Friday, September 10, 2010

The Best of ? and the Mysterians Cameo Parkway 1966-1967

Another exciting recent find is this Question Mark greatest hits CD. Of course, I've had their music on vinyl forever, but this is a great comp and nice to have everything in one clean, compact (so to speak) place.

This opens up with their garage blues "I Need Somebody". This has all of the elements that made their later hits, but for some reason it didn't click with a big audience. Maybe it was the fact that the band didn't take it very seriously - they throw "Mary Had a Little Lamb" in the middle! - but it's still great. They try their hand at the blues with "Stormy Monday" and are fine, but are certainly not that soulful.

There's a Tex-Mex feel to "You're Telling Me Lies", with its very evident Sir Douglas Quartet influences. "Ten O'Clock" is a cool, upbeat garage rocker that is followed by a boogie-woogie blues number, "Set Aside", which showcases Frank Rodriguez on piano, instead of his traditional keyboard (according to the liner notes, the organ is a Thomas, not a Farfisa, when he does play it). This sounds like it was simply a jam, but its good stuff.

Back to the organ dominated garage with "Up Side", with a rave-up ending, and then the terrific ""8" Teen", a guitar-riff-rocker which easily sounds like something the Sonics might have done! They must have been listening to a lot of Yardbirds at this time - or at least the Count V - cuz here's another rave-up ending! Back to Tex-Mex stylings with "Don't Tease Me", though the pulsating bass line is almost identical to "96 Tears", which makes it groove along nicely. I had never really thought before how much these cats took from Sir Douglas, but "Don't Break My Heart" is again in their mold.

"Why Me" is downright poppy but is still driven by a moving bass, which continues in the r'n'b-ish "Midnight Hour" - their own number, not the Wilson Pickett tune. Finally, their smash "96 Tears"! It's pretty much impossible for anyone to not have heard this classic - the quasiessential keyboard garage song - but I love the fact that the guys were juvenile enough to initially want to call this "69 Tears", but thought the better of if for radio programming.

From here, they move into heavier territory with the high-energy, evil-sounding rocker "Girl (You Captivate Me)", in which Question Mark clearly rhymes "girl, you masterbate me", disregarding their earlier concerns and ensuring that this song will never get played on any radio station ever. Still, truly fantastic!

"Can't Get Enough of You" is a pure "96 Tears" steal, but still a good tune. The boys create another hypnotic groove for "Got To", which really draws you in with its neat, syncopated organ rhythms. Neat stuff. Pure pop for garage people is the best label for "I'll Be Back" - this would have been wimpy in any other hands and walks a fine line here, but it works. Back to r'n'b with the ubiquitous "Shout" before more keyboard riffs on "Hanging on a String", which isn't an original but they still make it sound like their hit!

They power through a high-energy "Smokes" before moving into "It's Not Easy", an r'n'b feel that sounds like a mix between Booker T & the MGs and the Monks - at least to my demented ears! "Don't Hold it Against Me" is another pop cover and "Just Like a Rose" sounds like someone tried to make a r'n'b/pop number out of "Chopsticks"! The guys do a two chord work-out jam ("Do You Feel It") before the superb bubblegum pop of "Do Something to Me", which is almost identical to the Tommy James hit version that came a year later - certainly can't be a coincidence! "Love Me Baby" is another cool pop tune, with a little different feel than most of their tracks. This set ends with stereo versions of "Midnight Hour" and "96 Tears", which are also different takes.

If you ever wondered just how amazing it would be if Detroit Mexicans played snotty, organ dominated garage rock, then this is your answer! Get It!