Album Review

The Flamin’ Groovies Rise Again

Flamin' Groovies - Fantastic Plastic

San Francisco’s Flamin’ Groovies broke into the underground with a string of critically revered records - Sneakers, Supersnazz, Flamingo and Teenage Head - whose lack of commercial success drove the band to musical itinerancy. By 1971, founder Roy Loney had left the band, and his co-founder, Cyril Jordan joined with Chris Wilson to shift the band from retro- and blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll towards British-invasion styled pop. They resurfaced in the UK five years later, releasing the iconic “Shake Some Action” and three albums full of solid originals and covers of the Beatles, Byrds and others.

But much like the band’s original lineup, the revised and revitalized Groovies garnered critical accolades, but didn’t break through commercially. Chris Wilson left the band in 1980, and though various configurations and editions of the group have reunited and toured off and on, it’s been nearly forty years since Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson have collaborated on new material. For this reunion, they recorded with original Groovies bassist George Alexander and latter-day drummer Victor Penalosa over the course of three years, laying down ten originals and covers of the Beau Brummels and NRBQ.

The band charges out of the gate with the Stones-ish “What the Hell’s Goin’ On,” reaching back to the band’s bluesier roots (though oddly crossed with the central riff of John Mellancamp’s “Hurts So Good”) and playing to Jordan and Wilson’s guitar chemistry. There are numerous moments that rekindle memories of the band’s jangly 1970s Sire albums, including the harmonies of “She Loves Me,” the hopeful “Lonely Hearts,” the Shadows-styled instrumental “I’d Rather Spend My Time with You” and a cover of NRBQ’s “I Want You Bad.” The chime reaches its apex with the Byrdsian closer “Cryin’ Shame.”

There are dabs of psychedelia on “End of the World” and the jammy coda to their cover of “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” There’s also a defiant anthem, “Let Me Rock,” that would have sounded at home at the Grande. Jordan and Wilson lean to the group’s British rebirth, but give their due to the band’s full range of blues, R&B, rock, rockabilly and pop roots. Jordan’s original cover art pays tribute to Jack Davis’ cover for Monster Rally and RCA’s Living Stereo logo, and the CD is screened with an homage to the Laurie Records label. The retro touches are nice, especially for an album that’s a great deal more vital rock ‘n’ roll than nostalgic rehash. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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"Lonely Hearts" is great..."Cryin Shame" is almost as good...they were deserving of more success in their heyday, or any day...nice terminology on "musical itinerancy" by the way...



I somehow missed out on The Flamin' Goovies back in their heyday which is strange since they hail from San Francisco I believe and I was really into that scene. But I became curious when Chuck Prophet recently sang their praises. Then I read a review of this new album somewhere (Allmusic guide perhaps) and looked for it on my next trip to a huge record store we are blessed with in Seattle. Unfortunately they didn't have it but I did get a reissue of their 1971 album "Teenage Head" and it knocked me out. It struck me as sounding very much like the Rolling Stones which surprised me. Then I read in the new liner notes that the Stones said it was better than "Sticky Fingers" which was released that same year. I'm often amazed that music fanatic that I am, I have often missed some very important artists.

Yep...we missed a lot, and fanatics we are...

I had certainly heard of them, and had even heard a couple of things by them...but somehow I missed how good they are...I've been looking for some of their stuff myself...there are some warnings out there on some of the import version compilations but all the records mentioned here are available it appears...

I would certainly recommend "Teenage Head" Jim even though it's the only thing by them I've heard.

Although they were from San Francisco, they were somewhat out-of-step with the musical zeitgeist of the city at the time, and they were apparently in and out (mostly out) of Bill Graham's doghouse with great regularity. As noted in the review, there were two fairly distinct editions of the band. The initial group, which recorded Sneakers, Supersnazz, Flamingo and Teenage Head, and a later edition that resurfaced in the UK and recorded Shake Some Action, Now and Jumpin' in the Night for Sire (the first two with Dave Edmunds producing). Most or all of this is available. The entire recorded Sire catalog is on "At Full Speed - The Complete Sire Recordings" (don't be fooled by the abbreviated "Bust Out At Full Speed: The Sire Years").

Thanks Hyperbolium for the added information and perhaps the fact that they were, "...(mostly out) of Bill Graham's doghouse..." explains why I never paid attention to them along with the fact that I knew on one who was a fan. I had certainly heard the name of the group but to me it sounded like some teenybopper pop group. I subscribed to "Rolling Stone" for years back then so I wonder if they ignored them too but that seems unlikely. Perhaps I was just convinced by their name they weren't worth reading about which just goes to show you can't judge a band by its name.

Whoops -- I meant 'in' -- they were mostly in Bill Graham's doghouse, which is why you may not have encountered them as an opening act in Graham's venues.

Yeah--I thought you had a different definition of "out of the dog house" than is traditional but I got your drift. I certainly don't think they showed up on any Bill Graham venue that I went to and I attended quite a few shows in the late 60s early 70s.

Oddly, they were on the bill for one of the closing dates of the Fillmore West; recently issued on CD.