Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Fuzztones: “Encore” (2022) CD Review

In 2020, The Fuzztones released a tribute to New York appropriately titled NYC, which found the group covering the music of other New York artists. Now they’re following that up with Encore, which also features some delicious covers, including some great songs from the late 1960s. The band is now made up of Rudi Protrudi on vocals, guitar and bass; Lana Loveland on organ; and Marco Rivagli on drums. On this release, they are joined by several special guests on various tracks, including Steve Mackay of The Stooges and Wally Waller of The Pretty Things. Also, I just have to mention that the colors of the album’s cover and the disc itself, purple and green, are my two favorite colors, and apparently this album is available on colored vinyl, on, yes, both green and purple (how do you choose which color to get?). The vinyl edition, however, does not contain the final two tracks (listed as bonus tracks on the CD).

The disc opens with an original tune, “Barking Up The Wrong Tree,” written by Rudi Protrudi. It is a whole lot of fun, a garage rock gem with a reference to “Hound Dog” in its lyrics. “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog, baby, out to bury your bone.” The lyrics also mention Iggy Pop. This song makes me so happy, nearly giddy. I love that short guitar lead halfway through, and I especially love that section where it breaks down, feeling like a cool punk song. “I know it’s retro to be hetero in this day and age/But I ain’t even semi-metro, although it’s all the rage.” They then deliver a great cover of a fantastic song that you might not have heard, “Plastic People,” originally recorded and released by The Wildwood in 1968. It’s a psychedelic garage rock tune, and these guys really tear into it. “Look at all the plastic people/Most of them acting strange/None of them know where they’re going.”  Wonderful stuff. They follow that with an even more obscure song, “Marble Hall,” which was originally recorded by a group called Marble Hall. So, yeah, add Marble Hall to the list of bands who have a song sharing the group’s name (bands like Bad Company, Focus, I See Hawks In L.A., They Might Be Giants and Night Ranger). It’s a wild song originally released as a single on Aquarius Records in 1970. The Fuzztones give us an excellent, faithful rendition.

“Eyes In The Back Of My Head” has a good driving hard rock sound and a lot of energy. This is a more recent song, from The Bevis Frond’s 1988 album Inner Marshland (it was then covered the following year by Outskirts Of Infinity). “In the dark, I can see so clear/I know when someone’s getting too near.” Ah, that’s handy during the pandemic. The woman behind me in line at the store yesterday kept getting too close to me. I would take a step away from her, and she would step closer again, until I stared right at her, silently daring her to do it again. She did not. “‘Cause I see you for what you are.” That’s followed by a cover of Rare Earth’s “Land Of Nod,” a song from that band’s debut full-length album, Dreams/Answers, released in 1968. This one begins with a low rumbling, and a voice announces “All aboard for the Land of Nod,” and the song kicks in with a delicious force. Lenny Svilar joins the group on guitar, and Alex Tenas plays drums. And this is the track that features Steve Mackay on saxophone. He delivers some great work here. I also love that stuff on keys. Sure, some of the lyrics seem dated, but this track rocks, and is another of the disc’s highlights.

Then Wally Waller, of The Pretty Things, joins the group on bass for a wild, popping rendition of The Pretty Things’ “Alexander,” the final of the EP’s tracks on the vinyl edition. Lenny Svilar plays guitar on this one too, and Mike Czekaj is on drums. If you haven’t heard this fantastic song before, here is a taste of the lyrics: “Poet dies, stabbed with the knife of words/Young girl marries with bouquet of letters/One life explodes and slides into the sea/The city lies buried beneath the curses.” Yeah, pretty damn good, right? There is an interesting story behind this song. In 1969, a fan of The Pretty Things named Philippe Debarge hired the band to write and perform an album on which he would provide the lead vocals. “Alexander” was one of the songs on that album. The album itself was not released at the time, and in fact not for another forty years, by which time Philippe Debarge had died. So he never got to see the release of the album he commissioned.

The last two songs on the CD are listed as bonus tracks. The first is a cover of my favorite Grass Roots song, “Let’s Live For Today” (I used to put this song on a lot of mix tapes). Apparently members of that group join The Fuzztones on this recording, though I’m not sure just which members play on this track. As far as I know, none of the surviving early members still play with that group. At any rate, it’s a good rendition. There is an echo of the word “you” just before the first chorus. Interestingly, they then don’t include the echo of “please” toward the end. The disc concludes with a cover of The Sonics’ “Santa Claus.” I’ll certainly be adding this track to my holiday play list. Yes, it feels a bit early in the year to be thinking about that, but as we all know by now, time is rushing by and the year will be over  before we know it. This track features lots of fuzzy guitar work and some great stuff on organ. “I don’t get it/I’ve been a good boy all year/I watched my Ps and Qs/I didn’t know nothing wrong.” As the track fades out, he playfully mentions MTV, something not in the original recording, of course.

CD Track List

  1. Barking Up The Wrong Tree
  2. Plastic People
  3. Marble Hall
  4. Eyes In The Back Of My Head
  5. Land Of Nod
  6. Alexander
  7. Let’s Live For Today
  8. Santa Claus

Encore is scheduled to be released on April 22, 2022.

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