Record Boy Ink:
Between 1965 and 1967, the Lovin’ Spoonful were on a tear with one hit single after another. On the Lovin’ Spoonful Greatest Hits (Buddha), the band’s hits take on new significance when you hear them digitally remastered from the original first generation master tapes (with the band members’ participation.) One can now enjoy hearing these songs without them sounding like they were mixed to come out of a tiny speaker on an AM transistor radio (which I’m sure they were!) All the nuances of the band’s vocal harmonies, the juxtaposition of guitar, bass, drums and autoharp and of course John Sebastian’s power of the hook sound great.
Record Boy forgot how much fun songs like “Jug Band Music” and “Nashville Cats” are and conversely how plaintive and heart-string- pulling “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It” and “Darling Be Home Soon” are. The blending of psychedelic and country music on “Rain On The Roof” sound downright innovative as opposed to dated. Ditto on the cool and jazzy “Coconut Grove”. All of the band’s hits (and unfortunately a few of the misses…probably to appease certain band members) are on this single disc, twenty six track collection. Even “Pow” the theme from the Woody Allen movie “What’s Up Tiger Lilly?” is here.
The liner notes tell the band’s story and feature quotes from all the ex- members except one. There is a story there as well. Zal Yanovsky was not only the band’s lead guitarist but was widely considered the band’s main attraction live. He was known for his over the top personality and stage antics. He left the band in ’67 after a drug bust and if I remember the story correctly narc’ed on a fellow musician which left him persona non gratta in the music world. None of this of course is mentioned in the liner notes but Zal’s importance to the group cannot be underestimated; the band never again had a top 10 hit after he was replaced.
While it’s unfortunate that no one could stop John Sebastian from going on to write the theme to “Welcome Back Kotter”, this CD is ample evidence why the Lovin’ Spoonful belong in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Sebastian was unbelievably prolific in this era and had his share of gems. Record Boy believes this collection is a valuable addition to any pop music fan’s library.
Now, what do you call a Greatest Hits album for a band that never had any hits? A “Best Of” of course! The band Cracker decided to cleverly name their “best of” Garage d’ Or (Virgin). Led by the very talented David Lowery, Cracker rose up from the ashes of Lowery’s prior band Camper Van Beethoven.
If you’ve never heard these guys, this is a wonderful collection of Lowery’s hook filled yet eclectic writing. “What the world needs now is another folk singer like I need a hole in my head” he sings in “Teen Angst”. They rock hard on “Sweet Thistle Pie” and “Low”, tell a great hard luck story in “Euro- Trash Girl” and get positively Brecht- like on “I want out of the circus”. He and partner Johnny Hickman are all over the map from hard rock to country to power pop and back again.
If you’re a fan of the band there is plenty for you, spread over two discs. There are some unreleased tracks, tracks that were previously only available on soundtracks and tribute albums, and live tracks among the best of the band’s studio albums. They even do a Bob Dylan cover (“You ain’t going nowhere”) and a Carpenter’s song (“Rainy Days and Mondays”!)
This album is as much fun as the Lovin’ Spoonful collection (which is why I coupled them on this page) and Record Boy recommends it highly to the boomers out there that think they don’t make ‘em like they used to. They don’t, but that doesn’t mean that music recorded today can’t be as fresh sounding and exhilarating as the songs recorded 30 plus years ago…ya just got to know where to find it!