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14 Jul 2017

Hog Heaven (The Shondells after Tommy James went solo) "Hog Heaven" 1971 US Psych Country Rock








Hog Heaven (The Shondells after Tommy James went solo) "Hog Heaven" 1971 US Psych Country Rock

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In 1966, the Raconteurs were a bar band in Greensburg, PA who happened to be in the right place at the right time when Tommy James needed a new backing band after "Hanky Panky," a single he'd cut in 1963, suddenly became a major hit. Following several successful years with James as the Shondells, Eddie Gray (guitar), Peter Lucia (drums), Ron Rosman (keyboards), and Mike Vale (bass) decided to go back out on their own, adopting the name Hog Heaven and cutting their self-titled debut album in 1971. Given the brand of upbeat, radio-ready pop that had been Tommy James & the Shondells' stock in trade, it's a bit of a surprise that Hog Heaven is for the most part a solid country-rock set with some potent boogie rock thrown in, and that Gray shows off his skills on the pedal steel as often as he does on the six-string. "Wilma Mae" and "Pennsylvania" both cut a potent and funky groove and there's some lively chicken pickin' on "Bumpin' Slapcar Mama," while the band offers a subtle but clear Christian message on "Prayer" and "Theme from a Thought" and drifts amiably on the mildly psychedelic and mostly acoustic "Come Away." Their years as the Shondells had certainly molded Hog Heaven into a tight combo who knew how to play as a unit, and since they had helped James write several of his biggest hits, coming up with solid material wasn't a problem (though the melodies are often better than the lyrics here). Hog Heaven is flawed by the fact the band didn't have an especially compelling frontman or a lead singer as good as James, but this is more than just a curio for Tommy James fans, and it's a shame that this band never had the chance to release another LP...by Mark Deming .....

Tracklist
A1 Wilma Mae
A2 Glass Room
A3 Bumpin' Slapcar Mama
A4 Prayer
A5 Happy
B1 Pennsylvania
B2 Come Away
B3 We All Go Down
B4 Theme From A Thought

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