Steppenwolf

Hour of the Wolf

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The second of four albums the reconstituted Steppenwolf cut for Epic, Hour of the Wolf has a very cool fog-enshrouded wolf howling on the cover, the band's name in blood red, and an interesting amalgam of contemporary sounds. Tom Scott's horns are featured on the Mars Bonfire tune "Caroline (Are You Ready for the Outlaw World)" and "Hard Rock Road," a composition byBonfire's brother, drummer Jerry Edmonton. Alan O'Day's "Annie, Annie Over" fits the Steppenwolf sound, though it comes from the unlikeliest of places -- O'Day was known more for Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby" than the sublime "Heavy Church" that Three Dog Night covered. "Heavy Church," with its heavy organ sound, would have been the track this group could have taken up the charts. A major oversight! The rhythm section of George Biondo and Jerry Edmonton come up with a dyed-in-the-wool authentic Steppenwolf number in "Two for the Love of One." The problem is that it's all been heard before, and the band is not progressing to where it should be on this 1975 release. With close to 20 minutes per side, it is a generous helping of John Kay music (recorded mostly at Kay's own facility), with guitarist Bobby Cochran teaming up with Edmonton on the semi-ballad "Just for Tonight." The material is all adequate, but where Kay was crafting an interesting direction on his Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes solo disc, abandoning those elements for the somewhat tried and true is this album's dilemma. When Kay does touch upon that venture slightly, as on the slide guitar and slick chorus vocals of "Another's Lifetime," it is most satisfying. Scott played saxophone on multiple Carole King albums around the time Hour of the Wolf was released, adding to her hit output; it's interesting that, two years after his recording on "Hard Rock Road" with Steppenwolf, King would go Top 30 with "Hard Rock Cafe" from her Simple Things album, which included Scott's saxophone. Had Steppenwolf paid attention to the charts and crafted 45s as the band had in the '60s, the four-album ride with Epic might have been more beneficial to the fans who loved those immortal 45s. "Mr. Penny Pincher," the last song on the album, seems to prove that just showing up is not enough in such a tough industry.

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