The Sonics

Maintaining My Cool

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Fifteen sides cut by the Sonics, two at their very first recording session for Etiquette Records circa late 1964, and 13 from the last session by the original lineup two years later. Originally mastered in binaural stereo, they've all been remixed here into glorious, raw mono, with the texture (and finesse) of a buzz saw. Opening with their debut Jerden single "The Witch" (which managed to chart locally in Orlando, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco without once rating a mention on the national charts), this collection crunches and surges and pretty much growls, all in the best hard rock fashion in a period in which Herman's Hermits' "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" was riding the charts. One can hear in the rawness and the tempos, and the reckless abandon, qualities that anticipate the Ramones, not to mention any number of British punk outfits of the 1970s, What's strange is that, for all of the thumping, pile-driver type power delivered on a lot of the songs here, it's on numbers like "I'm a Rolling Stone," from 1966, with its soulful vocal and sax break, that the Sonics actually reveal what they could do given half a chance; "Like No Other Man" is also a killer punk anthem, and one suspects that as either A- or B- sides, these could have been the singles out of these sessions. "Bama Lama Lu" works, but some of their sound is just a little too raw for the studio -- their label should have tried cutting this band in front of a live audience, as Columbia, of all labels, did with Paul Revere & the Raiders around the same time, where the rawness and the interaction would have worked in the band's favor.

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