When Louisville cult legends Soul, Inc. broke up, former members Jim Settle, Marvin Maxwell, and Frank Bugbee went in a radically different direction with their next band, Elysian Field. The change in musical course is evident right from this collection's first track, "Mother Hate," which is lean, taut hard rock that manages to be heavy without seeming ponderous. "I Hate You" features a mind-numbing exorcism of a guitar solo that could have given Jimi Hendrix a run for his money, as well as bad-attitude lyrics that nicely summed up the psychological territory being mined by this best-known version of the band. The collection is top-heavy with Elysian Field's mid-period explorations into the heavier end of intense rock, which is perhaps misleading, given the mainstream-worthy pop of some of its initial efforts. Nevertheless, it was that more intense attitude and music that the band members wanted to be known for, and it is easy to see why, considering the driving quality of the songs -- from the joyous straight rock of "Reservation," which melodically predicts Blue Oyster Cult, to "I Think I Can't Live Without You," a song very reminiscent of Steppenwolf, to snarling, more vitriolic tunes. Still, the band has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the early, polished pop singles required of them by their record company. Many of these songs are perfectly lovely ballads that veer close to Classics IV/Johnny Rivers territory, often backed by brass and strings, with touches of sophisticated Motown soul. There is little evidence that the band felt constrained by pop song structures: the songs, highlighted by the Classics IV soundalike "Stormy," are full of pretty harmonies and haunting melodies ("Alone on Your Roof"). The final recordings that fill out this CD reissue were put on tape after the band had already separated; they are frequently scintillating early-'70s hard rock that perhaps only lacked a distinguishing, intangible characteristic, because in every other way, they are as good as, or superior to, much of the mainstream rock of the time. The music has dated to a certain degree, but the skill level and songwriting abilities exhibited by the band have not. More than simply a sidelight to the legacy of Soul, Inc., Elysian Field was a powerful entity in its own right, and since this collection contains all of the band's recordings, it is their definitive document.
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AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart