Flamin’ Groovies: Fantastic Plastic

The Flamin’ Groovies rise again

San Francisco’s Flamin’ Groovies broke into the underground with a string of critically revered records – Sneakers, Supersnazz, Flamingo and Teenage Head – whose lack of commercial success drove the band to musical itinerancy. By 1971, founder Roy Loney had left the band, and his co-founder, Cyril Jordan joined with Chris Wilson to shift the band from retro- and blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll towards British-invasion styled pop. They resurfaced in the UK five years later, releasing the iconic “Shake Some Action” and three albums full of solid originals and covers of the Beatles, Byrds and others.

But much like the band’s original lineup, the revised and revitalized Groovies garnered critical accolades, but didn’t break through commercially. Chris Wilson left the band in 1980, and though various configurations and editions of the group have reunited and toured off and on, it’s been nearly forty years since Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson have collaborated on new material. For this reunion, they recorded with original Groovies bassist George Alexander and latter-day drummer Victor Penalosa over the course of three years, laying down ten originals and covers of the Beau Brummels and NRBQ.

The band charges out of the gate with the Stones-ish “What the Hell’s Goin’ On,” reaching back to the band’s bluesier roots (though oddly crossed with the central riff of John Mellancamp’s “Hurts So Good”) and playing to Jordan and Wilson’s guitar chemistry. There are numerous moments that rekindle memories of the band’s jangly 1970s Sire albums, including the harmonies of “She Loves Me,” the hopeful “Lonely Hearts,” the Shadows-styled instrumental “I’d Rather Spend My Time with You” and a cover of NRBQ’s “I Want You Bad.” The chime reaches its apex with the Byrdsian closer “Cryin’ Shame.”

There are dabs of psychedelia on “End of the World” and the jammy coda to their cover of “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” There’s also a defiant anthem, “Let Me Rock,” that would have sounded at home at the Grande. Jordan and Wilson lean to the group’s British rebirth, but give their due to the band’s full range of blues, R&B, rock, rockabilly and pop roots. Jordan’s original cover art pays tribute to Jack Davis’ cover for Monster Rally and RCA’s Living Stereo logo, and the CD is screened with an homage to the Laurie Records label. The retro touches are nice, especially for an album that’s a great deal more vital rock ‘n’ roll than nostalgic rehash. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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