The Cryan’ Shames – Sugar & Spice

ImageFor my next album review, I’ve decided to go with The Cryan’ Shames’ debut album Sugar & SpiceSugar & Spice was released on Columbia Records in 1966. The Cryan’ Shames would go on to record two more albums before breaking up in 1969. Like most garage rock bands of the time, a fair amount of their songs are covers. Two of the most well-known songs on this album, “Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” are covers of 60s standards. “Hey Joe” is particularly strong. It is not as fast, loud, and raw as the version previously reviewed by The Shadows of Knight; however, that’s not to say it’s bad. This version is a little heavier on the bass, giving it a slightly darker tone. Unfortunately, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” is not as strong of a cover. Tom Doody just does not have the powerful vocals like Eric Burdon from The Animals. The song is decent, but I’d pick the original any day of the week. Besides these two popular covers, The Cryan Shames also had a couple lesser known covers that ended up being minor radio hits for them: “Sugar and Spice” and “If I Needed Someone.” Both songs are solid garage rock songs. “Sugar and Spice” is quick and simple but catchy, similar to many radio-friendly surf rock/garage rock songs. “If I Needed Someone” is a Beatles cover that has a little psychedelic element throughout. Although those songs would bring The Cryan’ Shames some notoriety, they really shine on songs like “Heat Wave” and “She Don’t Care About Time.” Both songs are fun in their own way. “Heat Wave” has a fast, repetitive beat that seems like it should have it’s own dance to it. “She Don’t Care About Time” is equally as compelling despite being vastly different. It sounds pretty similar to the folky rendition first performed by The Byrds. Not all of the songs on the album are solid tunes though. “We Could Be Happy,” “We’ll Meet Again,” “July,” and “I Wanna Meet You” are all subpar. All four are softer and have more of a pop feel. Also, they tend feature Tom Doody’s vocals more, and I believe he’s the weakest link in this band. Perhaps these songs just don’t fit the character of the band and thus weren’t their best showings. Never fear… I’ve saved the best for last. “Ben Franklin’s Almanac” is by far my favorite song on the album. It is one of the few original songs on the album, written by guitarist Jim Fairs (who was only 18 at the time of recording this album). It has a fast psychedelic/garage rock beat with a stunning guitar solo in the middle. Hearing this short but sweet solo on vinyl might be reason enough to pick this up if you find it for a good price. Overall, this album is all over the chart. Some garage rockin’ foot stompin’ jams. Some poor pop-filled gags. And one “Almanac” to rule them all.  B-

The Mugwumps – The Mugwumps


Yes, I know. For those of you who’ve heard of The Mugwumps, I am fully aware that they aren’t garage rock or protopunk or really similar to anything at all that I’ve previously reviewed on this blog; however, I would consider them underground 60s music. While they did play and record pop songs and their members were very famous, they never became very popular as a group and disbanded soon after they made their first recordings. The Mugwumps, consisting of such members as Mama Cass Elliot and Zal Yanovsky, recorded nine songs in 1964, played a few live shows, and quickly went their separate ways. Fast forward three years: most of the members have been cast into stardom from their other musical projects, so the record company that owned The Mugwumps’ musical rights decides to capitalize on their recent fame by packaging these nine previously unreleased singles as an album; hence, their one and only album, The Mugwumps, released in 1967 on Warner Bros. The fact that these songs were originally shelved and the group quickly disbanded may leave you thinking that the album can’t be very good. But wait… don’t be so quick to judge. Although there are certainly a few songs that were included as filler, there are also a few solid 60s pop rock songs. Songs like “Searchin'” and “I Don’t Wanna Know” start off the album as solid radio-friendly tunes that sound like they could have come from other powerhouse pop rock bands of the time like The Byrds or The Monkees. Neither song is amazing, but both are kind of catchy and worth listening to. Later in the album, The Mugwumps add a touch of psychedelic rock into their pop rock with songs “Do You Know What I Mean” and “Don’t Judge a Book by the Cover.” These songs are even better because it shows the band had a little range and may have even been a little ahead of their time. Another great song on the album is “So Fine.” It’s a pop rock song with a moderate amount of blues flavoring. It also has perhaps the best guitar and harmonica work on the album. That being said, my favorite song is “Do What They Don’t Say.” I’m hesitant to say that it’s the best on the album, but it’s my favorite because it is definitely the most interesting. As strange as it sounds, “Do What They Don’t Say” is a pop rock song with a reggae beat. I know that reggae hadn’t really been developed yet, but either the band stumbled into a unique sound or one of the members had heard ska music (reggae’s predecessor). Either way the song combines American pop vocals with Jamaican-influenced rhythm. Unfortunately, the other three songs on the album seem (at least to me) to be of a vastly inferior quality. I theorize that they were included to stretch the album from an EP to an LP. Overall, The Mugwumps contains some surprising quality. Many of the tunes are not only listenable but also extremely enjoyable. It’s unfortunate that the band never gave it another chance. I believe that they could’ve used this album as a solid base and improved upon it immensely. Nevertheless, this album stands on its own feet and provides some solid 60s underground music and a brief glimpse into an interesting point of rock ‘n’ roll history.  B-