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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Amboy Dukes: Migration


THE AMBOY DUKES: MIGRATION (1969)

1) Migration; 2) Prodigal Man; 3) For His Namesake; 4) I'm Not A Juvenile Delinquent; 5) Good Natured Emma; 6) Inside The Outside; 7) Shades Of Green And Grey; 8) Curb Your Elephant; 9) Loaded For Bear.

So, what sort of reaction would you expect from Ted Nugent if you told him his name were really an anagram for GUN DETENT? Here we have God providing the man with an almost direct hint, and he still ends the Amboy Dukes' third album with a song called 'Loaded For Bear'. What's that? Oh, right, it's not that bear. Damn the English language and its silly homonyms. Besides, Uncle Ted's big machine is usually loaded for boar, not bear. Or, sometimes, for beaver.

Anyway, Migration is basically the last attempt on the part of the original Amboy Dukes to be­have like a more or less straightfaced psychedelic American band. However, they are already nur­turing a more sarcastic attitude — the one that eventually landed them on Frank Zappa's record label — as evidenced by the tongue-in-cheek cover of the old doo-wop tune 'I'm Not A Juvenile Delinquent'. It's too silly to be hilarious, but it does show a desire to evolve, be it only in the car­toonish direction.

In other news, the band had just fired John Drake, replacing him with Rusty Day, an equally for­gettable non-presence — his lungs are slightly more powerful than Drake's, but that's just about it. Songwriting duties are still shared equally between Nugent and Farmer, with keyboards player Andy Solomon throwing in a piece of his own ('Curb Your Elephant', an uninteresting piece of whitebread R'n'B with occasional «free-form» bits of instrumental chaos thrown in, not unlike some eccentric composition by Giles, Giles, & Fripp on the other side of the Atlantic, but without the humor or the memorable melody).

Alas, even though the Dukes may be sounding here better than ever before — the Nuge just keeps getting huger and nuger with each new record, and Dave Palmer's drumming borders on the epic at times — they still do not have the faintest idea of what it is that constitutes a true hook, unless they come upon one through sheer coincidence. This is why the title track, a sprawling instrumen­tal that opens the album, is arguably the best that Migration has to offer — it is a colorful me­lange of various freely quoted psychedelic motives (inspired primarily by 'Beck's Bolero', so it would seem), which requires instrumental versatility rather than compositional skill, and all of the players rise up to the task, Ted first of all, alternating sweetly flowing psychedelic lines with rapid explosive bursts of fireworks, excited as if being under the spell effect of rhinoceros semen (the taste of which he would sometimes compare to marijuana in interviews).

'Prodigal Man' is also little more than yer basic, utterly generic hard rock when it comes to main melody, but there is enough ferocious drumming and guitar heroics on here to feed a small regi­ment of musicians; the final solo from Ted is among the most melodic and coherent pieces he ever cobbled together. Very few guitarists would play that fast, that clean, and that melodic in 1969, come to think of it: certainly, if pressured to do so, both Clapton and Hendrix could have shown Uncle Ted a thing or two in that style, but the bottomline is, they just didn't care to play in that style. (Pete Townshend did, but he was always way above disciplining himself as strictly as Nu­gent does on this, or many other, tracks). The live versions of 'Prodigal Man' used to run for fifteen minutes, too (a twenty-minute mammoth performance later surfaced on the band's live album), and, apparently, the original LP version of the song was much longer than the cut version that is available on all CD editions — vinyl collectors ahoy.

As long as the song in question is not all about the Nuge sending fireflies into space, though, it just floats by without much ado, like the routine psychedelic sonic cloud it is (if it's a Farmer song) or like the yawn-inducing hard rock cliché it is (if it's a Nugent song, e. g. 'Good Natured Emma'). The sound is always tasteful, but it's no fun just beating around the bush all the time, waiting for Ted to strike up a solo (oh well, at least he never disappoints); and, apparently, the music industry people shared this feeling, too — the songs got little, if any, airplay, and after the brief hopes that 'Journey To The Center Of The Mind' instilled in the band, Migration was a dreadful flop, failing to chart at all and essentially destroying the basic conception of the Amboy Dukes as a Farmer-Nugent project. And I agree with the people — thumbs down; after all, we can always hear the Nuge flash and sparkle some other time, particularly when there are some fine written songs to go along with the sparkle.


Check "Migration" (CD) on Amazon

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