Monday, May 12, 2014

The Ohio Express: “Beg, Borrow & Steal: The Complete Cameo Recordings” (2014) CD Review

I admit it: I love “Yummy Yummy Yummy.” Though now when I think of that song, it conjures up that image from the film of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (you know what I’m talking about). But I didn’t know all that much of The Ohio Express’ other material (though I did see them in concert a decade ago, on a double bill with The Tokens). So it’s great to be able to hear the band’s first album, which only now has been released on CD. And there are some damn good mid-1960s rock vibes here. If you only know “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” you might be pleasantly surprised by the sound and attitude of many of these tracks.

The story behind this album, the music and the band is really interesting, and is detailed in the new liner notes by Jim Allen. There are actually three different bands on this album (and no, I have absolutely no idea what configuration of the band I saw in 2003). One of the bands features Joe Walsh. That’s right: Joe Walsh was (sort of) a member of The Ohio Express.

This CD issue of the album includes six bonus tracks, including two that were previously unreleased.

The album opens with the sounds of a train approaching. Silly? Certainly. But the song that follows, “Beg, Borrow And Steal” (the title track) was something of a hit. It sounds a whole lot like “Louie Louie,” but has a very cool raw tone, matched by lines like “I’d rather beg, borrow and steal/Than go back to you.” Yeah, you tell her! This song is a lot of fun. It features the first of three bands, this one originally called The Conquests (and then The Rare Breed).

“And It’s True” is a much mellower tune. This one is a love song, so completely different in tone from the first track, with lyrics like, “You're the only one I really love/You're the only one I'm thinking of/And it’s true/I love you.” And it makes sense that the tone would be different, as it was recorded by a different band. This band was originally called The Measles, and is the band that includes Joe Walsh. (“I Find I Think Of You” was also recorded by this band.)

The third track, “Had To Be Me,” is more of an upbeat rock and roll tune, and this one is by the third band heard on this album, originally called Sir Timothy And The Royals. This is the main band heard on this album, and they have a really cool, loose sixties rock vibe. “Had To Be Me” was written by one of its members, Jim Pfahler. Jim Pfahler also wrote “I Know We’ll Be Together” and “Hard Times.” “Hard Times” is one of my favorites. I dig the bass, which really drives that track. And the lead guitar section is totally cool. Plus, the lyrics are kind of funny.

Another of the highlights of this CD is “Soul Struttin’,” a groovy dance song. This one is pure fun, with a funky hook. Jim Pfahler sings lead. "Try It" has a great, tough groove. Dale Powers sings lead on this track.These two songs were also released as a single (included in the bonus tracks).

The original album concludes with the deliciously silly “Too Groovy,” with lots of goofing around on the vocals. I can’t help but love this track. Drummer Tim Corwin wrote this one. The album then ends the way it began, with the sounds of a train.

Bonus Tracks

There are six bonus tracks, two of which were previously unreleased. The first four are singles, including “Beg, Borrow And Steal” (sans train), which reached #29 on the pop chart. “Maybe” is an instrumental version of “And It’s True.” The second single is “Try It” and “Soul Struttin.’” This single reached #83.

The final two tracks were previously unreleased. The first, “Roses Are Red,” is a rock tune with a good groove. The lyrics, of course, are far from original (“Roses are red, love/Violets are blue/Sugar is sweet, love/Baby, just like you”). But the instrumental section – particularly the lead guitar – is excellent. “Life Is A Mystery” is more in the folk realm, with a sound in the same general ballpark as that of the mid-1960s Byrds.

CD Track List

  1. Beg, Borrow And Steal
  2. And It’s True
  3. Had To Be Me
  4. Let Go
  5. Soul Struttin’
  6. Try It
  7. I Know We’ll Be Together
  8. I Find I Think Of You
  9. Stop Take A Look Around
  10. Hard Times
  11. It’s Too Groovy
  12. Beg, Borrow And Steal
  13. Maybe
  14. Try It
  15. Soul Struttin’
  16. Roses Are Red
  17. Life Is A Mystery 

Beg, Borrow & Steal: The Complete Cameo Recordings was released on April 29, 2014 through Real Gone Music.

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