The Fireballs are one of those '50s/'60s bands that tend to slip under the radar. Best known for their hit "Sugar Shack" (which featured rhythm guitarist Jimmy Gilmer on vocals and was released under his name) and 1968 Top Ten hit "Bottle of Wine," the group actually has a strong and varied résumé, as this collection amply demonstrates. Their earliest incarnation was split between gently rumbling instrumentals like "Torquay," "Bulldog," and "Yacky Doo" and peppy vocal numbers like "Long Long Pony Tail," "I Don't Know," and "Sugar Shack." Recorded in Clovis, NM, with Norman Petty, the tracks have a very appealing light and clean sound that may lack the punch of the Ventures or other instro heavyweights but has enough melody and charm to win the day. The early vocal numbers that feature Chuck Tharp's vocals suffer in comparison to the Jimmy Gilmer-led tracks from the mid-'60s like the frothy "Daisy Petal Pickin'." Gilmer is by no means a great singer but he has an effervescent style and can rock out quite convincingly. The success of "Sugar Shack" (and the less than huge commercial prospects for an instrumental-based group) convinced the band to head in a vocal direction. In the mid-'60s they dabbled in various styles, from Kinksy pop ("Hungry, Hungry, Hungry") to raucous frat rock ("Say I Am [What I Am]," which was later covered by Tommy James & the Shondells) and chiming folk-rock ("Ain't That Rain" and "Come on Home," a lost should-have-been hit credited to George & Babs [guitarist George Tomsco and his wife Barbara]). By the time of "Bottle of Wine" they had branched into some interesting territory with country-psych tracks like "Good Morning Shame" and blue-eyed soul stompers ("Come on React") as well as showing they could still kick up a storm on covers of "Lucille" and "Long Green." This collection does an admirable job of rounding up the group's best moments and paints a complete picture of a fine rocking band that deserves to be more than a footnote in the history of rock.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
feat: George & Babs