SOUP

Soup

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This archival release reissues on CD the entirety of the rare 1970 debut album from Wisconsin's Soup, legendary in the Midwest for the guitar playing virtuosity of its leader and songwriter, Doug Yankus. In typical Gear Fab fashion, however, the CD also doubles up on the riches, as the second half of the album digs up eight songs from Yankus' former band, the Private Property of Digil, which existed from 1965 to 1968. Although Yankus was a prodigious songwriter, the Soup album opens with a cover of the old Buddy Holly nugget "Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues," but the band turns it into something more unique than straight rock & roll. In the course of the album, Soup mixed up good-time folk ("Mailman"), cool beatnik jazz ("I'm Just Not the Man to Be Tied"), swaying ballads ("Dear and Blue"), blues tunes (the boogie-ish "Black Cat Blues in Melody," "I'm So Sorry," the cover of Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Man") and gentle acoustic numbers ("Song for Jackie"), with their more prevalent rock inclinations into a meaty musical stew. Nearly every Soup backing track on the first half of this CD is accomplished, full of lovely, subtle instrumental interplay, with Yankus double-tracking his acoustic rhythm guitar and truly phenomenal electric playing. He showed a true idiosyncrasy in his compositional skill and a full grasp on his influences that allowed him to arrive at a truly original amalgam. The only real problem with the Soup LP is that it was rushed out to fans who were eager to have a record to take home with them after seeing one of the band's live performances, and so consisted only of demos and live tracks. The studio demos, as strong as they are, ultimately sound unfinished and improperly mixed. Yankus' vocals also don't always hit the spot. He occasionally hits flat notes that surely would have been corrected with vocal overdubs. Regardless of the recordings' failings, though, it's good to have Soup available on CD. The addition of the Private Property material increases the value of the reissue twofold. Private Property leaned more toward a garage/pop-rock vein, and their sound is far more entrenched in the musical trends (particularly mild psychedelia) of the mid-'60s. Yankus still had not shaken all of his influences by that point, or rather had not found a singular style that could incorporate them all, and so the music variously recalls the Association here ("Sunshine Flames"), Merrell Fankhauser there ("I'm Looking at You"), and early Byrds at other times ("Princess"). Although they sound vaguely dated and don't generally rank with the first level pop/rock of the period, trippy songs such as "Jewelry Lady" and "Princess" are excellent, and they bring the late '60s back into full flower. If you think of them as bonus tracks to the Soup album, this reissue easily qualifies as one of the more intriguing bargains available from the trippiest of eras.