The Bonniwell Music Machine

The Bonniwell Music Machine [Big Beat]

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The Music Machine were one of the more fascinating one-hit wonders to emerge from the garage rock movement of the '60s. Led by singer and songwriter Sean Bonniwell, the Music Machine only scored one major chart success, 1966's "Talk Talk," but Bonniwell was a prolific songwriter whose tunes tackled the social and philosophical issues of the day in a style that was at once thoughtful and broadly theatrical, accompanied by sneering garage rock dominated by savage fuzztone guitars. By all accounts, Bonniwell led the Music Machine with an iron fist, and the group's original lineup crumbled before they could record a second album, but Bonniwell landed a new record deal with Warner Bros. and assembled a new version of the group that he dubbed the Bonniwell Music Machine. The Bonniwell Music Machine's sole eponymous album was a more musically ambitious set than the Music Machine's LP for Original Sound, with horns, woodwinds, acoustic guitars, and esoteric keyboards dotting several cuts, while allowing Bonniwell plenty of room to explore his individual world-view. Big Beat's The Bonniwell Music Machine is a comprehensive anthology that includes Bonniwell's complete Warner Bros. recordings -- all 14 tracks from the BMM album as well as 11 single sides and alternate mixes -- along with a bonus disc featuring demos and rarities from Bonniwell, the Music Machine, and Bonniwell's early group the Ragamuffins. While the Bonniwell Music Machine's LP has an uneven reputation among fans, there are plenty of tracks that anyone who dug "Talk Talk" would be likely to latch on to, including "Double Yellow Line" and "The Eagle Never Hunts the Fly," while "Soul Love" is a proto-hard rock number that suggests these guys could have hopped on a tour bus with Blue Cheer and done just fine. Despite conventional wisdom regarding Bonniwell's Warner Bros. period, this material sounds very much like the Music Machine's best-known work, just with an extra coat of varnish; the real surprises are on disc two, where the acoustic demos and home-recorded tracks allow Bonniwell to show off his inner folkie (and his songs fit the unplugged format better than you'd imagine), the Ragamuffins deliver some spirited uptempo folk-rock that boasts attitude and charm, and tracks like "Dark White" and "She Is" show Bonniwell could have pulled off a more subtle approach if he'd been given the time and resources. While this is best recommended to obsessives (and who else is likely to buy a two-disc reissue of an album that was a resounding flop?), Big Beat's edition of The Bonniwell Music Machine shows the guy was smarter and had a broader range than most would have you believe.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:35
2 2:09
3 2:53
4 2:14
5 3:03
6 2:33
7 3:38
8 2:00
9 1:52
10 2:46
11 2:49
12 2:08
13 2:36
14 2:13
15 1:51
16 2:21
17 2:11
18 1:52
19 2:04
20 2:32
21 2:06
22 2:06
23 2:07
24 2:18

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:23
2 1:57
3 1:58
4 2:14
5 3:03
6 1:41
7 2:40
8 1:52
9 1:50
10 2:19
11 2:55
12 2:29
13 2:06
14 4:34
15 3:04
16 3:21
17 2:22
18 2:11
19 2:37
20 2:57
21 2:16
22 3:16
23 4:15
24 2:29
blue highlight denotes track pick