Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Timewarp: The Standells

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Here's a new feature we've added to the Sphere called The Tuesday Timewarp. Every Tuesday we'll be adding some rare/out-of-print/unreleased junk from the past, with the hopes that if your mood is sufficiently elevated, you just might suddenly find yourself on a little mind excursion courtesy of these tunes.

Prepare the Wayback Machine. Today's introductory feature is a selection of cuts from the Standells' late-1967 album Try It.

Now the Standells were a solid band for their time, but never one you'd term as terribly interesting or ambitious. Their stock-in-trade was polished frat/garage rock stuff, typified by "Dirty Water", "Sometimes the Good Guys Don't Wear White" and of course "Try It". It's fair to say they never really attempted to break out of that particular mold until this, their last album.

Apart from two great singles in the form of the title cut and "Riot on Sunset Strip", the rest of the Try It LP is a major stylistic departure that virtually embodies the term "mixed bag". While some ill-chosen soul and blues covers drag the album down from classic status, the group's attempts at a more psychy pop/rock sound are winners!

Examine these four groovy cuts I've resurrected for you off an album that sank like a stone when it dropped 42 years ago. "All Fall Down" kicks things off; sounding for all the world like Dick Dodd and company had been digging on Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Satanic Majesties, and decided to incorporate strands of those records into a bubblegum pop song. It's not a stone classic by any means, but man does it ever reek of the Nag Champa! Perfect for the Tuesday Timewarp.

"Trip to Paradise", with its Ellingtonesque strings and horns arrangement, clearly was not written by the band, and I'm nearly certain they resented being told by their producer to record it. This baby could have just as easily found a home on World in a Sea Shell or the first Giant Crab album. That might sound like an insult, but its not-- "Trip" is a soaring, ambitious pop recording that should have been a big hit in some parallel universe.

"Barracuda" finds the Standells back in the garage rock bag, but damned if this isn't way more primal than what we're used to hearing from these guys. This is perfect music for a bar fight, high speed police chase or cocaine party, and if it sounds more like the Chocolate Watch Band than Dick Dodd and his gang, well just remember that the song's author Ed Cobb also served as producer for both groups. (NOTE: Cobb also penned the great "Medication" which both the Standells and Watch Band recorded back in the day.)

Perhaps even stronger is "Did You Ever Have That Feeling?", a mind-melter of cosmic proportions. Listen hard as the Standells finally lose what was left of their good-guy image and go for broke on this psychedelic punk hell ride. If only they had somehow used this song as a template for re-inventing themselves, perhaps today they would be known as more than just the guys who sang "Dirty Water". And so it goes.


  1. I f-ing love these tracks, your excellent write up made me download them, and I love what you do with your blog. I feel guilty enough taking the time reading music blogs when I should be watching the Stanley Cup finals or tucking in my daughter. I can't imagine the time and effort you put into posting this stuff. THANK YOU!

  2. Hey, no problem friend! I'm just glad somebody finally got some enjoyment out of these fine lost Standells tracks. Really makes you wish that the group had stayed on this path instead of kowtowing to Ed Cobb and his demands for a more soulful sound.

    Blackhawks fan and native Chicagoan here, by the way, so I'm pretty stoked about the way the Cup finals played out!