Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shape of Things to Come - Max Frost & The Troopers

Shape of Things To Come
Max Frost & The Troopers
Tower ST 5147

Is this the best album by a fictional band?   Maybe if one doesn't count the Monkees and I don't.  The Rutles come kind of close perhaps but they are a joke basically, as is Spinal Tap.  It sure beats the Partridge Family and the Archies.  This record is an offshoot of the 1968 film "Wild in the Streets" where the main character Max Frost has a band called the Troopers.  The songs "Shape of Things To Come" and "Fifty Two Per Cent" both come from the film's soundtrack where they are attributed to a group called the 13th Power (although an early credit sheet for the film lists the group as Paul Wieler (sic) and the 13th Power.)   The 13th Power had previously been known as Mom's Boys and under that name had contributed a nice song to the soundtrack of "Riot on Sunset Strip" called "Children of the Night."  The singer of the 13th Power was Paul Wibier who would go on to record the cult classic "Satan" - the theme from the film "Satan's Sadists."  Wibier also wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on this album.  The 13th Power apparently sacrificed their identity (or perhaps had it taken from them by Mike Curb) to cash in on the success of "Wild In the Streets."  Assuming they are actually playing on this record (instead of some session men) there is evidence here that Mom's Boys/13th Power was a better than average garage band - not particularly original but fun.  When I say they are not original, I don't just mean derivative - the guitar solo in "Lonely Man" is lifted from the Yardbirds' "I Can't Make Your Way," "Shine It On" sounds a lot like "Western Union" by the Five Americans, "Captain Hassel" borrows from Junior Walker's "Shotgun."  Despite this, all the songs are pretty engaging, whoever is playing really cooks.  Nothing comes close to "Shape of Things To Come" in terms of quality, I guess the next best track would be "Fifty Two Per Cent" which is about how that percentage of the American population is under age 25 in 1968 and the power they can exert.  I also like "Shine It On" and "Let Your Mind Run Free."  Most of the songs have a youth power theme, which reflects the film in which youth take power and run amok.  The songs have a more positive view of youth than the film of course.  The lyrics have a lot of 1960's hippie cliches that I find pretty amusing, although less sympathetic listeners might consider them stupid.  I had not seen the film "Wild in the Streets," when I first encountered this group and the song "Shape of Things to Come" on Rhino's expanded version of "Nuggets" where it was one of my favorite tracks.  It later got picked up by Target for a commercial which must have been pretty amazing to any surviving members of the 13th Power I imagine.  I hope they got paid for it.  Unfortunately they didn't get any songwriting royalties because the song and "Fifty Two Per Cent" were both written by Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, my favorite of the Brill Building songwriters.  Unless you are a garage aficionado, all you really need from here is "Shape of Things To Come" which you can get from "Nuggets" but if you should stumble across a copy it is well worth checking out although it is fairly short and if you pay a lot you might feel ripped off.  I didn't pay a lot so I'm pretty happy with it.  Recommended for Paul Revere and the Raiders fans who wish Mark Lindsay had wanted to run for president.

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