Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes

Survival of the Fittest: Live

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After three albums on Mainstream Records and a Top 20 smash with "Journey to the Center of the Mind," Ted Nugent brought his new aggregation to Polydor(the late Lillian Roxon claimed there were 35 personnel changes prior to their first and only hit). This second album on that label (and before they would jump to Warner and eventually Epic), was recorded live at The Eastowne Theater in Detroit, MI, July 31 and August 1, 1970. A prime candidate for re-release with bonus tracks, the full hit is not here; the single disc contains six tracks, including the 21-minute-and-20-second epic "Prodigal Man," written by Nugent and sung by keyboardist Andy Solomon. Solomon handles the majority of the vocals on this album, with drummer K.J. Knight vocalizing on the bluesy "Mr.Jones Hanging Party" and songwriter/guitarist/focal point Nugent doing the chores on "Papa's Will." Solomon provides nice sax on "Mr. Jones' Hanging Party," showing the considerable talent he brought to the table. What's this live disc like? The riff to "Journey to the Center of the Mind" opens the album inside the instrumental collaboration written by the group, "Survival of the Fittest," and it is a big tease. Unlike the bad mutations of the Electric Prunes, H.P. Lovecraft, and the most blatant example, the Velvet Underground's pseudo-record, Squeeze, this is the leader of an original group as he goes through musical changes. "Rattle My Snake" is certainly more in the Pat Travers vein than the psychedelic intrigue of the original (on record anyway) Amboy Dukes, and though this recording is live and has that live excitement, it feels more like a new album, with none of the tracks appearing on previous discs. "Papa's Will" is Ted Nugent stretching out a riff that -- if it were brought up in the mix -- could inspire Black Sabbath. The collage of the four members on back is as bizarre as another Michigan product, Survival by Grand Funk Railroad. This album has that primal feel, though it is Ted Nugent with bows and arrows, in Native American garb, who is the solitary figure on the front cover. "Slidin' On" is a weak opening to side two, and the lengthy "Prodigal Man" contains obligatory drum solo and bass musings, but fails to kick in à la "In a Gadda da Vida" or Rare Earth's "Get Ready," which spread across entire sides of their respective discs. OK, so it is Ted Nugent doing Ten Years After without the flash of Alvin Lee, but "Prodigal Son" is one long jam with no climax, when you know 20 minutes of riffing on "Journey to the Center of the Mind" is really what the record-buying public wanted. Years later someone needs to tell these Amboy Dukes why Procul Harum had to put "A Whiter Shade of Pale" back in the set. Steve Farmer is long gone from here, and only Andy Solomon and Ted Nugent remain from the band who had the hit two years before this concert was recorded. This is really Ted Nugent moving away from the group concept and gearing up for his heavy metal fame in the '70s and '80s. It is mildly interesting.

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