aec.gear216.2 7/19/05 New

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ID: aec.gear216.2


    1969 Gear Fab

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Review Text Shag is not a great album qua album (mainly because it was not intended as an album at all) but is certainly strong enough to suggest how impressive a band Shag was at the height of its abilities. And that makes it another eminently worthwhile (if not indispensable) archival find by the folks at Gear Fab. In fact, the collector community to which the specialty reissue label caters had for years been aware of the quartet's prowess on the basis of a 45 cut in its earlier incarnation (when a "the" still came affixed to the band name). At the time calling Milwaukee, WI home, the Shag cut the garage-psych gem "Stop and Listen" on Capitol Records in 1967, a song that, decades later, would be a minor staple of '60s punk and psychedelic compilations (appearing most prominently on the fifth entry in the Pebbles series). Unbeknownst even to most of the aforementioned collectors, the band subsequently moved to the San Francisco area in 1968 and, while establishing a reputation as a live act on the city's famous ballroom circuit, made an album-length, studio-recorded demo that was left unreleased until the appearance of this CD 36 years after the fact. What the set tells us about the group is that its variation on the West Coast sound had much to recommend it, even in the rough-cut, unvarnished form this recording comes to us in. If occasionally derivative, particularly of local favorites the Jefferson Airplane (with whom Shag shared a stage), and merely adequate in the songwriting department (at its least charged, the music slots somewhere on the jam continuum between Santana and Grand Funk Railroad), on balance the playing here is pretty terrific. You can't help but to wonder what these songs would have sounded like dressed up by a professional -- or, really, any -- production. Even without a proper finish, though, the pair of tunes that opens the recording is a scintillating combination of the two: in the fuzzy flute funk of "Gypsies in the Forest," the gauzy pre-Woodstock summer might have found one of its themes, had anyone heard it at the time; and the wonderfully hectic, down-the-rabbit-hole jam "Mad Hatter," with its cake layers of bells and whistles and pots & bottle tops percussion, gives an indication of how powerfully Shag must have come across in live performance, as cups of electric Kool-Aid made their way around the dancefloor. ~ Stanton Swihart

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Gypsies in the Forest - 3:06
  2. 2. Mad Hatter - 3:58
  3. 3. Riddle - 3:47
  4. 4. Anyone's Song - 3:46
  5. 5. Cold Duck Wino - 6:17
  6. 6. Lavendar Tab, Ooh Dilly Dilly - 7:26
  7. 7. Lovely Lady - 4:08

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