The Moving Sidewalks

The Complete Moving Sidewalks

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The short-lived Houston, Texas late-'60s psych band Moving Sidewalks are generally best known as one of the first bands of Billy Gibbons, who went on to fame in biker-blues arena rockers ZZ Top. In their day, Moving Sidewalks recorded their sole LP, Flash, as well as a few singles of psychedelic blues-rock, before evaporating into garage rock history and seeing Gibbons off to radically different prospects. The Complete Moving Sidewalks collects all known studio work by the band as well as demos and unreleased tracks from the Coachmen, the Gibbons-fronted predecessor that came just before Moving Sidewalks. As an album, Flash is very much a product of its time. Gibbons' vocals, guitar playing, and songwriting are all under a heavy Hendrix influence, borrowing the stoned blues side of Jimi's nonchalant playing and electric hippie persona. This is punctuated further by audio snippets of Hendrix giving a shout-out to the band for opening for him, included as an unlisted track at the close of the collection. The parts of Flash that aren't steeped in Hendrix-isms are dated by goofy early psychedelic production, complete with backwards whispering, unwieldy stereo panning, and the obligatory "Revolution 9"-style sound collage in the form of two album-closing tracks, "Eclipse" and "Reclipse." That's not to say it's without merit. "Flashback" crackles with off-kilter energy and blown-out, hurried recording benefits the garage-fuzz of "Crimson Witch" as well as other standout tracks. The real gold on this collection comes with the non-album tracks and unreleased demos of its second volume. Kicking off with Nuggets-style garage classic "99th Floor," there's a more inexperienced energy with the singles than the sometimes self-indulgent wandering of the album. Organ psych-rocker "Need Me" is a ferocious romp somewhere between the Troggs and the 13th Floor Elevators, while different versions of "Every Night a New Surprise" and the band's incredibly trippy take on the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" reveal radically different sides of the band. The Coachmen tracks only run through several different recordings of both "Stay Away" and "99th Floor," offering the rawest and most caveman sonics on the entire set. Working backward from the half-baked psychedelia of the album to the singles and then the rudimentary 1966 demos, this collection shows a young Gibbons as an excitable player in rapidly changing times more than it offers any hints at the future that awaited him. The late-'60s Texas psych scene was a vibrant and largely underground collection of players, and Gibbons' work with Moving Sidewalks had more to do with the multicolored exploration of that place and time than the Top 40 blues-rock that he went on to make. As such, this collection will be essential for garage enthusiasts, but not so much for most ZZ Top fans.

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