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READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1969
Overall rating = 12
A groovy, flamin' album indeed - where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.Best song: LOVE HAVE MERCY
Track listing: 1) Love Have Mercy; 2) The Girl Can't Help It; 3) Laurie Did It; 4) A Part From That; 5) Bam Balam; 6) Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu; 7) The First One's Free; 8) Pagan Rachel; 9) Somethin' Else/Pistol Packin' Mama; 10) Brushfire; 11) Around The Corner.
Let me start this review in AMG style. This Album Has Been Influenced By: Pop, Blues, Country, Music Hall, Doo Wop, Jazz, Folk, Rockabilly, Blues Rock, Garage Rock, Aztecan Tribal Chanting.Okay, screw the latter, but keep everything else and probably throw in a couple more things I've forgotten. Supersnazz is a delicious mish-mashy wonder, an album which would really mean a big fat nothing if you were to take these eleven tracks and pull them apart, but which means a whole lotta everything when you see them put together - just put together, not even necessarily put together in the historic context of when this record was made. Not that the historic context ain't important. It was made in 1969, when rock music had basically split in two sections: The Big Artsy Camp and The Big Rootsy Camp, which were definitely at odds with each other but, on the other hand, both united by one thing: a deadly serious, almost reverential (including self-reverential) approach to the subjects they were tackling. Whether you were the Flying Burrito Brothers or King Crimson, you revered the work you were doing in an almost unhealthy way - I say almost, because I personally dig both King Crimson and the Burritos, but you gotta admit that sometimes you'd really need something, er, uhm, lighter to brighten up your day. That lighter approach was offered by the Groovies. Unfortunately, it was rejected, and for some stupid reason Supersnazz found itself in the same kind of cut-out bins as did, say, the Stooges' debut. Stupid - at the very least you could say that there could have been obvious reasons for the Stooges not to make it big (after all, not many people at the time could even think of Iggy's approach as having something to do with art, or even music as such), but Supersnazz certainly had commercial potential. Guess the epoch's tendencies were way too strong, or maybe they just didn't get enough promotion. But enough with the historical stuff. As I already hinted at, there's nothing particularly original or inspirational about the songs on here. They're split between covers and originals, and my stupid CD edition doesn't even list the credits, but then again, who cares when most of the originals aren't really originals - some of the vocal and instrumental melodies might have really been created by these guys, but in other places they're just ripping off traditional chord sequences. But that's not the point. The point isn't even to say that these songs are all instantly memorable. They are, but it's just because you've heard most of these melodies before. The point is to say that there ain't no other place where you can hear such a delightful, well-put-together mix of "rootsy" styles with absolutely not one single drop of "holiness" or "reverence" applied. The Groovies get to business in their own sloppy (but not so sloppy as to sound disjointed or unprofessional), mean (but not so mean so as not to make you smile) and lean (but not so lean as to not have a really FAT, heavy sound where is necessary) way, and in just over half an hour make you all remind why the heck you used to dig the hell out of all those styles in the first place. In fact, Supersnazz is like a minor edition of Nuggets all by one artist. You get short bursts of garage-level creativity - sincere, funny, and above all, stylistically diverse, which was about the greatest thing about Nuggets - you never knew what you were going to expect next. Same here. The best thing these Groovies like to do, of course, is boogie. So the album begins with a live-in-the-studio recording of 'Love Don't Have Mercy', driven by that exciting, unbeatable Stonesy riff - not that they invented that riff, but their brand of dirty, smash-your-head-against-the-wall sure gets to me, and Cyril Jordan sure can put down an exciting lead guitar part, while Roy Loney's yells and yelps are a hundred percent authentic. The cover of Little Richard's 'The Girl Can't Help It' could use a bit more fire instead of just relying on that unnerving and somewhat sterile bass rhythm, but 'Somethin' Else' in their hands becomes the grandfather of all things Ramones related, not to mention Loney's exhilarating Jerry Lee impersonation. Slower boogie tracks include a brilliant rendition of 'Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu', done by that Roy guy in as dumb a vocal rendition as possible (you gotta hear him shoutin' 'woo, ah got DA BOOGIE DISEASE-UH!') and 'The First One's Free' - blues-rock at its least pretentious. That's only one part of the show, though. Apart from that, you get a loveable country ballad ('Laurie Did It', with goofy tongue-in-cheek lyrics); an equally loveable folk ballad ('A Part From That', eerily resembling 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' with its opening chords, and more absurdist lyrics like 'his big fat ugly brain has stopped providing him a life, apart from that he's fine'); a lightning-speed ragtime sendup ('Bam Balam'); a fun ol' time music hall number ('Pagan Rachel'); a country rocker that sounds like The Band with all the ambition amputated to the root ('Brushfire'); and a terrific sing-it-all-together chant that wouldn't be out of place on a Beach Boys record ('Around The Corner' - I seriously suspect that there's only one verse there, repeated for about four minutes, but somehow it doesn't cease to rule anyway, not for one second). And like I said, the power of this record lies in its sequencing and unpredictability. It's like these guys really wanted to do a Roots Encyclopaedia of their own, but always leaving the fun in, and never out. It's a colourful, life-enjoying, record, which needs to be appreciated as a whole: it's hard to select one individual track that would best the others. It's also dreadfully hard to find, but if you ever do, don't make the mistake of skipping this little gem. Oh, and don't forget to scrutinize the album cover. It matches the album's contents perfectly.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1970
Overall rating = 10
A bit thin-sounding for an all-out boogie-rave-up, doncha think?Best song: COMIN' AFTER ME
Track listing: 1) Gonna Rock Tonite; 2) Comin' After Me; 3) Headin' For The Texas Border; 4) Sweet Roll Me On Down; 5) Keep A Knockin'; 6) Second Cousin; 7) Childhood's End; 8) Jailbait; 9) She's Falling Apart; 10) Road House; [BONUS TRACKS:] 11) My Girl Josephine; 12) Around And Around; 13) Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu; 14) Somethin' Else; 15) Rumble; 16) Going Down Theme.
In between Supersnazz and this second album, the Groovies met the MC5 and the Stooges in Detroit, were left in total awe about what they saw, and decided: 'This is the way to go!'. Unfortunately, this may not have been quite the right decision for the band. Flamingo is supposed to be a hard-rocking, ass-kicking record concentrating on retro boogie and updating it for the emerging Seventies, but in effect it kicks seriously less ass than contemporary MC5 and Stooges albums. The Groovies could rock, sure enough, but doing retro boogie is doing retro boogie - you can only do it with so much energy, and I, for one, wouldn't say the Groovies actually improve on their Fifties' influences here.Where Supersnazz boasted a tremendous lot of stylistical variety, Flamingo essentially exploits rockabilly and country balladeering. It does get the band rid of relying on covers - there's only one on here, all the other songs being mostly Loney/Jordan originals, but "originals" here mostly mean taking a traditional melody and setting it to new lyrics, a custom not uncommon for Sixties garage and blues-rock bands but hardly suitable for a band so revered in the elitist underground as the Groovies. Me, I'd rather want to hear a couple more of those jugband tunes, and maybe some folk balladeering and some of those Beach Boys sendups and well you know. In short, I've been let down! Which is not to say this is a bad, or an unenjoyable, album. And funny enough, easily the worst tune here is the cover: Little Richard's "Keep A Knockin'" is fast and energetic, but surprisingly tepid compared to the original. What's up with the singing? Penniman's yelling on the song was easily the best thing about it - on here, Loney and co. munch up half of the vocals, so you get the impression they wanna get over this as soon as possible. If anything, Mott The Hoople's cover of same song is vastly superior. This is just by-the-book rock'n'roll. The rocking "originals" are way, way better. 'Gonna Rock Tonite' is generic rockabilly as well, but Jordan still manages to raise some genuine hell with his manic guitar solos; you just have to get past all the 'gonna rock, shoo-be-doo-bah shoo-be-doo-bah gonna rock' stuff to get to 'em. The Stonesey 'Comin' After Me' is mostly notorious for its lyrics - you could say the lyrics actually ridicule LSD fantasies, with its references to cops with buzzsaws and state troopers with meathooks 'comin' after me' and the mid-section which goes 'my friends say I gotta stay away from the glue'. Then there's the standard blues-rock of 'Headin' For The Texas Border' - nothing extraordinary, but at least nothing to really complain about. Then there's the subtle Jerry Lee Lewis references on 'Second Cousin' which Loney is going to make 'my first bride'; one could say that the lyrics are actually the main distinction from the Fifties which the Groovies introduce on here. The SLOW and SLEAZY blooze-rock of 'Jailbait' at least has a decent riff. The fast and furious 'Road House' at least brings the album to a suitably aggressive conclusion, with manic drumming and feedback-a-plenty and everything a headbanger needs. And you know, I'm not complaining, God help me and protect me. These are all good songs! They rock, and they're a lot of fun. And for 1970, they sure were a blast for everybody who did not want to get drowned in the "pretentious" scene and all. But what they don't do is they don't display a lot of personality. Neither did Supersnazz, but that one got away on diversity claims. These rockers just don't get away in that way. Out of the songs I namechecked, 'Road House' and, to a lesser extent, 'Jailbait' display melodic creativity; 'Comin' After Me' and 'Second Cousin' display lyrical creativity. 'Sall. Of course, there's also the soft-rock/ballad section. On 'Sweet Roll Me On Down', the Groovies triumphantly massacre late-period Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers in one go, showing how a country rocker can be absolutely "non-holistic" and how you can actually have fun with the genre; problem is, they weren't the ones who invented "fun" country-rock. For some reason, on 'Childhood's End' they are trying to pull a Flying Burrito Brothers, with a slow generic slide-guitar filled waltz tune. Let Flying Burrito Brothers-style material be done by the Burritos themselves, I say. Only 'She's Falling Apart' deserves special mention - a dreamy folk ballad with a moving Loney falsetto, but somewhat let down by hideous production: why they had to make everything sound like it was recorded inside a barrel on a fifty-year old cassette is beyond me, especially after songs like 'Apart From That' on the previous album had that glorious sound and all. I'll be the first to admit that Flamingo is a pretty dang good choice if you just want to have some mindless fun with Fifties rock'n'roll and you don't want to put on your Little Richard Greatest Hits collection because you like the sound of Sixties' guitars more than the sound of Fifties' horn sections. So if you wanna do that, I wholeheartedly recommend the album. But taken on its own, or in relation to the rest of the Groovies' catalog, it doesn't sound that well. The bonus tracks on the Buddha CD release don't help much either - mostly a bunch of traditional rock'n'roll covers recorded live, with versions of 'Rockin' Pneumonia' and 'Somethin' Else' that are tremendously inferior to the Supersnazz ones and even a cover of Link Wray's 'Rumble'; why would anyone ever want to listen to Link Wray performed by the Flamin Groovies is a mystery to me.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1971
Overall rating = 12
Yeah! Injecting a shot of creativity and diversity and letting their hair down even more really helps.Best song: WHISKEY WOMAN
Track listing: 1) High Flyin' Baby; 2) City Lights; 3) Have You Seen My Baby?; 4) Yesterday's Numbers; 5) Teenage Head; 6) 32-20; 7) Evil Hearted Ada; 8) Doctor Boogie; 9) Whiskey Woman; [BONUS TRACKS:] 10) Shakin' All Over; 11) That'll Be The Day; 12) Louie Louie; 13) Walkin' The Dog; 14) Scratch My Back; 15) Carol; 16) Going Out Theme.
A serious improvement, and a worthy companion to Supersnazz - highlighting the "hard-'n'-raw" side of the Groovies as opposed to the slicker and softer side of the debut record. Teenage Head is every "philosophically minded" rock critic's wet dream, that kind of ideal rock-mentality album that people like Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer could be raving about for hours... not to mention that both of these were actually present at the recording sessions, soaking in the spirit and adding, sometimes in a direct manner (Meltzer is credited as a member of "The Flame-ettes", sort of a cross between a cheerleader troup and a backing vocals group, I guess), some of their own.The liner notes on the Buddha release keep ranting about how Teenage Head was better than the Stones' own Sticky Fingers, and while that's a blunt, gross exaggeration typical of liner notes to "forgotten classics" (hey, how else do you make people buy 'em?), the Groovies' musical vision at this point is closer to the Stones than anybody else, and/or anybody else's. And a big part of this vision is - to have some of your own, to infuse something that nobody else does into songs that would otherwise be completely generic. Teenage Head belongs, entirely and completely, to Roy Loney; that's arguably the biggest difference between this album and Flamingo. No song sounds even remotely like the previous, with Loney going through a whole buncha transformations - from a raving punkish snarl to a hickey rednecky brawl to a voodoo-like bloozy swagger to an Elvis impersonation to a sensitive pseudo-epic delivery to whatever-you-name-it. Again, the Groovies touch on a lot of styles, being just a wee bit more creative this time around, and the creativity of Loney's vocal journeys fully matches and at times exceeds expectations. The album is almost ridiculously short (not a surprise for the Groovies), with just nine songs (and even the title number was written only after it was specifically pointed out that they had way too much empty space) and around thirty minutes to go. But there's next to no filler among these tracks, which is also significantly due to their sequencing: the way they intersperse absolutely different moods and absolutely different goals makes Teenage Head far less boring than its predecessor, even if, taken completely on their own, some of these songs don't work nearly as well. Of course, if you do see a guy like Meltzer taking part in the recording of the album, you gotta realize there's gotta be a bit of a post-modernistic, tongue-in-cheek groove to it all. Unlike the Stones, who don't really pull any punches about anything they're doing, you can see the Groovies insert a touch of parody and even self mockery into everything they do, and it shows on this album. After all, the Stones would never be even remotely close to trying out something like 'Evil Hearted Ada', even if Mick Jagger could do a direct Elvis impersonation. A riff borrowed directly off 'Mystery Train', and low-pitched growling vocals so heavily drenched in echo and reverb it can't be NOT judged as a parody - an absolutely hilarious one, too. Loney goes so over the top with his 'ah-ha-ha-hoo-hoo' crooning (magnify each of these by three to account for all the echo effects) you can't really take the band seriously, and they don't ask you to. They dig this music, and they deconstruct it at the same time. Damn you smart-rock-"Lester & Richard Were Here"-mentality! 'High Flyin' Baby' begins the record with a line said to be taken off Captain Beefheart's 'Sure 'Nuff 'N' Yes I Do' - they sure knew who to look to for inspiration, didn't they? And then it flies along at a frenetic pace with Looney gurgling, chewing, and spitting out the vocals so you can't understand anything. 'City Lights', on the other hand, is slow and lazy so that you can understand the lines as he dreams about going to see the splendour of NYC and the building 'where the planes shot that big monkey'. Ha! Sounds fun to me. The cover of Randy Newman's 'Have You Seen My Baby?' is the closest to a no-nonsense rock'n'roll number, but thanks to the fact that it's a Randy Newman song, it's catchy and well-written, so I have no complaints about it. The gross title track is a big slimy ball of decadence, punkish anger, and indirect mockery of both, all driven by one of the band's best riffs and this BIG fat drum sound. 'Doctor Boogie' is a parody of the "mystic blues" genre, with Loney giving out his best "swamp-style" vocals ('you gotta haaaiidee-haaide...'). And 'Whiskey Woman' is written like a sincere, almost ominous ballad, one that should be delivered with a tear in one's eye (and sounds strangely close to 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door'), but sports the title 'Whiskey Woman' at that. Kinda weird, innit? No wonder they had such a problem finding hit singles on Groovies' albums. All of this amounts to a strong 11/weak 12, but the weak 12 turns to strong if you count in the bonus tracks. Not only do they double the running length, they also represent some of the grittiest rock'n'roll these guys recorded. Again, mostly all of them are oldies, but they're all consistently more gritty and ass-kicking than the half-assed bonus performances on Flamingo. 'Shakin' All Over' is obviously patterned after the Who version, with the guitarists ripping it up on the "chaotic" solo sections; 'Louie Louie' is miraculously extended into a terrific jam, with the guitarists exchanging tasty licks over the repetitive bassline; and Slim Harpo's 'Scratch My Back' is a delicious "humorous" semi-instrumental with some of Jordan's most memorable guitar lines ("the chicken scratch!"). All in all, a fun way to waste an hour of your time. No, it's not Sticky Fingers (few things are), but it's not a half-assed copy of Sticky Fingers either. Too bad the band broke apart soon after its release, due to lack of commercial success and a conflict between Loney and Jordan; when they came back again, it was another story altogether.
READER COMMENTS SECTION