The Royal Guardsmen

Snoopy vs. the Red Baron

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This is one weird and great rocking album -- as solid as any long-player released by the Kingsmen, the Five Americans, or any other top garage band of the period. It opens with the all-too-ubiquitous title tune, a number two hit and a million-seller, and the latter is interspersed with goofy rock novelty numbers such as "Peanut Butter" and "Alley Oop," and the dance-rock standard "The Jolly Green Giant." But interspersed between them are surprisingly good renditions of oddities such as the Burt Bacharach/Hal David "Liberty Valance" (from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and Jimmie Driftwood's "The Battle of New Orleans." The latter sort of works in context with the title track, though it's a better song and the band treats it that way, and "Liberty Valance" is done with such sincerity that it could pass for a Ricky Nelson record of the era. And then come their crunchy covers of Bo Diddley's self-titled anthem and "Road Runner." And they work in one original, "Sweetmeats Slide," which is more of a goofy pop-novelty tune than anything else here, and really a throwaway -- it fits in less well with the rest of this album than anything else here, and is the capper for the sheer strangeness on this record. But when they're on target, which is most of the time, this band does well by the songs they've been handed and the opportunity they've been given -- this is no lost classic and no undiscovered garage band treasure, just a fun, rocking 30-minute diversion that's still worth a listen 40-some years later.

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