Motorcycle Mama

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Alabama's Sailcat only released one album and only had one hit, both titled Motorcycle Mama. The song, of course, is better-remembered than the album, as it was one of many hazy oddities that played on AM pop radio during the early '70s and subsequently was recycled on many CDs of '70s hits (it was also covered by the Sugarcubes for the 1990 Elektra tribute, Rubaiyat), and the sunny, hippie-dippie vibe of the single is indeed memorable, but not a very good indication of the rest of the LP, which is hippie but also more trippy than the hit indicates. Take into heavy consideration that the liners call Motorcycle Mama a concept album, which very well may be true but it's hard to discern since the concept is fuzzy -- it vaguely involves highways and thieves in the South, but it's hard to piece together the strands into a story. More importantly, Motorcycle Mama feels like a concept album, due more to its puffed-up progginess than its songs. As soon as "Rainbow Road" fades in with its circular fiddle and banjo, it's clear that Sailcat aren't a gritty Southern band and that's a perception proven true by the rest of the record. Which isn't to say there aren't soul and grooves here: they are certainly the product of Muscle Shoals and churn out some good, gritty Southern rock, as when "Rainbow Road" finally kicks into gear or when they slide into the greasy jokes of "B.B. Gunn" or lay into some driving rock & roll on "Highway Rider/Highway Riff." But even that five-minute jam offers ample proof that Sailcat are no simple Southern rock outfit, as it is punched along by jazzy horns and waves of organ before it descends into tinkling piano and strings that are straight out of a 101 Strings LP. That kind of fuzzy eclecticism keeps things interesting on Motorcycle Mama, as it also encompasses hippie folk, sunshine harmonies, and multi-part suites borrowed from prog rock. These are all elements that, when put together, are pretty interesting, but they don't necessarily gel into a cohesive LP -- or in several cases, not even a cohesive song. Despite this, the rampant imagination and gutbucket hard rock on display make Sailcat'sMotorcycle Mama one of the more fascinating one-shot wonders of the early '70s: maybe not a record that would be played often, but certainly one worth hearing once.

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