Reissue Roundup: ZZ Top, James & Bobby Purify, Various Artists

Dennis Stoner is included on the anthology, Sad About the Times, a collection full of affable, earnest easy riders. Publicity image. Dennis Stoner is included on the anthology, Sad About the Times, a collection full of affable, earnest easy riders. Publicity image.

Various artists

Lullabies for Catatonics (Grapefruit)

The U.K. rock scene’s initial response to LSD tended more towards pastoral reverie than paranoid fever dream (not having a Vietnam War helped). But psychic unraveling quickly followed, as chronicled on Lullabies for Catatonics, a transporting crate-dig from excellent reissue label Grapefruit. Covering 1967-1974, this triple-disc set is lovingly crammed with the heavy, the majestic, and the near-parodic (“Death May Be Your Santa Claus”). It’s definitely no Freedom Rock cash-in, as nuggets from pre-fame Yes and Soft Machine nestle alongside unreleased delights from the likes of Mighty Baby and Sweet Slag. Seekers of off-road art rock will have a blast traversing these teeming trails. A real head-ucation.****

Lullabies For Catatonics: A Journey Through The British Avant-Pop/Art Rock Scene 1967-74, Various Artists, 3CD Clamshell BoxsetVarious Artists

ZZ Top

Goin’ 50 (Rhino)

If it weren’t for MTV, this retrospective might be called Goin’ 14. When Eliminator hit in 1983, ZZ Top was seen as a surprise beneficiary of music videos, but the closer truth is that the band’s success was a realization of MTV’s original AOR-on-TV goals—after all, their beards and road cruiser supplied as much cheap visual thrill as Limahl’s sprouted hairdo. Eliminator became a monster, sustaining ZZ Top through increasingly listless albums (yes, they really did name one Recycler). Unfortunately, this triple-disc set is fairly proportional chronologically, meaning that down the stretch ZZ Top sounds like a good ZZ Top cover band with weaker songs. It also means the first disc covers the pre-Eliminator years, when the singular force of Billy Gibbons’ razor-sharp licks over the lean, muscular Mike Beard-Dusty Hill rhythm section was laying down some of the tightest blues rock ever committed to tape—pure, clean grease. ***

James &
Bobby Purify

I’m Your Puppet: The Complete Bell Recordings 1966-1969 (Soul)

New York’s Bell Records was the home of a lot of great pop soul in the ’60s, releasing records by the Delfonics, the O’Jays, Al Green—and cousins James and Bobby Purify, whose debut single, recorded at FAME Studios, was an irresistibly sunny take on being whipped. Although they hit the top 40 again, “I’m Your Puppet” was the Purifys’ lone smash, which is why this compilation of their Bell recordings is so welcome. The Purifys showed impressive versatility when covering hits of the day—Bobby could do a good Wilson Pickett, James a decent Sam Cooke, and together they sounded like a mellower Sam & Dave. But the less familiar material is even more revelatory, and it’s a crying shame oldies stations don’t play more of the Purifys alongside their enduring chestnuts. ****

Various artists

Sad About the Times (Anthology)

As the U.S. counterculture sputtered back in the States, a softer pop main- stream emerged for maturing boomers while the hard stuff got harder, capturing disaffected youths. Somewhere in between lies most of the stuff on the endearing Sad About the Times. It’s cohesive musically, sticking to dusty West Coast country-rock with accents of psychedelia and folk, and the mood is also consistent—affable, earnest easy riders abound. And the quality of the tracks is downright stunning, especially considering that the artists here are uniformly obscure (forgive me, rabid fans of Boz Metzdorf). The best-known is probably Dennis Stoner, whose Procol-Harum-meets-the-Dead “Maybe Someday/Maybe Never” finishes the album on a stately, elegiac note. ****1/2

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