Elephant's Memory

Angels Forever

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The Elephant's Memory's Angels Forever has the five men looking more like saints than angels on the cover. Stan Bronstein's vocals on "Running Man" are as lightweight as the song. The late Jimmy Miller tracked a killer version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" with this group in the '80s, a female vocalist over mesmerizing instrumentation. This music from a decade before represents a band with much potential still struggling for identity. After releases on Buddah and Metromedia in the late '60s and 1970, this is a different and revamped EM. Only Bronstein and drummer Rich Frank remain (he was listed as Reek Havoc on the Take It to the Streets release), and the changes in lineup were not as beneficial as those that would make a band like Blue Cheer so interesting. "Face the Day" and "Going to a Party" show little musical expertise and less songwriting intrigue, making for really tough stuff -- tough to listen to. "Rock & Roll Streaker" is the bastard-son sequel to Ray Stevens' "The Streak" from this very same year, and if one song did not need a sequel, "The Streak" was it. "La Sopa" is the most interesting thing on side one, a Spanish-flavored instrumental showing that this version of the group actually had chops not seen on the more frivolous previous tracks. Side two is much more interesting, a cover of the Otis Redding/Ray Charlesnugget "Tell the Truth" (by songwriter Lowman Pauling) sounds like it could be Delaney & Bonnie by way of Derek & the Dominoes -- and with the flavor of the Dominoes "Tell the Truth," though that Clapton composition is an entirely different tune. Bronstein and Frank's "First to See the Last of Me" is reggae-pop, and here the band as an anachronism works and works well. They go back to their '60s sound and all is not lost. The title track is a failed experiment but everything else on side two really works, keyboard player Chris Robison's "Tonite" the best original on the disc. With the right production it could have been a big '70s hit, a surprising diamond in the rough that demands repeated spins. The fabulous Thunderthighs (who backed Lou Reed, Genya Ravan, and many others) shows up, adding something special to the mix. Boy, if there were a few "Tonite"-type songs on this, Angels Forever would almost get the fame of the group's recordings with John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and David Peel. "Hoochie Coochie Rockin Information Man" ends the album and sounds a lot better than the title may indicate. Angels Forever is a real Jekyll & Hyde project, but has enough good stuff to make it a keeper.

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