The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Twenty-Six): Julian’s Treatment

If a psychedelic concept album about interstellar travel, galactic warfare, and a kingdom of beautiful blue women sounds like the cure for your end-of-summer blues, then Julian’s Treatment may be just what the doctor ordered! Headed by budding science fiction author Julian Jay Savarin, Julian’s Treatment released only one album – A Time Before This – in 1970 before financial troubles forced them to call it a day. But their sole release truly is an obscure gem: original copies of the album have apparently sold for over $1,000.

But back to Savarin’s writing: what tale does he weave here? Here’s a helpful summary I came across on the YouTube posting of the album: A Time Before This…tells the story of the last surviving man from planet Earth, who journeys across interstellar space to the Alpha Centauri system, where a conflict is raging. On one side stands Alda, Dark Lady of the Outer Worlds, and her ally the Mule. On the other is Altarra, Princess of the Blue Women and Supreme Ruler of the planet Alkon. It is implied that the Earthman will become Altarra’s ally and lover, and will help her overthrow Alda and the Mule.

And there you have it: travel, warfare, and exotic women. Perhaps it’s not the most original story ever told, but singer Cathy Pruden’s passionate vocals make it worth at least a few listens. Her best performances come in Chapters V and VI: first as the menacing and imposing “Alda, Dark Lady of Outer Worlds,” and then as “Altarra, Princess of the Blue Women,” as graceful and mellow as Alda is fierce and powerful.

The other star on this album is Savarin himself: although not a wordsmith at the level of a Bradbury, Heinlein, or Dick, he nevertheless offers a rather engaging acid trip of a tale. Furthermore, he’s quite the talented Hammond organ player, and his instrument is the glue that holds the album together. (And I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge guitarist and flutist Del Watkins, whose skill on both instruments adds a welcome touch of both hard and folk rock – listen in particular to his work on “Phantom City.”)

Fans of psychedelia, science fiction, and Hawkwind’s Michael Moorcock-inspired albums will find especial pleasure in listening to Julian’s Treatment. Like any novel, this album must be listened straight through from beginning to end – don’t skip any of the chapters!

Stay tuned for number twenty-seven!

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