The band that played a major role in the evolution of power pop and are considered a forerunner of punk rock readies two of their most popular albums
The Flamin’ Groovies played a major role in the evolution of power pop and are considered a forerunner of punk rock. This summer they will reissue two classic albums: “Now” on July 10th and “Jumpin’ In the Night” on August 7th.
While it took a long and torturous five years for the Flamin’ Groovies to find their way back to an American record deal with Shake Some Action, a year and a half later the band had a follow-up ready, and while 1978’s Flamin’ Groovies Now isn’t quite as cohesive as the album that preceded it, in many respects the band sounds at once tighter and more relaxed, with some time on the road firming up the rhythm section while giving the songs a bit more room to swing (which wasn’t one of the strong suits of the British Invasion bands that provided their aural template). The band lost guitarist James Ferrell during the post-Shake Some Action tour, but former Charlatans picker Mike Wilhelm proved to be a more than simpatico replacement on these sessions, and while leader Cyril Jordan didn’t come up with another new song as transcendent as “Shake Some Action,” “All I Wanted” comes pretty close. But it’s significant that most of the songs on Flamin’ Groovies Now are covers, and while all of them are played with love, enthusiasm, and the right period flair (especially the Beatles’ “There’s a Place,” Paul Revere & the Raiders’ “Ups and Downs,” and “Move It,” an early U.K. hit for Cliff Richard), they give the album a feeling of being padded, and just because covering the Rolling Stones rarity “Blue Turns to Grey” was a good idea didn’t mean the Flamin’ Groovies had any business tackling “Paint It Black.” All in all, Flamin’ Groovies Now is a terrific-sounding record that captures a fine band when it was in great form, but it also makes clear that the gremlins that often dogged the Groovies in the studio (namely their inability to make a 100 percent satisfying album) hadn’t gone away.
The third and last of the Flamin’ Groovies late-’70s albums for Sire, Jumpin’ in the Night storms out of the gate with the title song, a top-shelf rocker that brings the muscle of the Flamingo-era lineup of the Groovies to the more style-conscious British Invasion sonics of Cyril Jordan’s version. Though Jumpin’ in the Night never rocks that hard or that well again, it does sound decidedly tighter and tougher than 1978’s Flamin’ Groovies Now, and guitarist Mike Wilhelm, a new addition to the Now lineup, is much better integrated into their wall of guitars, with the Groovies sounding more solid than they did a year before. But while Jumpin’ in the Night finds the Flamin’ Groovies sounding better than ever, the material unfortunately lets them down. It’s no wonder why the Flamin’ Groovies loved the Byrds — both were American bands who fell in love with the sounds of British rock and crafted their own variation on the style — but three Byrds covers on this album is about two too many (especially given how clunky David Wright’s drumming sounds on “5D”), and though having the Groovies tackle “Absolutely Sweet Marie” and “Please Please Me” sounds good on paper, the audible results are a bit underwhelming. (On the other hand, their cover of “Werewolves of London” is better than anyone had a right to expect.) The production and engineering by Roger Bechirian is crisp and flattering to the guitars, but lacks the resonance of Dave Edmunds’ more layered approach on Shake Some Action and Now. A great band, the Flamin’ Groovies often seemed to have a hard time reconciling their best qualities with the record-making process, and Jumpin’ in the Night is probably the best example of this dilemma, though it has more than enough worthwhile moments to compensate.