John in the Box

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This Italian box set assembled by the Akarma label offers the most comprehensive career anthology of eclectic Texan Southern rock band Nitzinger, rounding up all three of their oft-out-of-print studio albums, and then tacking on 12 bonus cuts for good measure. A versatile and prolific vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, John Nitzinger gained valuable experience working as a backing musician both in the studio and on-stage, as well as by writing songs for fellow Lone Star hard rockers Bloodrock, before deciding to found his own self-named power trio in 1971. Bassist Curly Benton and drummer Linda Waring were the chosen recruits (along with sometime silent partner, Bugs Henderson, on second guitar), and the classic eponymous Nitzinger LP -- perhaps best remembered for the minor hit single "Louisiana Cock Fight" -- was released by the end of 1971. Much more than a straightforward Southern rock album, though, both this debut and its 1973 follow-up, One Foot in History (featuring career highlight "Earth Eater") boasted a musical gumbo including teaspoons of blues, soul, pop, psych, and even country-rock. But the band crumbled soon after One Foot in History's release, when their leader became involved in a few too many parallel projects, so that by the time a third Nitzinger album, Live Better Electrically, emerged in 1976, only John remained from the original lineup, and his wilder experiments with pop and even disco went a little too far for most fans. John Nitzinger would spend the next 20 years working as a sideman (with Carl Palmer, Alice Cooper, and others) but his legacy remains entrenched in these three LPs, which for this package were presented as miniaturized reproductions of the original gatefold album covers, and enhanced with the aforementioned bonus cuts. Most interesting among these are four outtakes from the first and second album, including the slow groover "King's X" (later the name of another, very well known Texan hard rock band), and a live romp through "Jelly Roll," from the Mar y Sol festival compilation album. The remaining eight cuts on hand date from 1999, and mix brand new and re-recorded classics. Of the "newbies," solid hard rockers like "Fingers in the Fan" offset less inspired fare like the "You kids get off my lawn!" rant of "Rap Is Crap"; and even though the remakes obviously can't replicate the same collectable excitement of the '70s originals material, at least they show that John Nitzinger's six-string talents still endure, along with his maverick spirit.

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