Flamin' Groovies

Grease: The Complete Skydog Singles Collection

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The Flamin' Groovies' Grease: The Complete Skydog Singles Collection does not disappoint, despite what some hardcore Groovies' fans think. Indeed, this is one phenomenal compilation, opening with the contents of the stunted-yet-glorious Gold Star Tapes EP in all of its unpretentious magnificence -- Phil Spector songs cut by a crunchy proto-punk (or is it trans-punk?) outfit with a mix of raw energy and beguiling flourishes that make the Ramones' efforts in this direction seem slight; "Do I Love You" and "River Deep Mountain High" cut any other band version to shame, even the Easybeats' rendition of the latter. And that's followed by the late '70s Skydog versions of "Sweet Little Rock & Roller" and "Slow Death" in all of their slashing glory, sounding like the mid-'60s Rolling Stones on a really good night; Stones connections abound on this collection, even in the underscoring, and on "Let Me Rock" with its use of the bass figure from "Street Fighting Man." And speaking of Mick Jagger and company, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" from 1973 is a reminder that even at that relatively early date, the Groovies were putting more energy and heart into the Stones' repertory than the Stones themselves were. The Groovies' execution of "Blues for Phyllis" is a little crude compared to their usual sound, but they make up for it with a lot of energy and some powerful guitar work that steals the spotlight from the vocals. Their version of "I Can't Explain" threatens to turn into the Kinks' "Till the End of the Day" before it gets out of the starting gate, but it gets where it's going pretty directly, and maybe even a little too quickly. "Little Queenie" catches the band reaching back past the Stones to the Chuck Berry original for a raw and raunchy version that somehow even captures the authentic Chess Records sound. The rest is made up of choice outtakes, of Gene Clark and Jagger/Richards material, and it closes with the Groovies' own enduring anthem, "Shake Some Action." The sound glitters and the notes, if sketchy, are informative as far as they go.

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