Monday, August 19, 2013

Flamin' Groovies - The Rockfield Sessions

The Rockfield Sessions (1989) ***

Like a lot of great bands, the Groovies failed to make it in America, so they broke up (goodbye, Roy Loney), reconstituted the band with new members (hello, Chris Wilson), decamped overseas, and attempted a change in musical direction.  These 7 tracks, produced by simpatico retro-rocker Dave Edmunds in England in late '72, are the missing link between the greaser rock of the early Groovies and the power-pop jingle-janglers that the late '70s Groovies retooled themselves as.  4 covers and a scant 3 originals may not seem like much, until you hear what originals they may be:  "Shake Some Action,"  may indeed, without a trace of hyperbole from your humble reviewer, rank as the finest rocker ever performed or penned - at least it seems so while it's on, and that's what counts.  A vintage Byrds riff put across with the simmering intensity of vintage '66 Stones, sneering yet exasperated teen angst lyrical attitude - I'm sure that's all you need to make it alright.  In an alternate universe (my house) they overplay this as much as "Satisfaction" and Led Zeppelin IV.  "You Tore Me Down," - hipsters today may be most familiar from the Yo La Tengo cover; anyway, it's to shimmering power-pop what "Shake Some Action," was to pure classic rock - sheer perfection, revamping and rivalling Lennon at his '64/65 bitter-young-man-iest.  Both of those numbers wound up in nearly exact same form on the '76 Shake Some Action LP, which renders this EP somewhat less than essential for all but completists.  But wait, I haven't mentioned the third original yet, and amazingly, it's yet another classic - not merely a Groovies classic, but a great rock classic, simple and shut.  The slide-guitar bloozefest that is "Slow Death," wouldn't have fit in with the sound and image of late-period Groovies, but that's certainly the only reason it never wound up on a proper LP.  It's easy to hear why it's one of their most-covered tunes - it rocks the post-hippie modern world blues harder and tastier than all but the title track of the previous Teenage Head LP.  That leaves the four covers, only one of which can be called essential:   "Tallahassee Lassie," which likewise out-rocks anything off of Flamingo, sonically bridging the gap between "Can't You Hear Me Knockin', " Stones and "Surfin' Bird," Ramones.  Yeah, it rocks that hard, and yeah, I betcha didn't know such a gap existed.  Well, someone had to fill it.   The other three covers don't match that rockin' intensity, but they're good fun, and that never hurt nobody.  Only seven songs, two of which wound up on a later album, but they're all good songs, and there's more of'em here than on either Supersnazz or Flamingo (separately, not combined).

Groove on, man.  Or flame on?  I forget which.

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