The Standells – The Standells in Person at P.J.’s

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Although The Standells are more well known today for being early pioneers of punk rock, in their first album, The Standells in Person at P.J.’s, they prove themselves to be solid garage rock musicians. Soon after signing to Liberty Records in 1964, The Standells released this album, recordings from a series of concerts at P.J.’s in Hollywood. The band would later go on to pioneer the raw sound of punk rock, but at this point in their career they were known to perform groovy garage rock classics. There is surely no shortage of solid tunes on this album. In addition to a great rendition of the world’s best-known garage rock, “Louie, Louie,” The Standells also do excellent covers or “Money (That’s What I Want) and John Lennon’s “You Can’t Do That.” While all three songs are top-notch, there’s a certain lack of authenticity. That is to say: the band plays the songs as would most garage rock bands from the era and don’t do anything to necessarily set themselves apart from the crowd. However, “Money (That’s What I Want),” was released as a single from the album and became their breakout single though it never charted. The band also does several more comedic garage rock songs with “Bony Moronie,” “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” and “Linda-Lu.” Of the three, “Linda-Lu” is perhaps the best (although all are fun to listen to) because of its rolling repetition of certain syllables. Its unique and clever. For the blues fans of the blog, The Standells, like many garage rock bands, do harder, faster versions of blues classics, like the ever-popular Jimmy Reed’s “Help Yourself” and Johnny Otis’s “So Fine.” Both are high quality transitions from deep blues to 60s garage rock. All of these songs are very good, but not spectacular. That’s where “What Have I Got of My Own” and “I’ll Go Crazy” step in. “What Have I Got of My Own” is strikingly different from Trini Lopez’s popular version. It’s deeper and more hypnotic, with cooler guitar riffs. It’s my personal favorite from the album and far superior to any other version I’ve heard. “I’ll Go Crazy” gives “What Have I Got of My Own” a run for its money on best song. It is almost like a glimpse into the future of the band. It’s much more raw and up tempo than anything else, demonstrating their knack for early protopunk. Overall, this album is very good. There isn’t a single song on the album that I dislike. That being said, being their first album, The Standells didn’t do as much as I would have liked to make themselves unique. It would take a couple more years and a couple more albums for The Standells to fully carve their place in history.  B+

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The Shadows of Knight – Back Door Men

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I’m embarrassed to say that until a few months ago, I had never heard of The Shadows of Knight. To say that I’ve been missing out is an understatement. Back Door Men, released in 1966 on Dunwich, is the quintessential 60s underground album. It’s garage rock; it’s blues; it’s protopunk! (Psych rock fans, there’s even a smidgen for you.) The Shadows of Knight were really only together for about three or four years in the mid-to-late 60s, with different unsuccessful incarnations existing in the 70s and later the 90s and 2000s. First, for the garage rock. Back Door Men has a solid foundation in garage rock with minor hits like “Tomorrow’s Going to Be Another Day” and “High Blood Pressure.” Both songs tap into that 60s beat, but “Tomorrow’s Going to Be Another Day” seems to go above and beyond. For the blues rock fans, this album is nothing short of top notch. The band reaches into its Chicago roots for that Chicago blues sound, covering legends like Jimmy Reed (“Peepin’ and Hidin'”) and Willie Dixon (“Spoonful”). Both songs are just as good if not better than the originals. But wait… there’s even more for you blues gurus. My personal favorite track of the album is “Hey Joe.” Yes, the Jimi Hendrix “Hey Joe.” While The Shadows of Knight did not write the song, as earlier versions exist, they are perhaps the first (or one of the first) to use such heavy feedback, which would inspire Jimi Hendrix to record his famous version six months after this album’s release. I personally think that this version is the best version I’ve heard, outperforming Hendrix, The Byrds, and several others. Point being, this album is a must for blues rock fans. Then there’s the protopunk angle. It’s interesting to note that most of the songs on the album are covers, but those that aren’t are definitely the most innovative. “Gospel Zone” and “I’ll Make You Sorry” are originals and are straight up protopunk. Both have hard, fast beats with lead singer, Jim Sohns, yelling above the instruments. Few bands can be said to have had that fiery punk energy so early in the 60s. These songs work to keep the album fresh in between blues numbers. They do a great job to keep the album cohesive and draw in protopunk fans. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget you, psychedelic rock fans, and neither did The Shadows of Knight. “The Behemoth” is an instrumental psychedelic rock song that draws on the bands blues background to create something that could only come out of the 60s. Overall, this album is fantastic. I can’t stop listening to it. Every song is great, and every song seems to speak to a different subgenre of underground 60s music. There’s no question: if you have even a passing interest in anything on this blog, you will enjoy this album. Buy it. Thank me in the comment section later.  A+