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16 Nov 2016

The Frost “Rock And Roll Music” 1969 US Psych Hard Rock

The Frost  “Rock And Roll Music”  1969 US Psych Hard Rock

The Frost’s second album on Vanguard, Rock and Roll Music, has the 1969 Dick Wagner four years before he would tour as part of the Lou Reed Rock & Roll Animal Band. The title track, recorded live at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit by engineer Ed Friedner, has an incessant chant over a bellowing guitar foundation. It is a good, raw picture of early Wagner music, a vital document of a Michigan band that helped shape that scene. “Sweet Lady Love” is the group in the recording studio with a tune that rocks like latter day Guess Who around the time of their Live at the Paramount LP. Producer Sam Charters balances the live tracks with the studio ones, á la John Simon’s vision for Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills. An acoustic ballad, “Linda,” is placed in between that hard rock and is a far cry from the nice madness of side two’s live tracks. In fact, the delicacy of Dick Wagner’s voice and guitar playing might’ve found some chart action if it wasn’t put in the context of a near metal album. Wagner sounds more like a British folky, say solo Paul McCartney, than American contemporary songwriters/singers James Taylor and Jonathan Edwards. “Linda” also sounds more like the type of music one would expect to hear on Vanguard. The parallels between Lou Reed and Frost cannot be ignored. Reed’s signature tunes during RR Animal were “Sweet Jane,” “Lady Day,” and “Rock & Roll.” Wagner’s titles, “Rock and Roll Music” and “Sweet Lady Love,” are side by side here – just an eerie premonition of the shape of things to come. “Black Train” on this album has the same vibe as the Velvet Underground’s “Train Coming Round the Bend” off of Loaded, though the style and melody are different. “Help Me Baby,” on the other hand, has a throbbing Blue Cheer bassline from co-singer and bassist Gordy Garris and rhythm guitarist Don Hartman, as well as a Grand Funk style blitz. “Donny’s Blues” opens side two, almost eight minutes of the band vamping with Hartman on vocals and harmonica. It melts into the song the Animals made famous for Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” Vanguard should go through the vaults and expand the live segments of this recording. One can feel the framework which would benefit Alice Cooper when the Rock & Roll Animal Band moved on to back that rock star. And Dick Wagner played a big role in writing some of Alice’s biggest hits when they collaborated. The Frost has glimpses of the sound that would be so instrumental in defining ‘70s hard rock… Joe Viglione…all music………… 

The Frost were a tight four-piece band from Saginaw, Michigan featuring Dick Wagner on lead guitar, Don Hartman on rhythm guitar and harmonica, Gordy Garris on bass and occasional piano and Bob Rigg on drums, with both guitarists contributing lead and backing vocals. Working in the latter half of the sixties, they became a key part of the emerging Detroit rock scene alongside the likes of Iggy & the Stooges and the MC5. They very much reflected the way that rock music had become heavier and more aggressive in the wake of the electrification of the blues and the emerging strength of English blues bands. This was a new macho style of blue collar rock that found a ready audience in the inner city Detroit environs, with Chicago blues roots often being at the heart of the music, most notably here with the nearly eight-minute ‘Donny’s Blues’. 

The Frost had first emerged with a couple of Vanguard singles in 1967/8 as Dick Wagner and the Frosts and a first album “Frost Music” in 1969. This seven-track second album followed hard on the heels of the first, and features a mix of studio and live tracks. The first six also appeared on three singles the same year, so it was evident that Vanguard was trying to pull out all the plugs to break the band. The title track is a pure in-your-face slab of hard rock, and very much a statement of intent, which makes it a trifle incongruous that the following track, ‘Sweet Lady Love’, is more straight-forward Doobie Brothers-styled boogie rock and then ‘Linda’ is so much softer and gentler by comparison. They did at least immediately show their versatility and musicality with these two, but as the album progresses with ‘Black Train’, ‘Help Me Baby’ and the afore-mentioned ‘Donny’s Blues’ it becomes increasingly obvious that the band’s heart lay in playing loud and rousing the assembled rabbles. Things culminate with a twelve-minute live version of Mann/Weil’s ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ which is certainly constructed to be a exciting crowd-pleaser. Built initially on the well-known bass riff, hard rock vocals drive it on to then bring in various instrumental sections including an extended drum break. It certainly raised the crowd’s temperature at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom. 

This album was followed by a third album, “Through The Eyes Of Love”, the following year, soon after which the band disbanded. Dick Wagner went on to play with some big names including Lou Reed and Alice Cooper, but he has rejoined his Frost colleagues Hartman and Rigg for reunions on several occasions. Though one of the very top acts in the Detroit area, the Frost never achieved the national heights of other similar rock acts like Bob Seger, Grand Funk Railroad or Ted Nugent, but on the stirring evidence of their albums they were more than a force to be reckoned with………. 

Of the seven tracks on the album, four are live (the two of the second side and the first and the last of the first). The album begins with “Rock And Roll Music,” which is not the subject of Chuck Berry in 1957 and later versioning by Beatles and Beach Boys, but a song composed by the alma mater of the group, guitarist Dick Wagner and played live the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, like the rest of the songs live. It is a sign of the beginning of raw rock Wagner, without baroquisms and with great force. Followed by the three themes of study, the first of them “Sweet Lady Love”, which makes us see clearly where focused Wagner (who co-wrote the theme with Frederick Knight), with plenty of air Power Pop, air McCartney and early 70. a three-minute topic completely acoustic, “Linda” (also of Wagner, like the rest of the first side), then it sounds as strange if we know the group, to reach “Black Train”, with rockanrollera base, guitar solo, but also very close to Power Pop, and perhaps the weakest of the LP. Side A closes with “Help Me Baby”, closer to rhythm and blues, with Dick showing us some of what you can do with the guitar (and voice) and parallels in with Grand Funk Railroad? “Donny’s Blues” opens the second side, with almost 8 minutes from Don Hartman improvising with harmonica and vocals. Closer still the pre-blues theme. “We Got To Get Out Of This Place” theme of Barry Mann & Cynthia Well and Success by The Animals in 1965, closes the album. It is also a topic long (12 minutes), with (almost) only 4 minutes battery included. ….. 

Dick Wagner – lead guitar & vocals 
Don Hartman – rhythm guitar, harmonica, vocals 
Gordy Garris – bass, vocals 
Bob Rigg – drums 

A1 Rock And Roll Music 2:46 
A2 Sweet Lady Love 2:59 
A3 Linda 3:03 
A4 Black Train 2:37 
A5 Help Me Baby 6:41 
B1 Donny’s Blues 7:47 
B2 We Got To Get Out Of This Place 12:08 

“Mystery Man” / “Stand In The Shadows” (Vanguard) 1969 
“Linda” / “Sweet Lady Love” (Vanguard) 1969 
“Rock And Roll Music” / “Donny’s Blues” (Vanguard) 1969 
“Long Way From Home” / “Black As Night” (Vanguard) 1970 

“Frost Music” (Vanguard/LP) 1969 
“Rock & Roll Music” (Vanguard/LP) 1969 
“Through The Eyes Of Love” (Vanguard/LP) 1970 
“Early Frost” (Vanguard/LP) 1978 
“Frost Music” (Vanguard/CD) May 6, 1993 
“Rock & Roll Music” (Vanguard/CD) July 25, 1994 
“Through The Eyes Of Love” (Vanguard/CD) July 25, 1995 
“Live At The Grande Ballroom” (Vanguard/Comet (Italy)/CD) 2001 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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