The Bobby Fuller Four – Never to Be Forgotten: The Mustang Years

ARTIST: The Bobby Fuller Four

fuller

TITLE: Never to Be Forgotten: The Mustang Years

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Wolfman, Take My Word, Let Her Dance (#133), Never to Be Forgotten, I Fought the Law (#9), Love’s Made a Fool of You (#26), The Magic Touch (#117), It’s Love, Come What May

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably Not.

LINEUP: Bobby Fuller, Randy Fuller, Jim Reese, DeWayne Quirico. A few tracks had Dalton Powell or John Barbata drumming in place of Quirico.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Collection from a beloved garage band with surprisingly small chart history.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Bobby Fuller and his group would still be known for their version of “I Fought the Law” had he not been murdered (Suicide? Nope) in mysterious circumstances in 1966. But that death has given Fuller and The Bobby Fuller Four a name beyond their chart history.

They deserved more of a chart presence than one Top 10 and another Top 30. “Let Her Dance” made waves in LA, but not nationally, and “Never to be Forgotten” is probably their best track (and one of the great hidden gems of the 60’s). And unlike other groups of the 60’s, they rarely covered tracks – even on both of their albums. It just so happened that “I Fought the Law” was a cover that their original producer in El Paso thought would be a good fit for them. (“I Fought the Law” was originally by the Crickets, who kept playing after Buddy Holly passed.)

This collection is their Mustang Records recordings, after they moved to LA and made the scene there. It covers their entire catalog (singles and albums) and includes a live set that was going to be released but was withdrawn (and really, it’s just not so great – though they were a fun live band). While there is some filler (their first album was partly a drag racing album due to a radio station’s wishes), many of the cuts are decent enough and with the strong singles it’s a good collection for 60’s rock fans.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After Bobby died, his brother Randy tried to keep the band going as the Randy Fuller Four.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B+: There’s a lot here, and that may be too much for some, but they’re surprisingly deep for a band with a couple of albums.

The Embarassment – Heyday 1979-83

ARTIST: The Embarassment heyday

TITLE: Heyday 1979-83

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: Hahahahah, you’re joking right?

SINGLES: Sex Drive

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, those who know, know.

LINEUP: John Nichols, Ronnie Klaus, Brent Giessmann, Bill Goffrier

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Obscure Wichita (yep, Wichita) band recorded some great, literate, witty new wave-ish songs that trickled out enough that they developed a cult following.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A bunch of nerdy looking college kids from Wichita formed a band, wrote smart / smart ass lyrics and developed a small yet lovingly rabid following. They released material on singles and sent them to compilations (including two very early Sub Pop cassettes) that found its way to some influential critics and taste makers who loved their take on jangly guitar rock and bent lyrics.

Examples? “Sex Drive” – about guys that you knew in high school that cruised for chicks in their Trans Ams; “Patio Set” – a love song to lawn furniture; “Celebrity Art Party” – where Art Carney attended the ‘narcissistic party’; “Berliner’s Night Out” – which describers a German guy getting ready for a date; and “Lifespan”- giving a mathematical equation to living and saying “if you drive, don’t drive” then going somewhere else.

Not to say that everything is top-class or first-rate. This collects nearly everything they did in those years, and there were some songs that weren’t as well developed or documented for the sake of documentation, and not release. But for those “Hip and Well Read”, this is a nice treasure that still brings smiles to faces.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They recorded an album in 1989 (also recording some of this material again), and have reunited periodically.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A-: It’s a big compilation that may be much for those who just want to dip their toes into them, but it’s well worth spinning at least once.

Phoebe Snow – Phoebe Snow

ARTIST: Phoebe Snow Phoebe_Snow_-_Phoebe_Snow

TITLE: Phoebe Snow

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #4

SINGLES: Poetry Man (#5), Harpo’s Blues

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Where Eagles Dare

LINEUP: Phoebe Snow and many sessioneers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut for jazz-pop-folk singer is her career highlight.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 1974, things were looking up for Phoebe Snow. Her acoustic based jazzy and folk inspired songs gained critical acclaim and a deserved hit for “Poetry Man”.

Her voice was unique; she had range and dynamics. The production and arrangements by Dino Airali and Phil Ramone complemented her songs and her voice well, staying out of the way of the songs yet enhancing them. Eight of the ten tracks were originals, and she showed promise as a songwriter.

For various reasons (most notably being a parent of a special needs child that she refused to institutionalize), her career never materialized into long lasting success. So this is probably the best thing to pick up if you heard “Poetry Man” and were intrigued.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She had record company issues as well (Shelter Records reared its head again – like it did for Dwight Twilley and Tom Petty). There are compilations that have bits and pieces of her other albums streaming, but this material is only streaming on the original album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with demos and B-sides.

 GRADE A: A very pleasant record. Her songs are well written and evocative, and the arrangements fit them well.

Misfits – Misfits

ARTIST: Misfits 220px-Misfits_-_Misfits_(Collection_I)_cover

TITLE: Misfits (a/k/a Collection 1)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Bullet, Horror Business, Night of the Living Dead, Die Die My Darling

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Where Eagles Dare

LINEUP: Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only. The majority of tracks were with Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein or Bobby Steele on guitar, and Arthur Googy on drums.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Probably the best place to start for the Misfits.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed, and the Misfits early catalog is available now. This is probably the best collection of that material – as it chose the strongest material and most seminal work.

The Misfits legal docket and personnel problems are probably longer and more complex than about any other band from that era. That caused their catalog to be intermittently available, albums to be unreleased, and tracks re-recorded with other musicians in some instances.

This is the Misfits in their more punk rock / horror punk phase than anything they did later, and while the tunes are a bit same-same as you move along, there’s some essential stuff like “Bullet” and “Die Die My Darling” that was so influential to bands that followed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There are two other collections, Legacy of Brutality and Collection II, which have other early Misfits material, though they have more of the re-recorded material when Danzig was trying to keep the royalties to himself.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there was a box set available with all of the early Misfits tracks.

GRADE B. Not always recorded in the best fidelity, and sometimes they repeat themselves, but for those wanting to know what the deal was about the Misfits, here is the stuff you need to hear.

Rare Earth – The Very Best of Rare Earth

ARTIST: Rare Earth  very best of rare earth

TITLE: The Very Best of Rare Earth

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 40: Get Ready (#4), (I Know) I’m Losing You (#7), Born to Wander (#17), I Just Want to Celebrate (#7), Hey Big Brother (#19), Warm Ride (#39)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Gil Bridges, Eddie Guzman, Peter Hoorelbeke, Ray Monette, Kenny James, John Persh. Then Mark Olson and Mike Urso joined, and then it became a chore to keep track of who’s who.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The first hit-making white band on Motown released some catchy tracks (mostly written by others) but really went crazy on the LONG album versions like they were Iron Butterfly or something.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Rare Earth was not the first white Motown artist, but they were the first to have a hit. They were a Detroit band that was signed after a failed album on Verve (which also had a version of “Get Ready”).

“Get Ready”, a hit for the Temptations and written by Smokey Robinson, was their first Motown single and became a bigger hit for them. The album version was over 21 minutes long! (Holy padding out the record, Batman) And it was just a lot of noodling and jamming for no reason except the tape was rolling. That was a shame, because they had a chance to be tight and funky, but they rambled on and on…

“I Just Want to Celebrate” is their best known track, and it wasn’t an overly long version on the album (just in concert, because why not…)earth tones

That was the story for their early career. Cover a Motown song, and jam forever (so it seems), and profit (?). When they decided to record their own material in 1972, they still jammed for way too long. Oh, but when they did their own stuff, the hits dried up (until 1978 and they got one scraped in at #39). There’s a reason for that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer Peter Hoorelbeke (Pete Rivera back in the day) was the lead singer for the most part. 20th century rare earth

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: You can get collections with the LONG versions. Be my guest.

GRADE C. At their best, they were tight and funky with catchy tunes. That happened so rarely, as it were.

Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

ARTIST: Silversun Pickups 220px-Silversun_Pickups_neckofthewoods

TITLE: Neck of the Woods

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #1 US Indy, #86 UK

SINGLES: Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings) (#7 Alternatve, #16 Mainstream), The Pit (#3 Alternative, #31 Mainstream), Dots and Dashes (Enough Already) (#30 Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Christopher Guanlao, Joe Lester

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: More atmospheric alternative rock with all kinds of sonic tricks in the mix, and a few tracks change up their normal mode.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Silversun Pickups are still moody, atmospheric, and have a to-die-for guitar sound. But as they mature, their songs are getting more complex. On this, their third album, they don’t rely on their same song structures as they have in the past.

Now, tracks have definite discrete sections, tone and tempo changes, and production that evolves during the track to emphasize the mood and feel of the song. And while there are stretches that could put you into torpor, the changing tones snap you out of it.

The Pickups never sound stale, but they do have a tendency to elongate their songs on occasion. Here, nothing is shorter than 4:39 and one stretches to almost seven minutes. That’s the one drawback here – sometimes they seem like their filling time with their intros and outros. Still, this record moves them forward.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: MTV streamed the album in full online.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE B+. Some tracks linger on too long, but overall this record is still quality.

Silversun Pickups – Swoon

ARTIST: Silversun Pickups SilversunpickupsSWOON

TITLE: Swoon

YEAR RELEASED: 2009

CHART ACTION: #7 US, #1 US Indy, #107 UK

SINGLES: Panic Switch (#92 US, #1 Alternative, #4 Mainstream), Substitution (#17 Alternative, #26 Mainstream), The Royal We (#5 Alternative, #21 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Chris Guanlao, Joe Lester

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A more atmospheric album than their debut, adding layers of textures and sonic ephemera to build the songs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Not contend to reproduce their debut, the Silverun Pickups went into the studio with a collection of more mature songs that they then built into layered, moody tracks that enhanced their basic sound.

Brian Aubert’s voice is perfectly suited for this – his whispery, gentle tenor lies above the texture yet not overpowering it. His guitar work is still solid – using the Billy Corgan setting many times on his axe. The rest of the band settles in and knows their place, though the studio musicians, strings, and other production sometimes limits their effectiveness.

The record does have tracks that seem to run out of steam, and with all tracks between 4:40 and 5:54 in length there’s a tendency for them to run together. But this record shows the band moving forward, enhancing their sound without falling into formula.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had a song on The Vampire Diaries soundtrack and released a three-son outtakes EP in 2010.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE A-. This build on their success and enhanced their sound with little problem

The Temptations – Psychedelic Soul

ARTIST: The Temptations psychedelic soul

TITLE: Psychedelic Soul

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Cloud Nine (#6 US, #2 R&B), Runaway Child, Running Wild (#6 US, #1 R&B), Don’t Let the Jones Get You Down (#20 US, #2 R&B), I Can’t Get Next to You (#1 US, #1 R&B, #13 UK), Psychedelic Shack (#7 US, #2 R&B, #33 UK), Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today) (#3 US, #2 R&B, #7 UK), Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World) (#33 US, #8 R&B), Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) (#1 US, #1 R&B, #8 UK), Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Ar) (#18 US, #8 R&B, #32 UK), Papa Was a Rolling Stone (#1 US, #5 R&B, #14 UK), Masterpiece (#7 US, #1 R&B), Plastic Man (#40 US, #8 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They did versions of War, Friendship Train and Smiling Faces Sometimes

LINEUP: Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendrick and David Edwards were the ‘classic five’. Richard Street replaced Paul Williams in 1970.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Norman Whitfield era of the Temptations features multi-lead vocals, and funky, funky grooves from the Funk Brothers, who were allowed to jam on the album cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The music world was changing, while the Motown Sound was stagnant. The Temptations were one of the first Motown acts to ‘modernize’, as they chose producer Norman Whitfield, who along with Barrett Strong wrote some great socially conscious songs, and Whitfield used the Funk Brothers to jam like crazy as well.

This collection grabs the album cuts, which can range up to over 12 minutes long (that’s one way to fill out an album side!), and while it is jamming it’s the Funk Brothers, so it’s not pointless noodling. They also did a few tracks made famous by other Motown artists to put the Psychedelic Soul spin on them. (“Friendship Train” just cooks.)

This era of the Temptations did have a few ballads (“Just My Imagination”) but most of it was funky, funky music. Those tracks allowed each of the Temps to shine as soloists in songs, and gave them a unique sound in soul and funk.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Temps revolted a bit in 1973 due to the long, long tracks that Whitfield kept recording. He was let go, and starting in 1974 they went back to shorter tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE A+ Even with the long tracks, there’s no filler. Can you dig it?

The Temptations – Gold

ARTIST: The Temptations R-980461-1422001297-1914.jpeg

TITLE: Gold (Originally Released as My Girl: The Very Best of the Temptations)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #167

SINGLES: Top 10 Pop: My Girl (#1 US, #1 R&B, #43 UK), Beauty Is Only Skin Deep (#3 US, #1 R&B, #18 UK), (I Know) I’m Losing You (#8 US, #1 R&B, #19 UK), All I Need (#8 US, #2 R&B), You’re My Everything (#6 US, #3 R&B). I Wish It Would Rain (#4 US, #1 R&B, #45 UK), Cloud Nine (#6 US, #2 R&B), I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (#2 US, #2 R&B, #3 UK), Runaway Child, Running Wild (#6 US, #1 R&B), I Can’t Get Next to You (#1 US, #1 R&B, #13 UK), Psychedelic Shack (#7 US, #2 R&B, #33 UK), Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today) (#3 US, #2 R&B, #7 UK), Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) (#1 US, #1 R&B, #8 UK), Papa Was a Rolling Stone (#1 US, #5 R&B, #14 UK), Masterpiece (#7 US, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Way You Do The Things You Do, Get Ready, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg

LINEUP: Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffin were the ‘classic five’. Al Bryant was in the group very early on. Dennis Edwards replaced Ruffin. Richard Street replaced Paul Williams. Damon Harris replaced Kendrick. Others filtered in and out. Otis Williams is the only consistent member.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The commercial gold standard of Motown vocal groups rolled with changes in producers and styles (sometimes not too quietly) and dominated charts for over a decade.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s not the songs you know and hear all of the time. It’s tracks like “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”, “Get Ready”, “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are”), and “Shakey Ground” that makes the Temptations one of the most popular vocal groups of all time.

Going from a typical Motown sound towards the “Psychedelic Soul” era without a hitch (except internally) showed their versatility. They took the losses of personnel without much of an issue. The backing of the Motown session musicians also was top notch, and the songs were memorable. You know this, no doubt, but the deeper cuts are where you realize that behind the Miracles, the Temptations ruled the Motown era (no dis to the Four Tops…or anyone else).

This collection storms through the big singles from 1962 through their last Motown hits in the 90’s, including a memorable side with Rick James. But their last singles aren’t as memorable, as the 90’s production doesn’t suit them. That’s the only blip here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There’s another Temptations compilation that has the long (and I mean long) cuts from their Psychedelic Soul era, and I’m going to review that one too.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There’s been larger comps, but this pretty much hits everything.

GRADE A: A few of the later cuts are disposable, but most of this stuff is essential.

The Creation – Our Music Is Red – With Purple Flashes

ARTIST: The Creation creation

TITLE: Our Music Is Red – With Purple Flashes

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Making Time (#49 UK), Painter Man (#36 UK), Cool Jerk, If I Stay Too Long, Life Is Just Beginning, How Does It Feel to Feel, Midway Down, Bony Moronie, For All That I Am

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Biff Bang Pow

LINEUP: Kenny Pickett, Eddie Phillips, Bob Garner, Jack Jones. Kim Gardner replaced Pickett (Bob Garner went to vocals). Then, after a hiatus, Pickett, Gardner, Jones, and Ron Wood (!) resumed their career for a few months.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Garage / psychedelic UK rock band influenced a smattering of musicians, and introduced Jimmy Page to the idea of playing a guitar with a bow. .

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The song “Making Time” alone, with that fantastic opening guitar riff, is enough to warrant the Creation a mention in rock and roll annals. The fact that Eddie Phillips played the guitar solo with a bow makes it legendarily influential. “Painter Man”, another great single, followed, and the Creation were on their way…to oblivion.

First, they replaced Kenny Pickett as vocalist with  bassist Bob Garner, and brought Kim Gardner as bassist. They then covered a couple of American hits instead of focusing on their originals, and lost momentum, even with originals like “I Am the Walker” and “How Does It Feel to Feel” (here in two versions as they released different mixes for the US and UK). The US version of the latter song has great feedback (ala the Who), while the UK version is heavier on the drums.

By 1968, they were no more after a breakup, a rebirth (for the European market) and a final death (with Ron Wood on guitar as he was part of the Birds with Kim Gardner). However, they influenced Page, Paul Weller, Pete Townshend, and various punk and shoegaze bands. That’s why a collection like this is so necessary – to explore the roots of music we all know.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The label Creation Records was named in honor of them.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yeah, there are different mixes on a new version of this comp.

 GRADE A-: Yeah, there are a few covers I threw out, but this is vital stuff. It’s rawness paved the way for bands to eschew polish and blast it out.