The Squirrels

Harsh Toke of Reality

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The Seattle grunge explosion had already detonated by the time Harsh Toke surfaced, but Morgan was having none of it. If he was, he was doing so in his own specific way, thus the inclusion of the intentionally over the top and utterly gone Satan/hard rock/Alice Cooper tribute "Bone of Contention." Pearl Jam only wishes they could rock so hard. Once again Morgan and more friends, collaborators, and one-off performers than can easily be counted take a bow on a new set of songs and, of course, covers that could only be imagined in an alternate universe. There's "Happy Guy" from keyboardist Mark Nichols, with ukulele, horns, a goofy swing, and Morgan singing in one weird wiggy register. Joey Kline throws in a wide range of numbers himself, from the manic "Betsy" to "Pirouette Spot," as well as being the "voice" of Baby Cheevers, the sickly sweet Cabbage Patch Kid that is the band's mascot. On the cover front? Among many other delights, Paul McCartney's "Coming Up" gets what's coming for it with a little "Staying Alive" to boot, while there's also a version of "Let It Be" that sounds like a Western swing record from 1955 gone either wrong or right, depending on one's viewpoint. The usual cast of regular Morgan assistants in insanity are present -- guitarists Kline and Jimmy "JT" Thomas, the former contributing his usual share of very wrong songs, and bassist Craig Ferguson -- plus a new core member, drummer Hollis the Bug, able to shift tempos on a dime. When it comes to guest work, the Bay Area looms large -- Roy Loney of Flamin' Groovies fame steps in on vocals more than once, and quite well at that. Meanwhile, Morgan's longtime Tubes fandom pays off in two ways. Re Styles duets with him on Kline's gloriously sappy and silly "Got to Be a Reason" ("...for all that sneezin'"), while Prairie Prince created the gone album art, an example of bad acid, heavy metal, and prog combining in ways that really shouldn't. Again, as always, a glorious Squirrels triumph.

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