Friday, January 31, 2014

Dirty Water - The Standells

Dirty Water
The Standells
Tower ST 5027

Lately it feels like the obituary pages are dictating the direction of my blog.  I'm trying to get away from that but I hate the thought of not acknowledging the passing of Dick Dodd last November.  He was the drummer and lead vocalist for the Standells.  I've loved the Standells since I was in high school when I first heard them on the "Nuggets" compilation which featured their hit single "Dirty Water."  A couple of years later I was lucky enough to find a nice copy of this album for five bucks at a record store in Concord, a Bay Area suburb.  It was my first Standells album and it is still my favorite.  The album gets off to a strong start with "Medication" by Minette Alton and jazz pianist Ben Di Tosti.  It is a powerful rocker driven by a driving bass riff, a reverb-laden guitar line and a hypnotic organ drone.  It is the most psychedelic track on the record, it reminds me of the Electric Prunes at their best.  It is followed by a cover of Don and the Goodtimes' 1965 garage band classic "Little Sally Tease" which was written by Goodtimes member Jim Valley who would later join Paul Revere and the Raiders.  It is a high energy cover with a prominent bass line and some exciting organ work from Larry Tamblyn, but it can't match the raucous intensity of the original.  "There's a Storm Comin'" was written by the record's producer Ed Cobb.  The song has a rhythm and blues sound to it.  Next up is a cover of the Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown."  The Standells closely follow the original's arrangement but fail to reproduce the manic quality the Stones gave their version nor can Dodd duplicate Mick Jagger's sarcasm and contempt.  Side one concludes with "Dirty Water" which was also written by Ed Cobb.  The song has a tremendously catchy riff played on guitar and organ as well as arguably Dodd's best ever vocal.  I find it amusing that a song that has practically become the Boston theme song was performed by a quintessential Southern California band that had never even been to Boston when they recorded it.  Larry Tamblyn wrote "Pride & Devotion" which is a romantic pop song with a folk-rock flavor.  "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" is another great garage band song courtesy of Ed Cobb.  The song is driven by an insistent chugging riff and the cutting lyrics are delivered with a bit of a sneer from Dodd.  Somehow the song failed to become a hit but it is so good that the record company stuck it on the Standells' next album, "Why Pick On Me - Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" as well.  The group offers up the garage band standard "Hey Joe" in an arrangement similar to that of the Byrds and the Leaves.  They play it as fast as any version I've heard with lots of energy and a great Dodd vocal, but I give the Leaves' hit version the edge for its superior guitar solo.  "Why Did You Hurt Me" was written by Dodd and the Standells' guitarist Tony Valentino.  The song starts out like a garage rocker with a pounding riff and then has a romantic pop passage in the middle before finishing with a rave-up.  It is kind of derivative, but it sounds great.  The album concludes with yet another Ed Cobb song, "Rari."  This is a memorable song propelled by a swirling organ line, a forceful lead vocal from Dodd and compelling background vocals.  It features a terrific raga-like instrumental break.  The song gives the album a strong finish.  This is the Standell's best album and one of the best garage band-style albums of the 1960s.  If it had a few more strong originals instead of familiar covers, it would have been among the best albums of 1966.  I still love it though and it has been one of my most treasured albums for more than 30 years.  Rest in peace Dick Dodd and thank you for your terrific music.  I just wish there was more of it.  He and the Standells deserved a better career.  Recommended to people who think that Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Monkees were more important than Hall and Oates (yeah I'm looking at you, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voter bozos.)

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