Larry's Rebels had one of the goofier names in the history of rock & roll -- it invites the question, who is this Larry and why does he have his own set of rebels? -- but nobody laughs at their moniker in New Zealand, where for five years they were one of the nation's biggest and best beat groups. Larry's Rebels were sometimes compared to the Animals in their homeland (they released a solid cover of "Inside Looking Out"), and while they lacked the fierce blues power of the British band, they shared their talent for taking well-known songs and giving them a distinctive spin of their own. Singer Larry Morris had a strong, versatile voice that worked with sunny pop numbers and harder blues-based material, and guitarist John Williams (no relation to the classical guitarist or the film composer) could play tough, howling leads dipped in fuzz and feedback; this was a band that could cover the Who and the Creation and, if not surpassing the originals, deliver versions that had a backbone and a personality of their own. (And "Flying Scotsman," an obvious lift from "Train Kept A Rollin'," burns nearly as bright as the Yardbirds' variation on the theme.) Larry's Rebels were stars in New Zealand and fared well in Australia, but they failed to break through in the U.K. and were unknown in the United States, and for many fans of '60s rock, I Feel Good: The Essential Purple Flashes of Larry's Rebels 1965-1969 will be their first exposure to the band. And these 24 tunes (with a vintage Coca-Cola commercial tacked on as a bonus) confirm that plenty of folks were missing out on a worthwhile band that could tackle moody pop ("This Empty Place"), sneering R&B ("Whatcha Gonna Do 'Bout It"), raunchy garage punk ("Coloured Flowers") and proto-psychedelia ("Halloween") with equal confidence and skill. Featuring a well-written history of the band by Grant Gillanders and lots of rare photos and clippings, I Feel Good: The Essential Purple Flashes of Larry's Rebels 1965-1969 is a definitive single-disc overview of the band's brief but remarkable career, and anyone with a taste for U.K. R&B or freakbeat of the era will enjoy this sampler of the rock & roll kings of the Antipodes.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming