The Wheels

Road Block

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Irish R&B group the Wheels existed in the formidable shadow of Van Morrison's Them but cut two classic tracks that have kept them rated highly among garage rock and freakbeat aficionados. The first is "Road Block," a snarling one-chord rave-up with wailing harmonica work and throat-shredding vocals from Rod Demick. He doesn't quite reach Van-like levels of intensity, but it's plenty exciting. The other track is better known as covered by the Shadows of Knight, but the original of "Bad Little Woman" is almost its equal. Where the Shadows' take burns with muted violence, the Wheels' original builds from a minor-key stomp into a section where Demick sounds like he's seriously losing his mind. The 2012 Big Beat collection Road Block features these two songs plus the rest of their output. Derived from three singles and five unreleased studio recordings, the comp shows a band in touch with ramped-up blues ("I'm Leaving," "Mona") but also one that could handle relaxed ballads ("Don't You Know") and midtempo groovers ("Tell Me [I'm Gonna Love Again]") just as well. Their cover of Them's "Gloria" is a little unnecessary, but they do add some nice energy to their run-through of Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Kicks." Overall, they fall short of Them in almost every way, but Road Block is still a vital addition to the collection of a freakbeat/garage rock lover -- unless you already own the 1997 Big Beat collection Belfast Beat Maritime Blues, on which all these tracks already appear. Still, it's nice to have all their output in one place and the liner notes and packaging are predictably excellent.

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