In the years after their initial retirement, the Rubinoos have been generous with their vault recordings. The Basement Tapes (and the expanded Basement Tapes Plus) offered up demos from a third album that never came to be. Garage Sale, Hodge Podge and One, Two, Thatâ€™s It provided demos, unreleased session tracks, alternate takes and compilation contributions. The UK box set Everything You Always Wanted To Know About The Rubinoos But Were Afraid To Ask included more rarities, including a 1978 live date in London that was later released separately as Live at the Hammersmith Odeon. So itâ€™s quite the surprise to discover there were still more riches to be had, and they were very early, very good, and very unusual.
These November 1976 tracks were recorded during the sessions for the bandâ€™s 1977 debut album, and served as a studio soundcheck for engineer Glen Kolotkin. With tape rolling, the band ran through eleven songs, live and without second takes or overdubs. The on-the-fly mixes arenâ€™t perfect (though quite good!), but the sound quality is excellent, and the spontaneity, energy and attitude they capture show off a more raw and edgy (and at times wonderfully adolescent) side of the band than did the debut LP.
The song list includes early Rubinoos originals and covers drawn from the bandâ€™s varied influences. Jon Rubinâ€™s voice is sweet and the signature group harmonies are tight, but thereâ€™s a level of aggression thatâ€™s more reflective of the bandâ€™s live set than their studio recordings. Hearing the group rage through the Psycotic Pineappleâ€™s â€œI Want Her So Badâ€ (written by the Rubinoosâ€™ Tommy Dunbar) shows off the bandsâ€™ shared roots, and the inclusion of the national anthem of bubblegum music, â€œSugar, Sugar,â€ as well as a mash-up of â€œPepsi Generationâ€ with King Curtisâ€™ â€œMemphis Soul Stewâ€ displays the sort of provocative choices with which they bewildered live audiences.
The band covered the Beatlesâ€™ â€œShe Loves Youâ€ and â€œI Want to Hold Your Handâ€ with talent and joy, and added to their catalog of DeFranco Family covers (which began with their first Beserkley single, â€œGorillaâ€) with a raunchy take on â€œHeartbeat, Itâ€™s a Lovebeat.â€ Rubinâ€™s soaring vocal on the bubblegum-soul â€œNooshna Kavoltaâ€ is nearly overrun by the charging guitar, bass and drums, and the Venturesâ€™â€œWalk Donâ€™t Runâ€ provided a young Tommy Dunbar the opportunity to show off his formidable guitar-playing chops. Closing the album is a cover of Jonathan Richmanâ€™s â€œGovernment Center,â€ complementing the earlier Beserkley Charbusters version on which the Rubinoos backed Richman.
This is a terrific, exuberant artifact of the bandâ€™s early years. It shows off the wide range of influences – pop, rock â€˜nâ€™ roll, funky soul, garage punk, bubblegum – that fueled their musical imaginations, and the talent theyâ€™d developed as a live unit. Standing in front of the studio mics, they effortlessly roll out a solid, impromptu eleven song set thatâ€™s been in the vaults for way too long. Rubes fans will truly enjoy what is essentially a well-recorded (if not perfectly mixed) in-studio live set of the band at the start of their recording career. Resurrected from a surviving stereo cassette mix with mastering by John Cuniberti, the bandâ€™s humor, self-assuredness, and instrumental and vocal talent shine through on every track. [Â©2021 Hyperbolium]