The Hassles – Hour of the Wolf

ImageIt’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a psychedelic record, so I thought I’d break out The Hassles. Released in early 1969 on United Artists, Hour of the Wolf is the second of two albums released by The Hassles. The Hassles are most noteworthy because of what some of the members went on to do. Billy Joel plays keyboards, John Small plays drums, and Howie Blauvelt (who’d later become a member of Ram Jam) plays bass. With such an all-star lineup, you’d expect that The Hassles made some all-star music–you’d better hold your horses. It’s not that the music isn’t good, it’s just that it’s so experimental that the beginning of songs don’t sound anything like the middle or the end of the songs. This method of experimentation makes it difficult to say that a particular song is good or a particular song is bad. For example, the beginning of the song “Cat” struggles to find a unifying beat through the first half, but then the second half comes together and showcases some very impressive keyboard work by Billy Joel. Many of the other songs, especially the songs on side two like “Hotel St. George” and “Further from Heaven,” are similar in that they are so expansive that some parts of the songs you’re likely to find enjoyable while other parts of the same song you’ll be left wondering what just happened. The epitome of this style is the album’s title track, “Hour of the Wolf.” The song can almost be described as noise music. There are extended sections of strange sounds, a wolf eating/growling, wild laughter, and other eccentric noises. However, the song also has sections of great guitar work. Besides the presumably drug-influenced sounds of these tracks, there are one or two songs that are slightly more traditional yet can still be said to have psychedelic undertones. “Country Boy” and “4 O’Clock in the Morning” are solid tunes. “Country Boy” sounds like The Beatles jamming with The Allman Brothers––a very strange mix, but it works. “4 O’Clock in the Morning” is much more laid back and whimsical. It reminds me over the nonchalance of G Love. This album proves to be very difficult to sum up overall. What I can say is that a very small percentage of people will think that this is the greatest album they’ve ever heard. With its boundless array of sounds and styles, it could be considered one of the best psychedelic albums ever to those who are searching for the purest of acid rock. To most of us 60s music enthusiasts, however, this album is interesting and worth listening to, but once would probably be enough. If, however, you are looking for something with a much more traditional garage rock or blues rock sound, this album is probably not for you.  C+