Syndicate of Sound – Little Girl

ImageAfter winning a battle of the bands competition in San Jose, CA, Syndicate of Sound rocketed to regional and even (briefly) national fame with the release of several singles from their first and only album Little Girl released in 1966 on Bell Records. Although their tenure was very brief, Syndicate of Sound’s legacy on rock ‘n’ roll is tremendous. Known for their edgy sound, the band is considered one of the key links between garage rock and protopunk. The album flies out of the gate with the aggressive teenage anthem “Big Boss Man.” Loud, fast, obnoxious, rebellious and sarcastic––”Big Boss Man” is everything that protopunk would become. While coming out with roaring guitars is one thing, keeping them roaring is a whole different challenge: a challenge that Syndicate of Sound accepts head on. In addition to “Big Boss Man,” the band also edges closer to protopunk with songs like “Lookin’ for the Good Times” and a cover of The Sonics’ “The Witch.” While “Lookin’ for the Good Times” is more like a surf rock song on steroids, “The Witch” is pure punk sound with a touch of darkness. Besides being trumpeters for the protopunk sound, Syndicate of Sound is also still firmly rooted in mid-60s garage rock. This album is stacked with songs that are now considered garage rock classics, from “Almost Grown” to “Rumors” to the title track “Little Girl.” Every single one of these songs has that rhythm and edge that you can expect from a Syndicate of Sound song. “Little Girl” would become one of the most covered songs in the mid 60s and can be heard today in the one hit wonder section of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. And just when you think you’ve figured out the Syndicate of Sound, they display their dexterity with love songs such as “That Kind of a Man” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” These songs are successful because they avoid the cliché of 60s pop love song sound while also delivering emotions that are recognizable by many. Syndicate of Sound truly proves their versatility with the many styles of rock ‘n’ roll they’ve mastered. Although there are one or two songs that could use some more work, Little Girl is extremely rewarding as a whole. Ultimately the Syndicate of Sound was torn apart by the 60s––drugs and the draft––leaving listeners aching for what could have been. This album is a must for any fan of protopunk or garage rock. You will not be disappointed.  A-

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The Best of Louie, Louie

ImageThis blog entry is a little different from the others in that I’m not reviewing a band but rather a song. The Best of Louie, Louie is a compilation album released on Rhino Records in 1983 containing various renditions of the classic garage rock song, “Louie, Louie.” I’m not usually a fan of compilations, best ofs, etc. but I thought that this one might be kind of fun. In fact, it is. The album explores various styles and variations of the classic song over a 30-year period from Richard Berry’s original in 1955 to 80s covers by bands like Black Flag and The Last. Of course, The Kingsmen’s 1963 version which would go on to make the song a super hit is included. There are five versions of the song that seem to naturally progress: Richard Berry to Rockin’ Robin Roberts to The Kingsmen to The Sonics to Black Flag. Richard Berry’s original version is more of a doo-wop song, reliant on soothing vocals and an easy Caribbean beat. Rockin’ Robin Roberts’s version adds that beautiful electric guitar solo and brings the doo-wop beat toward a Chuck Berry classic rock ‘n’ roll sound. Then the infamous Kingsmen cover distorts the lyrical sound, propelling the song into a whirlwind of controversy and success, ultimately cementing its status as a super hit. The Sonics’ version strips down the sound and gives it a protopunk feel. This version also strengthens the vocals by making them harsher and louder. Finally, Black Flag’s version is a full throttle hardcore punk variation. Black Flag’s version speeds up and strips down the sound even further. It also includes improvised and darker lyrics. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite of these five. They are all spectacular though for different reasons. In addition to these five mainstream editions, the album also contains a number of vastly different variations. For example, Rice University Marching Owl Band covers the song in an ensemble fashion. I enjoy this version a lot because of the zealous horn section. I don’t really care for other versions like The Sandpipers’ quiet, 60s easy listening style. The Last and Les Dantz and His Orchestra perform covers that are quintessentially 80s. The Last has a power rock/gothic rock sound reminiscent of The Cure. Les Dantz and His Orchestra uses way too much synthesizer for me. The album is wrapped up with an a cappella song called The Hallelouie Chorus by The Impossibles. It’s a little bizarre to me; I could definitely do without it. Overall, I like this album. I like the concept of dedicating an album to such a classic song. I can even appreciate that the album includes experimental variations of the song. I just wish they’d be experimental in a way I find pleasing. If you want something different and can find it pretty cheap, then I’d recommend picking it up.  B