The Groundhogs-BLUES OBITUARY CD (EMI, EU)
Ain't kismet strange? Just last week I was wondering why this oft-seeked (at least by me) album by the shoulda-been-famed English blues-rock trio known as the Groundhogs was seemingly unavailable on Cee-Dee, and today not only do I have a copy of '69's BLUES OBIT in my possession but three more of these guys' early platters all coming in a neatly-compiled box set which was making the under-the-counterculture rounds back in the mid-nineties and boy am I happy about it! Talk about package deals, and although I did receive these mandatory disques in one lump sum for the sake of brevity I felt it best to write 'em up as I see fit 'n at my own leisure just so's the reviews won't read like rushed out book reports finished off at five in the morning like some of my more "deadlined" material for various publications tend to do whether I mean for them to or not. Remember, I'm doing this not just to "inform" you lowly peons as to "what good is" as the Amish say, but for my own personal enjoyment. Why should I rack my brains for you guys anyway?
Anyhow I was spurred on to buy this Groundhogs set after reading Hot Scott Fischer's article on these guys that was published in the second issue of the hotcha NIX ON PIX fanzine (which dates from way back in '72 making it one of the fore-est of the forefront proto-punk 'zines extant!). Not that this tome for our times was my introduction to the band...heaven forbid! Back in the mid-eighties I not only borrowed a batch of Groundhogs albums off some long-gone acquaintance but actually dished out a few smackers for the comparatively sub par BLACK DIAMOND which showed just how far down the ladder this group had fallen to the point where this band was reduced to doing an actual "living off the land" number! But bad career moves aside, what a better place for me to reacquaint myself with these ozobs than this '69 release...here the trio of McPhee, Cruickshank and Pustelnik are stretching out from their patented British Blues sound into new (some may say "progressive rock") territory with a style and grace that while still having one foot in the Chicago Blues, comes off complete late-sixties British anarcho rock in the same fashion as the Deviants and Hawkwind! And even for a blues upper-nose-at like me (being estranged from Bill Shute like I have been for the past decade certainly has curbed my appetite for various more rootzy forms) I can still appreciate it when the 'hogs take the already-hackneyed British blooze fashion and go for it into more heady realms sorta hanging about somewhere twixt John Mayall and the aforementioned Devies. Killing Floor come close, maybe Stackwaddy to an extent, but if this is progressive rock then call me Rick Wakeman and set my controls straight for the heart of the sun!
Actually BLUES OBIT's pointing more to the early-stylings of heavy metal as CREEM would deify it long before the sound got a "name" and lost its meaning for all intent purposes. But man it's still eye-opening enough that if I were one of those snooty Big City Rock Critics I'd be comparing it to the other biggies of '69 like THE STOOGES, PRETTIES FOR YOU, and TROUT MASK REPLICA (which remains a so-so for me even if it isn't "hip" to say so). My fave of the lot just happens to be "Mistreated" which comes off like a harpsichord playing this maddening repeato-riff (it might be a 12-string electric wound up tight) to McPhee's typically English post-Hooker moan resulting in one strange mix of sophisto UK bluesology and late-sixties punk rock. And of course the rest is no slouch either as it topples between the blues and revisited raga music that perhaps was the last vestige of the psychedelic movement at least until the likes of Hawkwind, the Pink Fairies and Krautrock decided to carry things well over into the next decade. And like I said, even a guy who ain't as hot on blues music of any persuasion can enjoy it from the straight take of "Natchez Burning" to the extended snake-charmer slide guitar instrumental "Light Was The Day".
Stay tuned for writeups on the rest of the early Groundhog albums to make it into my home and perhaps my mind as well. And whatever you do, don't tell George Brigman that I've waited so long to commit any major musings on this band to type...he'll come over and BRAIN me, that's for sure!
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