Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gloria - The Shadows of Knight

The Shadows of Knight
Dunwich 666

The Shadows of Knight were a Chicago group that specialized in covers of Chicago-style blues and rhythm and blues.  That makes sense right?  Unlike their fellow Chicagoans, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, who derived their style from the likes of Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Little Walter, the Shadows of Knight derived their style by imitating the Yardbirds, the Animals and the Rolling Stones, that is British groups imitating Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Little Walter.  I understand that, I listen to my Yardbirds records more than my Muddy Waters records, but it still seems a little ridiculous to me.  The Shadows of Knight are much revered in garage band circles but I think they are too derivative to be ranked in the top tier of garage bands with groups like the Standells and the Chocolate Watch Band.  They also don't compare well with the British Invasion bands they were imitating.  They lacked a high quality guitarist and lead vocalist Jim Sohns was competent but could hardly compare with the likes of Eric Burdon, Van Morrison or Mick Jagger.  All they really had going for them was good taste in material and their raw energy and enthusiasm.  Consider their version of "Gloria" which was their biggest hit.  It is hopelessly inferior to Them's ferocious original.  Sohns sounds like a kid next to Van Morrison and the band lacks the drive and frenetic energy of Them's manic performance (abetted by studio pros like Jimmy Page.)  I could go through most of the covers on this record and pick superior versions by other bands from that era but I'll spare you that tedium.  As for the three originals on the album, "Light Bulb Blues" is basically Muddy Waters' "Rollin' and Tumblin'" with crummy new lyrics.  "Dark Side" is considerably better with a pleasing folk-rock element to it and "It Always Happens That Way" has a nice fuzz guitar riff and sounds a bit like Paul Revere and the Raiders.  They are both very promising songs although the lyrics are pretty dreadful even by garage band standards.  My favorite song on the record is the cover of Bo Diddley's "Oh Yea" (listed as "Oh Yeah" on this performance) which also appeared on the "Nuggets" compilation album.  It is lots of fun and has a powerful Yardbirds-style arrangement.  The Yardbirds also come to mind on my other favorite song on this album, the cover of Willie Dixon's "I Just Want To Make Love To You."  The song begins in the conventional manner but then breaks into a great surging rave-up.  It builds and builds and then just when it needs a great stinging guitar solo to cap it off, it delivers an utterly anti-climatic and pedestrian one, so disappointing.  It still rocks though, as does their driving version of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock" which is one of the most exciting performances on the album.  Despite all its flaws this is a really worthwhile record, I just wish it were better.  Recommended for fans of the Downliners Sect and the Wailers.

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