Wham Bam! The Best of the Googie Rene Combo

Googie Rene

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Wham Bam! The Best of the Googie Rene Combo Review

by Richie Unterberger

Bridging the early rock & roll era to the soul sounds of the 1960s, this anthology collects 26 sides from Googie Rene's Class label recordings as a bandleader from 1956-1966. Most are instrumental, though vocals appear to take mild to strong roles once in a while; all were previously released save a previously unissued extended take of "Twilight Walk" and a previously unissued alternate of "Ez-Zee." Rene was a good keyboardist and a sideman of note on the Los Angeles R&B/early rock & roll scene. But as a featured artist, his records were both too similar to each other and too unimaginative to sustain interest, particularly when stacked slam-bang against each other as they are here. The 1950s tracks in particular are good-time rollicking background party music and often sound as if they were made up on the spot in the studio, sticking to clich├ęd early rock & roll chord progressions and keyboard/honking sax/guitar arrangements. Some other session men of note can be heard on some tracks, like Plas Johnson, Jimmy Nolen, Earl Palmer, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson, but these extremely basic tunes were hardly the best showcases for their wares. Sometimes the tunes go into smoky, mildly jazzy grooves, and he even tried his hand at the country-easy listening smash "Forever" (a big hit for the Little Dippers), but the songs and interpretations aren't strong enough to break the ennui. Things pick up a little in the early to mid-'60s when Rene concentrates on the organ and gets more soulful, landing two minor hits with "The Slide" and "Smokey Joe's La La" (both here). But again, the material's just too generic, and although "Bossa Baby" has a cool early Booker T. & the MG's feel, "Smokey Joe's La La" and some of the later jazz-soul-in-a-partying-nightclub cuts are pretty obvious attempts to get a piece of Ramsey Lewis' action.

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