melinger. However, about half the album consists of creative outpourings from patients, and some of these are rather remarkable. “Secret Of The Night” is dark singer/songwriter with an instant appeal, while “We Too Care” is a spoken word female lament over moody keyboard backdrops, reminding us that people with mental problems also care about things such as Christmas. Then there is the “State Hospital Tune” by one Jean M, and here we enter some truly strange domains. In a somewhat toneless voice, Miss M delivers a rhymed poem which mentions a lot of her psychiatrists by name, and not all that respectfully either, followed by strange narrative jumps and 30 seconds of French chanson singing. As often within the field, it’s hard to tell where irony ends and true pathology begins.
Before this therapy project had been completed the 38-year old Dr Melinger died of a heart attack. Out of respect for his efforts, the album was pressed up and released privately in 1988. Oddly, the cover opens at the top rather than on the right. Googling on the album and a few names involved produced nothing, and it seems this is a previously unknown item. Here you can find some snips from the LP.
Update: as evident from the comments below, Alan Melinger was a former member of Texan 60s garage legends the Iguanas (“I can only give you everything”; “Black Suit”), after which he joined Endle St Cloud, who released a circa 1970 album on International Artists (of 13th Floor Elevators fame). In a 1984 garage fanzine interview he testified on being strongly influenced by the Elevators during his Iguanas tenure. He had also been the owner of a 6-foot Iguana which named the band. At one concert he held the iguana by its tail and swung it over his head, but it slipped out of his grip and flew out into the audience. The “Art Of The Gifted” back cover obituary contains no such information. R.I.P Dr Alan “Al” Melinger & thanks again to the eagle-eyed Hawthorne Wingo for making the connection.