The Loading Zone

The Loading Zone

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The Loading Zone was a curious, second-tier '60s San Francisco band. They were more of a soul-rock outfit than a psychedelic one, certainly, although they weren't without touches of acid rock in their arrangements. Their integration of horns put them alongside Blood, Sweat & Tears, Electric Flag, and Chicago as innovators in that regard. If their material wasn't as schlocky as the post-Al Kooper Blood, Sweat & Tears' and Chicago's, it wasn't that great either, and lacking in the hooks that would get those bands hits. Linda Tillery is the Janis Joplin of the group in that the energy level really dips when someone else takes the lead vocals, much as Big Brother was far less interesting when Joplin didn't sing lead. However, Tillery was a pretty minor-league talent when compared to Joplin, though she was okay. Occasional injection of Jorma Kaukonen-like sustained guitar licks were their greatest ties to the San Francisco psychedelic sound (producer Rick Jarrard certainly would have been familiar with that sort of axework, having worked with Jefferson Airplane). They stretched out a bit on some of the ten songs on this self-titled album, particularly the nearly ten-minute instrumental, "Can I Dedicate." There are some interesting, though not brilliant, interpretations of soul and R&B songs, a few rather obscure (the Marvelettes' "Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead"), others familiar (the Miracles' "Shop Around"). The original material is only adequate, and of the covers, only Billy Ward & the Dominoes' outrageous "The Bells," played for all the hysterics it's worth by Tillery, really catches fire.

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