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Review: The Grass Roots, “The Complete Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles”

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Grass Roots - ABC Dunhill SinglesThe tale of The Grass Roots is a convoluted one, involving a couple of bands, a pair of auteur songwriter-producers, and a handful of famed session men. But if the behind-the-scenes story is one with numerous twists and turns, the appeal of the music recorded under The Grass Roots’ name is blissfully simple: great songs, great productions, great performances. 24 polished nuggets from the Los Angeles pop-rockers – many of which still remain in rotation on oldies radio today – have been collected on Real Gone’s Complete Original Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles (RGM-0227, 2014). As the title indicates, the set focuses exclusively on charting A-sides released between 1965 and 1973, on which the evolution of the group’s sound can be traced. And The Grass Roots were no slouches in the hitmaking department, notching fourteen Top 40 hits, one gold and one platinum single. Led by Rob Grill, the band teamed with the Los Angeles Wrecking Crew for some of the period’s most sublime AM pop which is getting its full due from Real Gone.

At the heart of The Grass Roots’ story is the team of Steve Barri and P.F. Sloan, who together or separately penned six songs here, or one-quarter of the group’s hits. Producers and A&R men at Lou Adler’s Dunhill label, Sloan and Barri transformed the San Francisco band The Bedouins into the first Grass Roots, introducing them with a strong cover of Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” retitled “Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man).” Sloan, who with Barri had penned the Dylan-emulating single “Eve of Destruction” for Barry McGuire on Dunhill, championed a folk-rock sound for the band, and further streamlined it into the ultra-accessible, utterly catchy “Where Were You When I Needed You.” No matter that the track was laid down by Sloan with the Wrecking Crew pros; with Willie “Bill” Fulton of The Bedouins replacing Sloan’s lead vocal, the song gave The Grass Roots a Top 30 single. The Bedouins only feature on one more single here, though – Sloan and Barri’s “Only When You’re Lonely.” Though the production of the ballad was strong – with overtones of both The Byrds and The Association – it wasn’t as hook-filled as “Where Were You,” and scored the band a minor hit. Before long, The Bedouins were out and The 13th Floor was in, rechristened as The (new) Grass Roots.

This new iteration of the band – with Creed Bratton, Rick Coonce, Warren Entner and Rob Grill, the latter a last-minute replacement for a drafted member – had the good fortune of recording Sloan and Barri’s most hard-hitting production yet. “Let’s Live for Today” was adapted by Barri from an Italian song previously recorded by The Rokes and The Living Daylights, and was a little over three minutes of powerfully anthemic pop. The music, anchored by Sloan’s indelible guitar part, was harder-rocking but the message as urgently sung by Rob Grill was perfect for the Summer of Love with the specter of the Vietnam War looming. The Grass Roots were rewarded with their first Top 10 hit despite some controversy over the lyrics “Baby, I need to feel you inside of me/I’ve got to feel you deep inside of me….” Real Gone helpfully includes both the original 45 and the censored version (“Baby, I need to feel you beside me,” etc.) here.

The Grass Roots struggled to follow up the huge success of “Live for Today” with Sloan and Barri’s piano-driven “Things I Should Have Said” and psych-pop-tinged “Wake Up, Wake Up.” Sloan moved on after the band recorded his pretty “A Melody for You,” which expanded the group’s sound with prominent horns and strings. With Sloan out of the picture, his partner Barri guided The Grass Roots to a new sound leaning towards rhythmic blue-eyed soul. In his A&R capacity, Barri also led the band towards suitable material that the band could reinvent. This new style debuted with “Midnight Confessions,” a cover of a Lou Josie song previously waxed by The Ever-Green Blues. The brassy, dynamic “Midnight” hit the Billboard Top 5 in 1968. The Complete Hit Singles hits its stride with the sequence of songs curated by Barri: “Bella Linda” from Ivan Mogol, the composer of “Let’s Live for Today”; the Marmalade’s “Lovin’ Things”; and The Forum’s dramatic “The River is Wide” with a retro Spector vibe.

There’s more after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 4, 2014 at 09:26

Posted in Compilations, Reviews, The Grass Roots

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Release Round-Up: Week of March 4

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Little Feat boxLittle Feat, Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971-1990 (Warner Bros./Rhino)

The eclectic rock band’s near two-decade run on Warner Bros. is celebrated in this new box set, featuring all the band’s original studio albums, an expanded edition of the live Waiting for Columbus and a bonus disc of recordings sourced from the band’s 2000 box set Hotcakes & Outtakes. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dr John - Gris GrisThe Grass Roots, The Complete Original Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles / Irma Thomas, Full Time Woman — The Lost Cotillion Album / Professor Longhair, The Last Mardi Gras / Dr. John, The Night Tripper, Gris Gris / David Ruffin, My Whole World Ended/Feelin’ Good / David Ruffin, David Ruffin/Me ‘N Rock ‘N Roll Are Here to Stay / Marilyn McCoo, Solid Gold (Expanded Edition) / Charley Pride, The Gospel Collection (Real Gone Music)

Real Gone’s March madness features a host of titles, including two Mardi Gras-themed offerings from two New Orleans legends: Dr. John’s first album and a double-disc live set from jazz pianist Professor Longhair.

The Grass Roots: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Irma Thomas: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Professor Longhair: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Dr. John: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
David Ruffin #1: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
David Ruffin #2: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Marilyn McCoo: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Charley Pride: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Bob Dylan - 30th ConcertBob Dylan, The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Columbia/Legacy)

This multi-artist live tribute to The Bard, recorded at Madison Square Garden in 1992, is reissued as an expanded CD set as well as in a newly-restored DVD or Blu-Ray version with unreleased performances and behind-the-scenes footage.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
BD: Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.

A Beard of Stars DeluxeT. Rex, A Beard of Stars T. Rex: Deluxe Editions (Universal U.K.)

Before Marc Bolan hit the sweet spot, 1970 saw him cutting two albums – the last credited to “Tyrannosaurus Rex” and the first credited to “T. Rex,” respectively – that saw him moving from psych-folk to the kind of music that made him a legend. Both albums are expanded with unreleased demos, outtakes and single material (including beloved glam cut “Ride a White Swan”).

A Beard of Stars: 2CD (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.) / 2LP (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)
T. Rex: 2CD (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.) / 2LP (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Rufus VibrateRufus Wainwright, Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright (DGC/Interscope/UMe)

A greatest-hits compilation from the theatrical singer-songwriter, son of fellow-renowned musician Loudon Wainwright III.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Bob FrankBob Frank, Bob Frank / Peter Walker, “Second Poem to Kamela” or Gypsies Are Important (Light in the Attic)

Light in the Attic kicks off its new Vanguard Vault series exploring the “obscure, non-traditional side of the legendary Vanguard Records archive” with the 1972 self-titled album from Bob Frank (“the best songwriter you never heard” per Big Star producer Jim Dickinson) and the rare 1968 follow-up to Peter Walker’s mystical psych-folk Rainy Day Raga LP.

Bob Frank: LP (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / CD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
Peter Walker: LP (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / CD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Heart Magazine SACDHeart, Magazine / Peter, Paul and Mary, Peter, Paul and Mary (Audio Fidelity)

New, Steve Hoffman-mastered editions of two classic titles on hybrid SACD.

Heart: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Peter, Paul and Mary: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Written by Mike Duquette

March 4, 2014 at 08:32

It’s a “Solid Gold” March From Real Gone with Grass Roots, David Ruffin, Marilyn McCoo, and More

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Grass Roots - ABC Dunhill SinglesWe all know that March comes in like a lion, so it’s altogether appropriate, then, that Real Gone Music comes into March with a roar!  The label’s March 4 slate of eight titles emphasizes classic soul, with detours to vintage pop and country.  And as Mardi Gras 2014 falls on that very date, the sound of New Orleans is celebrated with a few very special releases, too.  From New Orleans, Real Gone presents titles from three bona fide Big Easy legends: Dr. John, Professor Longhair and Irma Thomas.  Sweetening the deal, the soul queen of New Orleans’ release unearths no less than 13 unreleased tracks!  That Crescent City trio is joined by a rare, never-on-CD solo album from The 5th Dimension’s Marilyn McCoo and Real Gone’s first-ever dip into the Motown catalogue with four long out-of-print albums on two CDs from The Temptations’ David Ruffin.  The line-up is rounded out by a collection of gospel sides from country legend Charley Pride and the complete hit A-sides from a group we knew the label would discover “sooner or later” – The Grass Roots!

Hit the jump for all of the details courtesy Real Gone’s press release, plus pre-order links to all titles!  And don’t miss out on the eclectic roster coming from Real Gone this February 4…all of the details are right here! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 22, 2014 at 13:41