Neal Ford & The Fanatics

Good Men

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Texas was a bastion of garage rock and psychedelia in the '60s, known in particular for the ravings of Austin's 13th Floor Elevators, but over to the east lay Houston's Neal Ford & the Fanatics, a sextet that harnessed the softer sound of their chosen genre. At times, the Fanatics seem as if they were poised to run away with the ragged variation of the kind of sunshine pop that came beaming out of the West Coast, so comfortable were they with effervescent melodies and lighter textures. But they could still rock, as Ace's terrific 2013 anthology Good Men illustrates. Running a generous 26 tracks, this Alec Palao-produced compilation doesn't have everything from their 1967 LP, but rather sharply culls from that LP, adds several rare singles dating back to 1965, and dredges up unreleased material and other rarities, all in the effort to tell the entire story of Ford & the Fanatics. There are times where the group really does get hard and heavy -- usually, it's earlier, when they barrel through the title track and strike a sneering, defiant stance on "I Will Not Be Lonely," but they also pour it all out on an unheard medley of Little Richard's "Lucille" and the Beatles' "I'm Down" -- but the group is largely interesting because they're more varied than most of their garage rock peers, particularly those who called Texas their home. Ford & the Fanatics had a facility with melody, an eagerness to get trippy without ever losing sight of home base, and would occasionally thump with a clear knowledge of R&B; their facility with grooves is rarely heard in garage. As Palao's notes make clear, the group's ability to sound commercial wound up being a bit of an Achilles heel, as it brought them to the attention of labels that were willing to exploit the softer elements in hopes of a hit, but this compilation shows them at their best. If their originals weren't quite hooky enough to guarantee hearing outside of Houston -- they were sturdy songs that perhaps given the right break would've been hits -- the versatility means they're one of the more intriguing unheard bands of their time, finally given their proper respect on this wildly entertaining Ace collection.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:58
2 2:46
3 2:21
4 2:43
5 2:50
6 2:28
7 2:10
8 2:36
9 2:03
11 1:52
13 2:23
14 2:21
15 2:41
16 2:37
17 3:26
18 2:45
19 2:14
20 2:19
21 3:12
22 2:37
23 2:23
24 2:50
25 2:49
26 3:06
blue highlight denotes track pick