Michael Rabon & the Five Americans – Now and Then

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I picked up Michael Rabon & the Five Americans’ (often referred to as just The Five Americans) Now and Then on a recommendation. This double album, which would be their last, was released by Abnak in 1968. They had three previous albums released to varying degrees of mild success. Shortly after releasing this album, the band disbanded, and they all went their separate ways: most to careers out of the music industry. The cool thing about this band is that they never reunited, so they only existed for a very brief time between 1965–1969. This band is truly an underground 60s garage band, as this album was never converted to CD nor is it available on iTunes. That being said, I don’t know why not. This album opens up with a high energy garage-based tune, “I See the Light–’69.” This song is actually a reprise of their earlier 1966 song. A perfect choice to begin the album; it’s one of the best songs on the album. “A Taste of Livin'” follows as another song with a great beat. The third song of the album, “Molly Black,” is a fine song that shows off the bands psychedelic skills. It’s a bluesy psychedelic journey reminiscent of Cream. Michael Rabon & the Five Americans continue the psychedelic blues with “Medusa.” This song demonstrates the bands improvisational skills, at least to a small degree. “A Change on You” follows as a soulful blues track that even flirts with protopunk. This versatile song is perhaps my favorite of the album. Unfortunately, side one ends on a bit of a sour note: “Jondel” slows the pace far too dramatically with a psychedelic repetition. Despite this slight blip, the first side of this double album is truly remarkable considering it comes from a band of such obscurity. Side two begins with the blues number “Ignert Woman.” Besides the fact that it’s no 21st century PC, this song is really a great song. It, too, shows off the bands improvisational skills. “Ignert Woman” is followed by “Amavi,” a short little soft tune that has a nice beat and melody. It does well to keep the album’s fast tempo while perhaps lightening the mood a little. “Big Sur” is the third song on side two, and it does not disappoint. A very solid 60s heartbreak song. The next song is “Red Cape,” a song that starts of simple and repetitive but grows into a complex number. Another solid tune with not much to complain about. Unfortunately, the final song of this side is again not up to par with rest of the album. “8 to 5 Man” is an example of good songwriting; however, it’s musical composition leaves much to ask for. The song is drowned in a groaning keyboard; I’m not sure what they were thinking with this one. Never fear, side three picks things back up again with “Virginia Girl,” a pop rock song with a little psychedelic influence. It’s a pretty catchy and fun tune. “7:30 Guided Tour” follows as a true psychedelic song. This song sounds like it comes straight from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Fans of that album and the psychedelic era will absolutely love this song. “Pink Lemonade” also carries a heavy psychedelic vibe, but isn’t as strong as “7:30 Guided Tour.” The next song, “Peace and Love,” is a song that sounds exactly like you’d expect it to. It’s very cliché 60s hippie rock, but that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. There’s a couple cool riffs in it too. Really a fun song, despite the stereotypes. “You’re in Love” closes out side three, and it’s a really nice 60s love song. “She’s Too Good To Me” opens up the final side of this double album. It’s not near as good as the previous love song––”You’re in Love,” but it’s okay. “Generation Gap,” the second song of side four, is a bit of a conundrum. It’s perhaps the best song on the album, but at the same time it’s the most unoriginal. It’s a blatant rip-off of The Who’s “My Generation,” but if you’re going to rip-off a song, you couldn’t really pick a better one. “God Didn’t Smile on Me” isn’t as excellent as the rest of the album, especially coming after “Generation Gap,” but they can’t all be perfect. “Disneyland” is not only the strangest song on this album, but perhaps one of the strangest songs I’ve heard in a while. It sounds like Disney paid them to write it for a promotional video. That being said, if you can get past the original weirdness, it’s kind of fun and does have a little psychedelic undertone. This epic double album closes with “Scrooge,” a song that really completes the album by getting back to their garage rock roots. Really a great song to bring things home. Overall, this album is really powerful. Sometimes double albums can lose steam, but this one goes the distance. There were a few songs that could use reworking or perhaps replacing, but the sound of the album was very positive overall. This double album helps map the band’s career by growing from garage rock songs to blues and psychedelic rock songs. The band shows its versatility and magnitude and time after time impresses the listener. The only other problem with the album is that it seemed to lack in creativity too often. The band seems to have mastered imitating 60s powerhouses like The Beatles, The Who, and Cream, but unfortunately, they never seem to find a sound that is truly their own. Perhaps this is why the band, despite being great musicians who can produce a beautiful and cohesive album, were never launched into that elusive stardom. And perhaps this lack of originality is why I don’t feel comfortable giving the album an A.  B+

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