The Grass Roots – Leaving It All Behind

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Over the course of their first four studio albums, The Grass Roots had changed artistic directions numerous times. Released in 1969 on Dunhill Records, Leaving It All Behind was no exception. The band had lost lead guitarist, Creed Bratton (yes from The Office), and replaced him with two guitarists and a keyboardist (Terry Furlong, Brian Naughton and Dennis Provisor respectively). With the additional guitarist and a first-ever keyboardist, the band decided to go towards a more blue-eyed soul kind of sound. Over their previous four albums, the band had evolved from folk rock to psychedelic rock to sunshine pop, all of which would continue to influence the band. This new sound yielded the band two charting hits––”Wait a Million Years” and “Heaven Knows”––both which feature Dennis Provisor and horn musicians prominently in addition to Rob Grill’s powerful vocals. While these songs were the most commercially successful ones on the album, they weren’t enough to set the band apart. The songs sounded so similar to other blue-eyed soul and sunshine pop songs of the time, causing them to get lost in the cookie-cutter classics heard on oldies stations today. Despite these more formulaic songs, the band does produce a couple more creative numbers. “Truck Drivin’ Man” is like nothing else on the album; in fact, it sounds more like a folk rock song that one might find on The Grass Roots’ debut album. This song was written by the drummer, Rick Coonce, and is a breath of fresh air on an album that is soaked with low-hanging pop/soul tunes. In addition to the cookie-cutter songs, the band also struggles to fully flesh out some songs. Several songs including “Back to Dreaming Again” and “Walking Through the Country” seem to be decent shells of songs, but they contain too much filler and fluff for the songs to really accomplish anything. By the time the album ends, listeners may feel like they’ve wasted too much time just to hear a couple of decent tracks. Unfortunately, this is not a new problem for The Grass Roots. They never had a really killer studio album because they rushed albums to production with a few decent tracks and a lot of fluff. I have never made this recommendation for any band, but for this band, instead of buying this album, buy one of their many hits records. One of their hits records is equal to one studio album of a fairly decent band from the 60s. C-

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The Box Tops – Dimensions

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The main reason I picked up this album is because of the cover. It’s one of those covers that just screams 60s psychedelic music, so I bought it. Dimensions is the last album The Box Tops would release. (They later released a reunion album, Tear Off!, in 1998 after a 30-year hiatus.) The album was released in 1969 by Bell Records. While all of the members of the band stayed in the music industry after The Box Tops’ breakup, none of them would ever find such success again. The band reunited in the late 90s and toured together throughout the early 2000s. The first song on Dimensions is perhaps their most popular. “Soul Deep” is a classic on oldies stations of today. It’s a classic example of the blue-eyed soul that The Box Tops became famous for. It’s a very radio-friendly song: nothing too risky, something for everyone. The next song is a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” It’s a great song to cover for a soul band. They generally stick true to Dylan’s rendition. “Midnight Angel” follows with the first dose of psychedelic injected into the album. While it’s not as well known as the first two songs, it’s the most experimental and interesting of the three. “Together” is a love song that is another solid blue-eyed soul song. It’s not particularly unique or complex, but it’s makes for a good oldies jam. The next song, “I’ll Hold Out My Hand” is similar to the previous in both its sound and context. It’s a classic oldies love song, a little too cookie-cutter perhaps. The final song on the first side of the album is “I Must Be the Devil.” This song was so Chicago-style bluesy that I was shocked to find out it’s not a cover of a blues master. It’s an original jam written by Alex Chilton, the lead guitar player. It’s a slow, sweet love-makin’ sound: a perfect way to close the first side. Speaking of love makin’––”Sweet Cream Ladies,” a song supporting prostitutes, opens up side two of the album. Although it promotes an idea perhaps ahead of its time, the song is truly beautiful in its simple, repetitive approach to a psychedelic beat. This song gets the second side started off in the right direction. “(The) Happy Song” comes exactly as advertised. It’s an upbeat melody that will make you sway your hips and put a smile on your face. The next song, “Ain’t No Way” is a cover of Neil Diamond. It has more horns and more blues than Neil’s rendition. Actually, that’s an understatement: it blows Neil’s version out of the water. The final song of the album, “Rock Me Baby” is the reason this album is on this blog. It’s a psychedelic bluesy jam. This song shows off the depth of the musicians’ ability. They display their ability to improvise and groove with each other. It’s by far the best song on the album. Although the album is very good without this song, “Rock Me Baby” just takes it up another level. Overall the album gets better the deeper you get into it. A couple of the songs on side one might be a little too radio friendly for fans of this blog, but the album gets bluesier and better as it progresses. The album has a thin but audible psychedelic sprinkling throughout: just enough to make psychedelic rock/pop fans happy to own it. If you like this blog, buy this album.  A-