Stay with We: The Best of NRBQ

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The first incarnation of the New Rhythm & Blues Quintet recorded a pair of highly original and underrated albums during their all too brief stint with Columbia Records in 1968-1969. These include a self-titled release as well as Boppin' the Blues, which was a collaborative effort with rockabilly legend Carl Perkins. Highlights from those recordings, as well as a few previously unissued nuggets, make their CD debut on this single-disc anthology. Although primarily known as a four-piece band, NRBQ actually began as a quintet playing a formidable blend of roots rock and obscure jazz covers, as well as an abundance of highly inventive originals. This musical cornucopia has remained at the heart of the "the 'Q" for well over three decades. Face it, this is a band that covered a song by the Chipmunks. NRBQ's first two albums reflected a sonically rich and multi-textured palette by establishing the bandmembers as top-shelf interpreters of early rock favorites, such as their pungent and otherwise rousing version of Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody" and a funky loose rendition of Bruce Channel's 1962 chart-topper, "Hey! Baby." The influence of space jazz master Sun Ra -- especially on Terry Adams(keyboard/vocals/harmonica) -- became a running motif in their live performances, although "Rocket Number Nine" was one of the few Ra numbers they ever recorded. The original material -- mostly from the pen(s) of Adams and/or Steve Ferguson (guitar/vocal) -- is in many ways more vibrant and well executed, with an additional urgency seemingly absent from NRBQ's cover songs. These range from quirky rock & roll rave-ups such as "I Say Gooday Goodnite," "Kentucky Slop Song," and the surreal Three Stooges paean "Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard" to the serene and remarkably sensitive "Fergie's Prayer" and "I Didn't Know Myself." Two of the best tracks on this compilation are the previously unreleased original instrumentals "Dogwood Winter" and "Tragic Magic" -- the latter of which would turn up on NRBQ's third long-player, Scraps, after the band was unceremoniously dumped by Columbia.

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