Reissued and Revisited: Craig Smith

Love is Our Existence [Maitreya Apache Music]

Jun 07, 2018 By Frank Valish Bookmark and Share

Craig Smith's story is a tragic one. Once a promising musician, starting with The Andy Williams Show Good Time Singers and graduating to work with Michael Nesmith as part of the psychedelic '60s group Penny Arkade, Smith's career in music was derailed by a brutal rape and beating in the mountains of Kandahar while on a spiritual retreat through Europe. The attack left Smith both physically and mentally battered, seeming to trigger acute schizophrenia (which may have also been exacerbated by his frequent use of LSD during this same period). Smith returned but was never the same, changing his name to Maitreya Kali, spouting delusions of spiritual grandeur, and showing increasingly erratic and violent behavior. The 1970s, '80s, and '90s found him homeless and in and out of mental health hospitals and jail, before dying on the street in 2012.

Smith's work with Penny Arkade, while never released in its time, has been reissued. He self-released two albums of outsider psych folk in the early 1970s, Apache and Inca, which have become collector's items, but those songs have been readily available online for those in search of them. With Love is Our Existence, Smith's biographer Mike Stax has released a new collection of songs recorded by Smith between 1966 and 1971, taken from previously unheard tapes that Smith's brother unearthed.

What Love is Our Existence presents is what those who knew Smith's music were keenly aware. Despite the tragic circumstances of his life and passing, Smith was a songwriter of great skill with an ear for melody that rivaled the best of his day. While much of Apache and Inca are dark, obscure, and seemingly awash with the suggestion of mental illness that plagued Smith's later years, Love is Our Existence is pure. Smith's voice soars, usually accompanied only by a guitar. Themes are of love and spirituality. There is no hint of the aggression he displayed when he returned from Europe or the unhinged nature of his presentation to those close to him at the time.

The title track takes a melody from Penny Arkade's "Century of Distance" and adds different lyrics. "Aspects of Love" is a beatific acoustic hymn recorded in 1966. "Country Girl," a song that Smith offered Glen Campbell and which Campbell recorded with lush orchestration for his 1970 Try A Little Kindness album, is here in solo acoustic demo form. "Subtract One From One" is a jaunty, lighthearted country-ish romp with a touch of silliness (and even a bit of yodeling) that is not present on the rest of the album.

Love is Our Existence is more than just an album of demos and lost songs. It's a symbol of what was so glorious about the 1960s and '60s music specifically, while at the same time reminding of the dangers and pitfalls that caused so many to stumble on the way. It sheds a light on an artist that had been otherwise forgotten, criminally some might say, an artist with such a gift that it's such a shame his voice had been silenced. Listen to Love is Our Existence. Seek out Smith's Inca and Apache albums on Youtube. Read Mike Stax's excellent biography of Smith, Swim Through the Darkness. Smith's is a story that is endlessly fascinating. His music is filled with melody and joy unparalleled.




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June 11th 2018

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June 18th 2018

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June 18th 2018

I agree with your opinion, I like listening to his music, it is very cheerful!

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July 11th 2018

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July 26th 2018

I would like to read about it anymore. Prompt, what literature to study?

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August 4th 2018

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September 7th 2018

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September 8th 2018

Smith is good when it comes to gaming and he knows how to win the game. I many time when he play.

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December 7th 2018

Craig Smith was really a nice musician he has a different set if skill in music, inspired the new generation musicians

January 17th 2019

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