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Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Blues Magoos: Psychedelic Resurrection


1) Psychedelic Resurrection; 2) There's A Chance We Can Make It; 3) We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet; 4) D'Stinko Me Tummy's On The Blinko; 5) There She Goes; 6) I'm Still Playing; 7) Pipe Dream; 8) Gotta Get Away; 9) I Just Got Off From Work; 10) Rush Hour; 11) Psyche-Delight; 12) Tobacco Road.

Apparently, history has judged that The Blues Magoos were a force to be reckoned with back in the old days — otherwise, even the band members themselves probably wouldn't come up with the idea of a reunion. But reunite they did, if only on a partial basis, with Ralph Scala, Peppy Castro, and drummer Geoff Daking formerly justifying the resurrection of the band's name, and two new members (Mike Ciliberto on guitar and Peter Stuart Kohman on bass) completing the picture as the band began a regular touring program... and in 2014, actually emerged with a new album, most arrogantly called Psychedelic Resurrection — because, as everybody (at least in the Bronx area) knows, real psychedelia died in 1968 with the passing of the original Blues Ma­goos, and could only be resurrected if the original Blues Magoos got together.

And you know what? They might be right about that — well, hyperboles aside, and also keeping in mind that the band was never really that big a symbol for psychedelia in the first place, Psy­che­delic Resurrection is surprisingly effective. Yes, it is true that 7 out of 12 songs are re-recor­dings of their classic hits and personal favorites — but, first of all, we would have already forgot­ten how most of them sounded like anyway, and, second, they are so cleverly interspersed with the new compositions that the record never for once gives the impression of a pitiful collection of remakes. Somehow, despite occasional embarrassing moments, Psychedelic Resurrection turns out to be one of those very, very rare cases when the word «resurrection» is actually justified.

I am not sure how they managed to do it, but this new material is real fun — apart from having very little to do with psychedelia, it's a solid collection of pop-rock songs with true hooks and plenty of kickass energy. You can certainly detect some age-related wear and tear, most notably on Scala's vocals (that sound almost pitiably feeble and whiny on the new recording of ʽWe Ain't Got Nothin' Yetʼ), but the new (and probably much younger) guitarist compensates for that by playing with verve and inspiration, all the while adhering to the sonic stylistics of the Blues Magoos' original era rather than «modern» guitar playing... well, maybe not in the opening bars of the title track, though, where he sets off a bunch of fireworks that would feel more suitable on a Van Halen album.

But do not worry, that's just a bit of initial excess, quickly forgiven by the overall weirdness of the track — technically, it is supposed to be an arena-rock anthem celebra­ting the band's comeback, yet the slow pace, the doom-laden keyboards, and the strangely soul­ful, almost mournful vocals give the impression of a pack of zombies rising from the grave, so, on one hand, it's cool to hear them intone "we're back again... like an old friend!", but on the other hand, there's that strange green tinge on the faces and the definite smell of freshly overturned earth that puts the "join us now!.." admonition in a somewhat different light. I wonder if that was intentional, or if it just came out that way? In either case, it adds a drop of much-needed genuine weirdness to the whole thing, immediately elevating it over the expected status of a «just another boring comeback» record.

The rest of the new material is equally striking in its diversity. There's ʽD'Stinko Me Tummy's On The Blinkoʼ, a verse-bridge-chorus anthem to various types of indigestion (hardly a very psyche­delic subject, although, admittedly, you never really know when problems with your food tract may lead to potentially psychedelic reactions) — lyrically crude, but the chorus has an almost vile degree of catchiness. ʽI'm Still Playingʼ borrows a big chunk of the riff to ʽAll Day And All Of The Nightʼ, but spices it up with fine lead guitar overdubs and a nice ecstatic build-up to the chorus (again, on the subject of the band's tenacity). ʽI Just Got Off From Workʼ is a perfectly unpretentious chunk of power-pop that never strays off too far away from expressing delight at what its title is all about. And ʽPsyche-Delightʼ, despite a whiff of corniness, is cast as one of those «proto-disco» numbers (like ʽFunʼ from Sly & The Family Stone's Life album), combining even more reminiscences about the good old Sixties with a hard rock tone from the mid-Seventies and a bit of discoish hedonism from about the same time — I don't know if I'm committing a crime against good taste by recommending it, but apart from the rather ugly vocals on the bridge section, it's gut-level fun, if not necessarily a «psyche-delight» as they advertise it.

As for the old stuff, particularly the extended workouts like ʽTobacco Roadʼ and ʽRush Hourʼ that were very much dependent on garage-psychedelic jamming, all I can say is — these boys still got it. They do it a little differently and without a fresh feel of amazement at the new possibilities, but the rocking bits, particularly on ʽTobacco Roadʼ, still rock harder than most of the new rock bands do — perhaps because they feel so unburdened with decades of intellectual pressure on the unfortunate rocker. In other words, there's lots of brawn here, and only a tiny modicum of brain, and that happens to be admirable. I mean, come to think of it, how many of your favourite artists would be brave enough to release a song about the simple pains of indigestion as late as 2014 — and considering, too, that indigestion as a problem has never really gone away in all that time? The overall slogan of the album is neatly summarized in the pseudo-reprise of the title track at the end of ʽRush Hourʼ: "Psychedelic resurrection / Gives me such a big erection". Really, this album is not about much more than that, and besides, if psychedelic resurrection can still give Ralph Scala a big erection in 2014 (he must be around 70, no?), there's just nothing to do except give the record an admiring thumbs up. If only every «Veterans' Ball» were like this, we might want to change that slogan to «don't trust anybody under 30», eventually.


  1. That slogan is a motto of mine and has been for most of my life. Youth is wasted on the young.

  2. Didn't they borrow the chorus to 'Got Off From Work' from Macca's 'Ever Present past'?