THE AMBOY DUKES: CALL OF THE WILD (1973)
1) Call Of The Wild; 2) Sweet Revenge; 3) Pony Express; 4) Ain't It The Truth; 5) Renegade; 6) Rot Gut; 7) Below The Belt; 8) Cannon Balls.
Well! Is this already a completely solo Ted Nugent album in all but name? With Andy Solomon out of the band, the Nuge is now officially the only link to any sort of the Amboy Dukes' past — now there is no one but himself to even remember who the heck was a «Steve Farmer» and whether he was a real farmer or just pretended to be one. Actually, with the second wildlife-dedicated album title in a row, Ted drives the last nail into the coffin of the agricultural revolution. From now on and all the way down to eternity, a-hunting we will go.
And yet, the label «Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes» still makes some sense. For one thing, Uncle Ted's limitless libido is still kept under control: the occupation of «looking for meat», as applied to Call Of The Wild, is mostly to be understood in the literal, not figurative, way, with most of the album's rockers celebrating the simple pleasures of enjoying nature and freedom, rather than the self-imposed chains of the sex drive. For another, Ted still requires a full-fledged «band-like» sound — Solomon's replacement, Gabriel Magno, contributes thick keyboard layers that are regularly battling with Ted's guitar runs. (On vocals, by the way, we sometimes find Ted himself, sometimes a certain Andy Jezowski whom I really know nothing about).
But, most importantly, about half of Side B is still turned over to an atmospheric, quasi-psychedelic instrumental suite ('Below The Belt') — granted, its slow, moody unveiling, with Ted gradually laying on echos, distortion, wobble, phasing, feedback, etc., is probably just supposed to illustrate a thrilling journey through the jungle, which every brave hunter is expected to undertake in order to feel himself one with the things of nature before killing and eating them. (More nutritious that way, not to mention spiritual.) However, 'Below The Belt's direct musical influence is unquestionably Pink Floyd's 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene' — same type of relentlessly creeping crescendo, culminating in blood-curdling screams. For the classic Ted Nugent style, this is much too artsy-fartsy, and fully justifies still dragging along the «Amboy Dukes» tag.
The real good news is that Call Of The Wild rocks. Right until 'Below The Belt' softens up and colorizes the atmosphere, it is just one energetic rocker after another — truly wild, conveniently fast, and each containing either a decent riff, or a decent chorus, or both, and all of them featuring Mr. Ted in overdrive mode, soloing away like there was no tomorrow, no holds barred at all. The man is just completely unchained — one listen to the solo on 'Sweet Revenge' at 1:56 into the song is enough to witness a happy soul in fully free flight. This is one of those seminal spots where any disgust one might harbor towards Ted Nugent, the sickening human being, must be left behind that door and replaced with admiration for such inspired musicianship.
Obviously, if you are asserting yourself as a major hard-rocking machine as late as 1973, some of your music will be ripped off, and Uncle Ted's listening stand, by that time, must have included quite a bit of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple — 'Pony Express', as much ass as it kicks, is very much a slightly slowed down, bluesier take on 'Highway Star' (check the beginning of each verse, in particular). But then, one thing Uncle Ted never ever pretended to was trend-setting — other than masterminding an unfortunate association between cock rock and the National Rifle Association — and his is far from the only brand of derivative hard-rock that is still enjoyable from top to bottom. Who needs historical innovation with the kind of awesome guitar thunderstorm interlude Uncle Ted showers on our heads at 2:16 into 'Call Of The Wild'? That's just, like, totally MURDEROUS guitar playing out there! Beats even Mötörhead for sheer headbanging purposes, if you ask me.
To put it short, I can understand how all those «transitional era» Amboy Dukes albums had so little impact — but why an album like Call Of The Wild should so slumpily fall through the cracks of benevolent public attention and reluctant critical recognition, I have no idea. With a bunch of steamin'-hot rockers like the title track and 'Sweet Revenge', and a fun seven-minute atmospheric romp through the realm of sound like 'Below The Belt', it is the first Nugent-associated record I had the pleasure of enjoying all the way through — and, possibly, my thumbs up might stimulate someone else into sharing that pleasure. This may not yet be the completely print-ready cartoonish version of Uncle Ted with the cat scratch fever, but this is where Nugent truly arrives on the scene as a force in a class of his own. And no Jack London-related jokes, please.
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