Trying to collect the Flamin' Groovies can make you crazy. There are so many releases outside of their handful of official releases that it is hard to know which of the bootlegs, live shows, and demos you should get. Well, you definitely need this one. It focuses on the years after original wildman singer Roy Loney left the group and before the legendary Shake Some Action LP was released (October 1971 to July 1973, to be precise). The first six songs are self-recorded demos from 1971 and have been released a few times before, most notably as Grease on the Dog Meat label, but this is the first issue authorized by the band. In fact, guitarist and main Groovie Cyril Jordan contributes some amazing liner notes, which trace his Zelig-like adventures through the history of rock. From shopping for threads with Cornell Gunther, singer of the Coasters, to scoring acid for Jimi Hendrix, to hanging out for a couple of days at Brian Wilson's pad in the late '70s, Jordan had quite a blast. The first six tracks are quite a blast too -- lo-fi, angry, and raw: the epic "Slow Death" with Chris Wilson's howling vocals, the headlong dash through "Jumping Jack Flash," and the stick-in-your-ear sentiment of "Let Me Rock." The Groovies are the very definition of proto-punk. Plus, the sound is much improved from any other release. Next up is a murky but energetic romp through "Roll Over Beethoven" from a French TV appearance in 1972, followed by two demos recorded in Los Angeles in 1973. "Shake Some Action" is the Groovies' finest moment, and this version of the song is Cyril Jordan's favorite thing the band ever did. It is very similar to the version released on the Shake Some Action record, but features more acoustic guitars, an incredibly impassioned Chris Wilson vocal, and a rawer feel. "When I Heard Your Name" is a real hidden gem. It stands next to any of the Groovies' best songs; the soaring mellotron and Wilson's aching vocal lend it a real emotion punch. The disc finishes with a stomping take on Freddy Cannon's "Tallahassie Lassie," recorded in 1972 at Rockfield Studios with Dave Edmunds behind the board. It is a shame Norton didn't include the other tracks recorded at that session, but you can't have everything. The Flamin' Groovies aren't ever going to get into the Rock & Roll Hame of Fame, but they were a good, sometimes great, band and this release is a vital piece of their history that should be sought out by Groovies fans and anyone who likes their rock & roll loud, heartfelt, and powerful.
Review by Tim Sendra