Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Steppenwolf the Second

Since picking up the greatest hits comp a while back, I have been listening to more & more Steppenwolf and have been grabbing up some of the full albums for the great cuts that are not on the comp. This album is an extremely strong one, consisting of a mix of garage, blues, psych, politics and hard rock! Truly great stuff!

Steppenwolf the Second starts with the highly under-rated garage classic, “Faster Than the Speed of Life”, which is one of my all-time fave songs of theirs and something I always wanted to cover but never managed to. Rockin’ energy, cool trade-off vocals and harmonies, nice guitar riffs and staccato piano parts all add up to a superb r’n’r tune!

“Tighten Up your Wig” is basically Junior Wells’ “Messing With the Kid” with new lyrics, but a shout out to Wells anyway! Good playing throughout though, including fine harp work from singer John Kay.

Another unheralded work is “None of Your Doing” which begins as an organ dominated ballad before kicking into an energetic work out with a hip chorus. They venture into true balladry with “Spiritual Fantasy” which only goes to show that despite their best intentions, this is not their strong suit.

But they are back in the element with the excellent pro-pot statement, “Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam”. More terrific lyrics, trade-off vocals and a band that works together to make a damn catchy political mantra.

“28” is, unfortunately, another fairly forgettable tune but one that was either stolen from or for another song that I can’t think of right now, though the melody is almost exact. It’s gonna drive me crazy until I think of it!

Coming in on a wave of beautiful feedback, “Magic Carpet Ride” deserved to be the massive hit that it was – it’s a fantastic, psychedelic, organ-driven ride with a groove that can’t be denied!

The band shows off its blues roots again in “Disappointment Number (Unknown)”, including some inspired acoustic slide playing. They maintain their originality while working in the genre, though and it is pure Steppenwolf.

More slide work is highlighted in “Lost and Found by Trial and Error” but otherwise it is a bit of a throwaway – not bad really, just not up to their best standards. The oddly named “Hodge, Podge, Strained Through a Leslie” is not so oddly named when you realize that it is a keyboard-dominated (running through a Leslie speaker) r’n’r jam that leads directly into “Resurrection”. This is yet another number with trade-off vocals and some damn-near funky guitar playing that creates another jumpin’ groove.

The record closes with the extremely short, extremely quiet, possibly harmonium based “Reflections”, leaving the record with a whisper and not a bang.

For those who want to explore deeper into this fantastic band (other than just the hits), this is a great album showing off many of their different sides!