Behind the Wheels

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Sitting contentedly tucked into its mountain strongholds, Switzerland is the least likely place to find rebellion, its polite and law-abiding citizenry rarely raring to play rock & roll. Until Toad came along, that is. Formed in 1969, the band signed to EMI, with its debut album, B.U.F.O., overseen by Deep Purple's engineer, Martin Birch. And the British hard rock connection didn't end there, as Rainbow's Tommy Eyre would also sit in on keyboards. But is this compilation really unadulterated Toad? One suspects not, although the sparse credits do all in their power to pump further smoke on its water. The first six tracks were recorded in L.A., presumably predating singer/guitarist Vittorio Vergeat's arrival in Switzerland. "Tonight" and "Music" were laid down in London, with Eyre, bassist John Giblin, and drummer Mel Gaynor, one assumes after Vergeat left for lower altitudes. A mere six numbers were thus recorded in Europe with the proper amphibious unit, which certainly explains the incredible diversity of this set's sound, ranging from kickass rock & roll to R&B-fired rave-ups, dreamy pop/rock, downbeat blues, and even glitter stompers and funky disco rompers. Perhaps a better title than Behind the Wheels would have been "Vergeat Does It All," for this compilation indeed showcases his incredible musical versatility. Entertaining, certainly, but not much for Toad fans to sink their teeth into.

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