The Shadows of Knight (Dunwich 666)
The Shadows of Knight were a garage band from northwest Chicago. Vocalist Jim Sohns, guitarists Wayne
Rogers and Jerry McGeorge (you may remember Jerry from an earlier band HP Lovecraft), bassist Joe
Kelly and drummer Tom Schiffour were all under legal drinking age when their version of a Them/Van
Morrison B-side, "Gloria", hit the top of the chart. To quote Lester Bangs; "Gloria was a chromosome
blaster before most of us even knew we had 'em to blast." Their debut LP was recorded in March & April
of 1966 and today remains a classic along with the 1967 follow-up, Back Door Men (Dunwich 667). The first
release consisted of revved up versions of such blues staples as Muddy Waters' "I Got My Mojo
Working", John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom", Willie Dixon gems "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" & "You
Can't Judge A Book By the Cover" and "I Just Want to Make Love to You", Chuck Berry's "Let it Rock" and
"Oh Yea" by Bo Diddley. Completing the line-up were the self penned "Light Bulb Blues", "Dark Side" and
"It Always Happens That Way".
The Shadows of Knight were hot, (s)punky, pent up adolescent tension exploding in bursts of pure
rock'n'roll joy. Jim Sohns' "the little hairy wild man" had one of the most distinctive and charismatic voices
ever to be etched into pure virgin vinyl. His vocal quality and the dirty blues based rhythms of the band
oozed sex, or at least the promise of sex.
Both The Shadows of Knight (renamed Gloria after the single soared up the charts) and Back Door Men are
available today on CD. Raw 'N' Alive at the Cellar Club in 1966 (Sundazed) released in 1992 is an
outstanding document of the raw gritty excitement that propelled Jim Sohns and the boys to the top. Dark
Sides - a best of from Rhino Records issued in 1994 gives a new generation a chance to experience the
adrenaline rush that was the Shadows of Knight. This is the real stuff, indulge yourself.
Love(Elektra EKS-74001) 1966
As long as you do what I say, no problem. Arthur Lee
Arthur is not of this world. Jack Holzman
I first became aware of Love through some friends of mine, a band called the Wild Kingdom. The Kingdom
were the first "weird" band around Newport News, Virginia in the late sixties and were into the Byrds, the
Who, the Easybeats, the Yardbirds and Love. I was taken with Love's version of "My Little Red Book", a Hal
David-Burt Bacharach tune from the film What's New Pussycat. Love played what was called folk rock by
the media back then, having been heavily influenced by the Byrds themselves, but to class them at all is
quite limiting and unfair. Actually they were more like punk folk. Their range was from garage punk to
smooth jazz but always melodic, energetic and right on target.
Consisting of Arthur Lee, primary writer, vocals, guitar and harmonica, Bryan Maclean, former Byrds roadie
and brother of Maria McKee, on rhythm guitar, former Safari Ken Forssi, one of the greatest bass players
rock has ever produced, guitarist Johnny Echols and Snoopy Pfisterer on drums. Alban Pfisterer had
replaced original tub man Don Conka who was immortalized in the Lee classic, "Signed D.C.", prior to the
1966 release of Love. Pfisterer later manned keyboards and was, himself, replaced on drums by Michael
Lee, born Arthur Taylor Porter, in Memphis Tennessee 1944 or 45 was one of the most enigmatic and
elusive of the sixties many pop icons. Though Love was conceived in the heyday of flower power they
were not really typical of the "love" generation. In fact it has been said that "Hate" would've been a more
appropriate name for this band, known for their surly disposition and heroin addiction. Lee, who did not
like playing live, pretty much sealed the band's obscurity by refusing an invitation to play the Monterey
Pop Festival. It has also been said, by Bryan Maclean, among others, that the recorded output of this band
is a pale reflection of their in-person performances. If true, Love live must've been incredible! The
recorded work spanned just three LPs; Love, Da Capo and Forever Changes, each one a masterpiece.
Forever Changes is generally regarded as their crowning achievement and it is a great great album but I
find myself drawn more to that initial burst that gave us Love and Da Capo. These two are as raw as fresh
road kill and have more of that accidental unplanned brilliance that I am drawn to. There are quite a few
other albums released under the name Love but only the above mentioned were actually by the original
band we are praising here.
Arthur's overflowing talent for writing beautiful melodies and the unquestioned ability of the band made
Love a force that we have not seen the equal of in the thirty years since their demise. Love was essentially
the answer to Arthur Lee's muse but it should be stated flatly that this was a BAND with all contributing.
Bryan Maclean wrote only a few of Love's songs but each one was memorable. Note the minor keyed
"Softly To Me", simple and complex at the same time. It has a lovely melody but still rocks along at a good
clip. His maniacal vocal performance on Dino Valenti's "Hey Joe" is a punk gem and his rhythm guitar was
insistent and consistent throughout the record. Bryan has released ifyoubelievein, a CD of some of his
original compositions recorded as demos during the essential years of Love. It is on Sundazed Records
(Sundazed CD SC 11051). Bryan was an underutilized talent because Lee's personality was so strong and
dominating. The fire engine that drove this group was, without a doubt, Ken Forssi. One of the most
inventive, dynamic, any adjective for great bass players ever. If he is not in the rock'n'roll hall of fame he
should be. Anyone who fancies himself or herself a bassist needs to listen to Forssi, the cranking dynamo
of rock bottom. Forssi recently died shortly after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. He will be missed by
those who knew his work and should be explored by those who didn't. His playing was aggressive, lyrical
and unique. Johnny Echols was a fine guitarist and co-wrote "Emotions", "Can't Explain" and "Mushroom
Clouds". Some critics have dismissed this album as being overly influenced by the Byrds and if you are
familiar with both bands you can see the connection. While it IS imitative, especially on "No Matter What
You Do" and "You'll Be Following", this band is so amazing that their own special brand of psychedelic
garage folk comes through even on those numbers; and they ARE great songs. On "Gazing", "Emotions",
"And More", "My Flash On You", "A Message To Pretty" and "Colored Balls Falling" they are finding
themselves, making their own statement. The Byrds served only as a jumping off point. Do yourself a favor
and take a trip back to 1966 and let Love surround you. There is an excellent "best of" available on Rhino
Records as well as the original versions of Love, Da Capo and Forever Changes on Elektra. Love was
produced by Jack Holzman and Mark Abramson. It was recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles by Bruce
Botnik. Get it. It's good.
Contact High with The Godz (ESP-1037) 1966
The Godz. Not those heavy metal Godz from the mid-seventies. Hell, no! I'm talking about the one true
Godz, the most Godz awful, brilliant, inept, awe inspiring, genius band ever to flash down to earth on that
heavenly comet of rock'n'roll. THE Godz.
Since purchasing Contact High new sometime around 1967 I have suffered a lot of screwed up faces
trying to preach the gospel of the Godz. These guys threw away more radical ideas than most MUSICIANS
will ever have. This record was made on September 28, 1966, engineered by Andrew Burliner, and you can
hear much of the new or no wave territory being plotted years before there was a new wave. The Godz
would indulge any fantasy at all. Their one chord spirituals are most often referred to as dadaist or
deconstructionist. That's pretty close.
"Come On Girl, Turn On", the faux country dittie that kicks the LP off was a goof on Timothy Leary's "turn
on, tune in, drop out" credo. Quite funny too. This was nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more, say no more
to psychedelic country folkie hymns played so badly they were able to create a dead on parody, however
accidental. Every country clichÃ© is twisted, mutated, mutilated and poked for fun. The one line lyric
"come on girl, turn on" chanted into neverland accompanied by ineptitude taken to an unheard of extreme.
"White Cat Heat" begins safely enough but quickly becomes a lunatic free-form frenzy of feline fornication.
It reaches its dramatic cat fight cat heat climax then mellows into a satisfied fat cat purr. Pure bliss.
"Na Na Naa". I have been unable to supply any words to describe this piece o' work. Let it be sufficient to
say that this is the pure essence of what made the Godz what they were.
"Elevem" is a moody, almost melodic repetition of a single manta like chant that will set you completely
free from melody, beat and chord progression. This is like jazz, man. It is one of those one chord one
sound, monosyllabic atonal rantings that makes this a truly great album. It's like a sÃ©ance or an exorcism,
very cleansing. Think Maynard G Krebs and daddy-o beards.
There was a day when you had to flip the Monaural 12 inch vinyl LP over to hear the other side. Do that
now. Doesn't that take you back?
"1+1=?" is a slashing insult to music. It get sooo close to an actual chord but the tuning on the guitar is
what makes it laughable, and a gem - it's sung pretty straight but he CAN'T be serious. Jim, are you serious?
"Lay In The Sun" is another folkie ballad, complete with yodeling. Did I mention that when this disk was
recorded these guys didn't know as much as the average geek about how to actually play the instruments.
That is part of what makes this session a classic.
"Squeak" is a rape of the violin. Grating chaos that generates it's own dynamic out of a rhythmless dirge.
Reminds me of some of the excursions John Cale took with the Velvet Underground if he had been a bit
less "classically" trained or more likely if he had not been trained at all. You just would never play
anything like this if you knew better. Another of the defining pieces on Contact High.
"Godz". Sounds a lot like a peyote party where just a little too many buttons were popped. It's insistent
rhythm(?) guitar is the push that keeps it moving. Another truely defining moment.
"Words For The Birds" is another one of those failed country ditties. This is played too straight to be
taken seriously. Not a favorite.
The Godz are: Jay Dillon-psaltery; Larry Kessler-bass, violin; Jim McCarthy-guitar, plastic flute, harmonica;
and Paul Thornton-drums, maracas, guitar. According to the liner notes; "THIS IS THE GODZ' TRUTH: two
sides of eight original tunes by four New Yorkers who don't give a good God-damn whether you dig it or
not. They are human, alive, and hot in the blood, creating their own song, forging their own sound with a
beat like an elephant's heart. They are that way because they hold honesty dear, and have no need for
arrogance." Well said.
My feeble attempt to express to you the wonder and the beauty that was the Godz, to crystallize the
primitive naivetÃ© that allows this record to exist in the first place, has, I know, been inadequate. The
Godz are the most inept band ever to actually record an album, but, by contrast, one of the MOST
TALENTED. Trained musicians have no idea how to be this good. Their training and their musical reason
would not allow them to reach into the areas of the psyche that the Godz routinely traversed. If your mind
is open, your sense of humor is intact and you have the ability to recognize true genius when it smacks
you in the face pick up a copy of Contact High with the Godz. It is available on CD if you can't find the real
vinyl version but however you get it, get it. You'll never be the same again.