Don "Sugarcane" Harris

Sugarcane

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AllMusic Review by

The best thing about this album is the front cover, which is about as out-and-out bizarre as the opening sequence of cult director Sam Fuller's classic film The Naked Kiss. The association with Frank Zappa made audiences expect something bizarre and shocking from electric violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris; this cover photograph and the underground comics by Rick Griffin on the back cover created a tie-in with the psychedelic culture and again promoted a sense of weirdness that is basically just not there in this collection of fairly standard rhythm & blues tracks produced and arranged by Los Angeles soul scene ubermensch Johnny Otis. He had a long connection with Harris, and they were sympathetic partners, so it is not like this is some sort of production mismatch. What it is really is material that was cooked up prior to or with no connection to the newly developing stage personality of Harris, meaning the electric violin is not emphasized all that much and musically the connection with Zappa is nothing more than the vital lifeline to the California roots blues scene. While this demands a great deal of respect, these tracks are the sort of performances Otis and his henchmen could whip up without breaking a sweat while someone else prepares their dinner. While any of the tracks would work fine on a jukebox in some dive, only a few, such as the marvelously greasy "Funk and Wagner," rise to the level demanded by the serious album listener. The material is all written by either Harris or Otis in various songwriting collaborations and combinations.

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