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Friday 21 June 2024

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We’re An American Band, A Journey Through The USA Hard Rock Scene 1967-1973, Various

Jun 28, 2023

This stonking collection captures the febrile period when America took back rock n roll from the British invasion and gave its youth the musical backdrop for adolescent frat parties nationwide. Britain had blazed the trail at the dawn of heavy rock via bands like the Kinks and The Who and assorted blues wailers, Black Sabbath also had arguably been the catalyst for Heavy Metal but the dawn of FM radio was a game changer. No longer stymied by the restrictions of 7” vinyl, local radio stations played music from the burgeoning new album format and suddenly a vast reservoir of talent from coast to coast had a platform and could break-out nationwide.

Time has not diminished these recordings. ‘Young, arrogant and crazy’ to quote MC5’s Wayne Kramer perfectly describes a nascent scene that was loud, raw and unquestionably exciting. Parents may have got the appeal of the Beatles and even the Stones but The Stooges? – not a chance! Clocking in at just over 4 hours this 3 CD set covers the bases you might expect with appearances from Mountain, Blue Oyster Cult et al but there is so much more here to enjoy. Many of the cuts featured barely caused a ripple of interest outside of their home towns back in the day, but this insightful compendium of long forgotten gems is a wonderful journey that will have you scratching your head at the injustice of their obscurity.

What strikes this listener is the intensity with which this music is performed. Pro-tools may have made it easier for today’s musicians to produce flawless productions but they somehow take away the unrestrained angst of the teenage condition. In the scheme of things of course the British influence is still writ large, but during the period covered here now given a large dollop of American excess and ear splitting volume.

Highlights include Conception’s sole single ‘Babylon’ released in 1969 – a fabulous heavy blues that is phased to within an inch of its life and dominated by guitarist Charlie Days’ insane soloing. Christopher, were well received on America’s west coast and regulars at the famous Gazzarri’s club on Sunset Strip in LA, their ‘Dark Road’ captures the zeitgeist of the times. A sole decidedly psych influenced album issued in 1970 and redolent of the Grateful Dead it sold just a 1000 copies. It’s spaced out vibe belied hidden torments however and bassist Doug Tull later hung himself in a prison cell in Austin. That cautionary tale is one of the many fascinating anecdotes crammed into the 48 page booklet that accompanies this superbly annotated release along with period pics and memorabilia.

But there’s a lot more here. Also included are tracks from some of the most valuable vinyl LPs on the planet (Bolder Damn, Brigade), ultra rare local singles (The Mass Confusion Rock Band, Wildwood), and vital music that went unreleased at the time (B. F. Trike, Cold Sun, etc).

A thoughtfully  compiled set. Licencing restrictions have no doubt been responsible for certain omissions (there’s no Amboy Dukes or Jo Jo Gunne for instance) nevertheless it’s the last word about a genre that became a dominant force in US music.

Lyndon Noon

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