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26 Feb 2017

The Underground All Stars “Extremely Heavy” 1968 US Heavy Psych Dot Label US & Produced by Kim Fowley & Design In A Magnifficent “Skull” Cover by Rick Griffin.

The Underground All Stars “Extremely Heavy” 1968 US Heavy Psych Dot Label US & Produced by Kim Fowley & Design In A Magnifficent “Skull” Cover by Rick Griffin. 
As a Kim Fowley produced psych-ploitation album 1969’s “Extremely Heavy” didn’t garner a great deal of favorable attention. Mind you it wasn’t anything earth shattering, but within that subgenera it wasn’t half bad. 
So here are Fowley’s thoroughly uninformative liner notes: “What happens when a drummer from Memphis, a lead guitar from England, rhythm guitar from the depths of Greenwich Village, bass from one mental hospital and recording studio after another and a pounding organ, who has known every festival in the United States last summer, get together to rip apart each others musical inside at an all-night torture session which you should find extremely heavy. Not content to merely give each other an early case of shattered ear drums, with their bone hot music screeching, they had to drag into the massacre a recently disengaged lead singer of a former super-group as well as a New York bubble gum brother who wanted to get into something worthwhile. 
Hollywood’s midnight groupies were rather shocked to see the participants emerge and apart from the recording studio wearing black masks as each member of the All Stars has prior commitment and we might have been unnecessarily embarrassed as to who everybody was. It was pretty weird to hear drummer 1 tell guitar 1 to take 12 bars here and there. Well let’s hope there’s another Underground All Stars album ’cause by then the rumors will be ranging from Tiny Tim, to The Beatles, Steve Cropper, to Dick Van Dyke, Gypsy Rose Lee to Cleo. Oh well, another West Coast hype that made good between the grooves. You have to admit one thing, it’s teenage.” 
In spite of Fowley’s implications that the album featured well known stars forced to record anonymously due to contractual issues, if I had to speculate on this one, I’d guess that it was another Fowley solo project with backing from West Coast sessions players. As such both the Underground All Stars nameplate and “Extremely Heavy” album title were misnomers. To Be honest Rick Griffin’s skull cover was probably the heaviest thing here. Elsewhere most of this was little more than attitude and posturing. For goodness sakes over half of the songs were remakes of soul hits. With that kind of track listing, how friggin’ heavy could it be? 
‘The Hunter’ offered up a nice snarling slice of teenaged angst and was one of the ‘heaviest’ songs on the album. Fowley’s ragged voice wasn’t anything great, but matched up well with the tasty fuzz guitar and garage moves. And you though Kiss came up with the ‘love gun’ concept… Total BS. Gene Simmons and the rest of The Kiss clowns copped it from Fowley. 

- Well give Fowley credit for being willing to do a cover of Albert King’s classic ‘Cross Cut Saw’. The funny thing is that his garaged-up version wasn’t half bad. Mind you, the original was better, but his cover came in a close second. Nice twin lead guitars here. rating: stars – Slowed down and given a jazzy feel (nice bass lines), this instrumental cover of ‘Norwegian Wood’ actually wasn’t half bad. Not that anyone needed another cover of the song. 

- For whatever reason Fowley and company decided to play ‘You Don’t Know Like I Know’ pretty close to the original. Unfortunately that approach merely served to underscore their version couldn’t compete with the Sam and Dave original. The song did have a nice guitar solo going for it. 

- Oh wow, version 4,289 of ‘Louie, Louie’… So on this one Fowley sounded like he was either trying to cop a British accent, or he’d recently undergone root canal surgery. Amazingly you could actually make out most of the lyrics, though I’ve never bother to check to see if they matched the original. Even funnier – while it wasn’t all that different from The Kingsmen original, this version was pretty decent. 

- Side two started out with another decent soul cover – this time out Wilson Pickett’s ‘Don’t Fight It’. Competent is normally a pretty good measure, but not in music. Why would you pick a song where you had zero chance of improving on the original? Beats me. 

- The first thorough disappointment, Fowley was way out of his league when it came to covering ‘Get Back’. His version was amateurish and lame. Waste of vinyl.. rating: * star – Done as an instrumental, Dylan’s ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ came off as a decent slice of Band-styled country-rock. Nice guitar, but other than that there wasn’t a great deal going on here. 

- The best aspects of Fowley’s cover of Steve Cropper’s ‘Grab This Thing’ were the frantic bass line and the Cropper-styled lead guitar. Needless to say, this was another one that just couldn’t measure up to the original. 

- The lone Fowley original, the instrumental ‘Happy Meadow Trail Dance’ was also the album’s heaviest performance. Musically this one wasn’t much more than a routine bluesy jam, but the grooves sported some nice feedback soaked lead guitar, plenty of wailing harmonica, and Fowley screaming some sort of nonsense in the background. 

Certainly one of the better psych-ploitation albums out there. It could have been even better had Fowley included a couple more originals like ‘Happy Meadow Trail Dance’.

When I read this was an "exploito-psych" album from 1969 and saw the title "Extremely Heavy", I got pretty excited. Sounds like my bag for sure. Turns out that this is basically a half-assed Blues Rock album; it isn't heavy; and there's not much "psychedelic" happening here either. Worse for me, Blues Rock is one of the only styles from this era that I just don't enjoy in general. This has a slight bit of acid guitar fire here and there, but nothing interesting. The playing and singing (male) is mediocre at best. They can't even make a good piece of music out of a great tune like "Norwegian Wood". They do a totally dull version of "The Hunter", a track that Blue Cheer turned into a ferocious, mind-melting garage rock beast. Aside from the main thrust of Blues Rock, there's also some old-timey Boogie and Rock and Roll bits that fall flat, and I don't like those styles of music either. There is one good song on here, though: "You Don't Know Like I Know". I don't know if it's a cover song or not, but it sounds like a Motown song done with some acid rock vibes and the singer really lets go with a wailing, almost maniacal ..........

Yet another exploitation cash-in LP, put out by a label that seems to have gone to great pains to distance themselves from "heavy" music at all costs. Clearly, this is the only release on DOT Records that even comes close to "heavy". A subplot that this album has going is that the members of the band are all underground superstars in their own right, as current or former members of well known acts, and due to contractual obligations, are unable to reveal their identities on this record. There were a number of releases around this time that attempted to take advantage of this angle to generate some sales hype. The liner notes on the back cover were written by Kim Fowley and describe this situation, as well as the (most likely made up) story of how this particular group of musicians came together. And though the singer's name is also left in question, Fowley's unmistakable warbling manges to surface on more than one cut. Which leads one to wonder whether this entire project may have been another of his half-baked get rich quick schemes. Overall, the music is pretty decent, though, with no less than eight of the ten tracks offered at least pretty good or better. It's basically fairly heavy (naturally) British style blues rock, with a few covers of some better known cuts. It probably won't knock your socks off, but it also most likely won't disappoint you either, and is worth seeking out if you are into this type of .........

A1 The Hunter
Written-By – Jackson*, Jones*, Wells*
A2 Crosscut Saw
Written-By – R. G. Ford*
A3 Norwegian Wood
Written-By – Lennon-McCartney
A4 You Don't Know Like I Know
Written-By – Porter*, Hayes*
A5 Louie, Louie
Written-By – Richard Berry
B1 Don't Fight It
Written-By – Cropper*, Pickett*
B2 Get Back
Written-By – Lennon-McCartney
B3 I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
Written-By – Bob Dylan
B4 Grab This Thing
Written-By – Isbell*, Cropper*
B5 Happy Meadow Trail Dance
Written-By – Kim Fowley

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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