Challengers

Challengers

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AllMusic Review by

Puerto Rico, too, had latched onto acid rock by the late '60s and Gear Fab resurrected a sample of the evidence with this straight CD reissue from sextet Challengers. At times the band's sole self-titled recording plays like bar band psychedelia, and if that sounds closer to a pejorative verdict than a recommendation, it was not the intention. In fact, quite the opposite -- it is meant mostly as a compliment. There are moments when the music comes off like Three Dog Night as led by Carlos Santana, with pleasant enough multi-part vocal leads sitting atop more engrossing Latin rhythms and instrumental flourishes, particularly some fine, imaginative fuzz guitar work and incendiary keyboards. The album opens with a pair of strong, if moderately nondescript band originals. "Emily" is securely in the garage camp and pasted with thick organ runs, while "Martha Does" showcases Challengers' ability at milking a mood-heavy jam. Then comes the truly fantastic hard rocker "You Can't Mess With Joe," the album's strongest song. Unfortunately, its version of "Blowin' in the Wind" is a rather toothless, desultory affair, an altogether dreary misstep that stops cold the momentum the band had created up to this point. It is a pattern that characterizes Challengers as a whole. Interesting (if not always accomplished) band originals are played with passion and conviction and often catch fire, but any indelible impact they might have created is fully extinguished by less-intriguing covers (though their spicy arrangement of the Lennon-McCartney composition "It's for You" has its moments). Still, the reissue is worth a listen, especially for those who like their psychedelia sprinkled with a few saucier ingredients.

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