Friday, March 15, 2013

Riot On Sunset Strip - Original Soundtrack

Riot On Sunset Strip
Original Soundtrack
Tower  T 5065

This album is popular with collectors because of the songs by the classic garage bands, the Standells and the Chocolate Watch Band.  There is no doubt that they have the best songs on here but the rest of the record is not without interest.  The album opens with the great title song by the Standells which they also perform (or lip synch anyway) in the movie.  It is one of their best songs and also appeared on their album "Try It."  It is driven by a killer guitar riff and a relentless beat.  The lyrics describe the titular riots and are full of teenage angst and alienation.  Great stuff.  It is followed by "Sunset Sally" by the Mugwumps which is a different group than the one Cass Elliott was in prior to joining the Mamas and the Papas.  It is an old timey, variety show type tune akin to the Sopwith Camel or Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band.  It's not really my cup of tea.  Next up is "The Sunset Theme" which is a surf-rock style instrumental by the Sidewalk Sounds, a studio band Mike Curb assembled that also performed for the film "The Wild Racers."  It is generic but at least it rocks.  "Old Country" by Debra Travis comes next.  She is listed in the movie credits as Deborah Travis, I'm not sure which spelling is correct.  As far as I know this is the only song she ever recorded.  It is a pretty folk song with just her vocal and an acoustic guitar.  The side ends with the best song on the album, the Chocolate Watch Band's "Don't Need Your Lovin'" which the band performs in the film.  It is the highlight of the film for me.  You hear stories about how great they were live and even if they are only lip-synching the segment, you can still perceive how charismatic front man Dave Aguilar was and how cool the rest of the band members were.  The song is a ferocious rocker that reminds me of the Rolling Stones.  Aguilar's urgent, passionate vocal and the howling guitars make this a garage classic.  Side two opens with "Children in the Night" by Mom's Boys, the Paul Wibier fronted group that is generally believed to be the band that performed as Max Frost and the Troopers for the film "Wild in the Streets" and the album "Shape of Things To Come."  It is an atmospheric folk-rock tune with a solid rocking beat.  It is the best tune on the album not by the Chocolate Watch Band or the Standells.  Wibier's high quavery vocal reminds me of Arthur Lee.  The Sidewalk Sounds reappear with "Make the Music Pretty" which is a sugary tune in a sunshine pop style.  It is too sappy for my taste.  The Standells make their second appearance with the folk-rock style "Get Away From Here."  They are also seen in the movie doing some of this song.  It is a bit of a departure from their normal sound, it is very melodic and moody, I really like it.  Some guy named Drew delivers a song called "Like My Baby" which is shamelessly lifted from the Byrds' version of Dylan's "Spanish Harlem Incident" on "Mr. Tambourine Man."  The album concludes with the Chocolate Watch Band doing "Sitting There Standing" which they also perform in the movie.  The song is a rip-off of the Yardbirds' "The Nazz are Blue" from their "Yardbirds" album, but it is so smoking hot that I'm not complaining.  The group plays the song full throttle with lots of sizzling guitar work.  It ends the album with a bang.  I like this album but I have to admit that this is a pretty skimpy record that doesn't even have all the best music from the film.  I particularly miss the Enemys' performance of "Jolene" an excellent garage rocker which they perform in the film.  As far as I'm aware, it never appeared on record and it would have been one of the highlights of the album.  I think the band was contracted to MGM so presumably Tower was too cheap to license the song from them.  I would also have included the psychedelic soundtrack music used for the acid trip scene.  It is kind of cheesy but it sure beats the Sidewalk Sounds.  Despite its shortcomings, I think the album is worthwhile.  You get 4 classics by the Standells and the Chocolate Watch Band, three of which never appeared on their original albums, plus a solid contribution from Mom's Boys.  I dig "Old Country" too even though it doesn't fit in very well with the other songs.  The rest of the music is forgettable but not unpleasant.  6 good songs out of 10 is a pretty decent ratio for a mid-1960s album, especially a soundtrack.  Recommended to garageheads who hate CDs.

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