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One of America’s greatest, most influential, and legendary cult bands, the Flamin’ Groovies came out of the San Francisco area in 1965 playing greasy, bluesy, rock & roll dashed with a liberal sprinkling of British Invasion panache, in an era soon to be dominated by hippie culture and hyperextended raga-rock freakouts. Caught in a double bind of playing the wrong kind of music at the wrong time (as well as not looking the part), the Groovies were almost completely forgotten as the Fillmore/Avalon Ballroom scenes, dominated by the Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, et al., rendered them anachronistic. The plain truth, however, was that despite not being in tune with the zeitgeist, the Groovies made great music, and managed to sustain a career that lasted for over two decades.

Miriam Linna once opined that the Roy Loney-era lineup of the Flamin’ Groovies suggested what the Rolling Stones would have sounded like if they’d sworn their allegiance to the sound and style of Sun Records instead of Chess Records. If one wants to buy this theory (and it sounds reasonable to me), then Teenage Head was the Groovies’ alternate-universe version of Sticky Fingers, an album that delivered their toughest rock & roll beside their most introspective blues workouts. (In his liner notes to Buddha’s 1999 CD reissue of Teenage Head, Andy Kotowicz writes that Mick Jagger noticed the similarities between the two albums and thought the Groovies did the better job.) While the Flamin’ Groovies didn’t dip into the blues often, they always did right by ’em, and “City Lights” and “Yesterday’s Numbers” find them embracing the mournful soul of the blues to superb effect, while their covers of “Doctor Boogie” and “32-20” honor the originals while adding a energy and attitude that was all their own. And the rockers are among the best stuff this band ever put to tape, especially “High Flying Baby,” “Have You Seen My Baby?,” and the brilliant title track. And unlike Flamingo, Teenage Head sounds just as good as it deserves to; Richard Robinson’s production is clean, sharp, and gets the details onto tape with a clarity that never gets in the way of the band’s sweaty raunch. While Flamingo rocks a bit harder, Teenage Head is ultimately the best album the Flamin’ Groovies would ever make, and after Roy Loney left the band within a few months of its release, they’d never sound like this again.

-Mark Deming, AMG

DOWNLOAD:
Flamin’ Groovies-TEENAGE HEAD (1971)
320kbps

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