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Kurt
Sampsel
Reviews: December,
2001


Scroll down for reviews of reissues by The Head Shop and Spanky and Our Gang

Mod And The Rockers
…Now


(Justice 1967/Collectables 1996)

Based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Justice Records was one of the most prolific and interesting self-owned record labels of the 1960s. Justice offered aspiring artists package deals consisting of recording sessions and limited edition pressings of 12" LPs for a stock price of around $1,000. Needless to say, this prospect attracted many young garage rock bands, including a group of high school hopefuls who called themselves Mod And The Rockers. The album they made, entitled …Now, is an expectedly crude but enduring sample of teen garage rock. The album consists almost entirely of Top-40 covers, including “Love is a Beautiful Thing”, “Goin’ Out Of My Head”, and the Beau Brummels’ “Just a Little”.

They even do Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual”…and it’s not half bad, thanks to the garage rock energy infused into it. Their version of “Gloria” is an extremely raw take driven by trebly, clangy guitar chords and punky vocals. This is much the style of the entire album. The only two original tunes on the album, “Gonna Love You Every Day” and “Always By My Side” indicate an impressive songwriting talent. “Gonna Love You Every Day” is a frantic garage-punker with fine fuzz guitar, strong vocals, and great male-aggressive lyrics. This tune is decidedly the best on the album. In light of the quality of the group’s original songs, it’s rather a shame that they chose to record predominantly covers instead for their album.

Still, it’s a solid garage record, full of the kind of raw charm which appeals so to garage-rock fans. Reissued on CD by Collectables Records alongside many other Justice label albums, …Now is a fine example of how teen groups interpreted 60s pop with a verve and enthusiasm all their own.

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The Head Shop
S/T


(Epic 1969/Synton 1998)

Along with many other one-off major label psych albums such as Gandalf (Capitol Records) and Savage Resurrection (Mercury Records), the sole album by the Head Shop has become a major collector’s item in recent years. As with Gandalf and Savage Resurrection, the attention given to the Head Shop’s album is fully justified by the excellent psychedelic rock music contained therein. The album’s opening cut, “Head Shop”, begins with heavily distorted guitar and an insane scream. This is an appropriate introduction to a heavy, heady barrage of psychedelia. The group’s style is heavy rock, but it is driven by mind-melting fuzztone guitar rather than the more smoothly distorted guitar sound generally featured in heavy rock of the era (see Blue Cheer and Frijid Pink).

Thus, the Head Shop have created a demented fusion of ’69 era heavy psych and ’66 era garage punk. This makes for some very interesting original songs and cover tunes. The group’s version of “Sunny” is, appropriately enough, totally dark and creepy, driven by funeral-style organ work. Likewise, if you thought the Beatles original version of “Revolution” was heavy, wait till you hear the over-the-top fuzztone version by the Head Shop. The originals are perhaps even more interesting, including the aforementioned “Head Shop”, “Heaven Here We Come”, and the killer “Infinity”. Another of their songs, “Opera in the Year 4000” is a bizarre medly of an uncharacteristically “straight” original tune “Where Have All the People Gone” melded with another Beatles song, “Yesterday.” All in all, this is a most excellent and unusual album of heavy psychedelic rock.

Now that the LP has been reissued on CD by Synton Records, this fine album is finally much more widely available than the extremely scarce original 1969 issue. This is definitely a recommended release for psych fans.

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Spanky & Our Gang
Like To Get To Know You


(Mercury 1968/Vivid 1999)

One of the most tragically underrated pop groups of the 60s, Spanky & Our Gang recorded some of the most enduring music of the era. This, their second album, marks the entrance of genius producer Bob Dorough, whose influence is obvious throughout. Their eponymous debut album, while undeniably enjoyable, lacks the polish and…impressiveness…of their second and third albums. In addition to extremely artful production, S & O.G. possessed a lot of talent…and it shows.

Helped out by studio staples like Hal Blaine and Mike Deasy, the group maintained a polished and full sound unparalleled at the time. Like To Get To Know You features the title song as well as “Sunday Morning”, both of which were sizeable hits for the group in 1968. In addition to these, the album is full of memorable and arguably beautiful pop songs like “Suzanne”, “Chick-A-Ding-Ding”, and “Everybody’s Talkin’”, which was soon to become a hit for Harry Nilsson. This album is an absolute gem, sparkling with all the charm that could possibly be held within thirty-three minutes of music. In light of the recent popularity of soft rock/pop groups like the Association, Millennium, and Free Design, it’s rather surprising that Spanky & Our Gang remain relatively ignored by retroactive music fans.

This could be perhaps because there are no domestic CD reissues of Spanky’s original albums, so fans have to fork out around $30.00 apiece for Japanese CDs. Still, Spanky And Our Gang’s fantastic music is well worth rather exorbitant import CD prices. If you’re a fan of 60s pop, you need to develop an appreciation for this fine and talented group.

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