Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Ten Wheel Drive - Peculiar Friends (1971 us, good funky bluesy brass rock, 2019 korean remaster)

The third and final disc on Polydor from Ten Wheel Drive before Annie Sutton would come in to take over for the irreplaceable Genya Ravan and they would move the organization to Capitol for one more go at it, this is the most sophisticated of the small but cherished output from the ever changing and evolving entity known as Ten Wheel Drive. The pity here is that they had really found their groove on Peculiar Friends.

The band blends so nicely behind Ravan's unique and multi-purpose voice, changing genres while exploring the possibilities of a song like "I Had Him Down." They lift a few notes from Blood, Sweat & Tears' cover of the Laura Nyro composition, "And When I Die," but the song mutates before you can hold it down. The key word is "down," and the six-minute "Down in the Cold" rocks -- co-written by the core of the band, keyboardist Michael Zager (no relation to Zager & Evans of "25/25" fame, though many have made that mistake), guitarist Aram Schefrin, and vocalist Ravan. Drummers and bassists and horn players came and went, but the musical vision of the three main partners kept maturing, "Down in the Cold" takes Janis Joplin's drunken barroom "Turtle Blues" and speeds it up a whole lot. Ravan is in total control from the very slick "Shootin' the Breeze," which is one of the most magnificent songs they ever put on plastic, to "Fourteenth Street (I Can't Get Together)." The textures Schefrin and Zager build are the perfect complement to Ravan, and they should have kept this unit together at all costs. 

The title track is a mere 19 seconds of silliness while "The Night I Got Out of Jail" takes a Beatles riff and tucks it inside an Ike & Tina Turner rave-up. The nine tracks here hardly satisfy fans of early adult rock who would demand more. What they got was "No Next Time," the closest thing to a duet on this album, and a wonderful exercise in stretching the boundaries of pop. This is tough stuff that didn't lend itself to early-'70s radio, but had the potential to move the music from this time period to another, higher level. "The Pickpocket" fuses the hard rock of early Deep Purple from their keyboard heavy Tetragrammaton Days with contemporary jazz. The arrangements and performance here are top-notch, so good that the fact that there would be no more is the most disappointing aspect of Peculiar Friends. 
by Joe Viglione
1. Peculiar Friends - 0:19
2. The Night I Got Out Of Jail - 3:44
3. Shootin' The Breeze - 3:19
4. The Pickpocket (Aram Schefrin, Michael Zager, Genya Ravan) - 3:48
5. No Next Time - 4:34
6. Love Me - 5:05
7. Fourteenth Street (I Can't Get Together) - 5:49
8. I Had Him Down - 3:52
9. Down In The Cold (Aram Schefrin, Michael Zager, Genya Ravan) - 6:09
All songs by Aram Schefrin, Michael Zager except where stated

Ten Wheel Drive
*Genya Ravan - Harmonica, Harp, Vocals
*Aram Schefrin - Guitar, Producer, Vocals
*Michael Zager - Clarinet, Keyboards
*Frank Frint - Trumpet
*Alan Gauvin - Reeds, Wind
*Blake Hines - Bass
*Tom "Bones" Malone - Trombone
*Dean Pratt - Trumpet
*Danny Stiles - Trumpet
*David Williams - Drums

1969  Ten Wheel Drive - Construction #1 (2019 korean remaster)
1970  Ten Wheel Drive - Brief Replies (2019 korean remaster)
1969-71  Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan - The Best Of
1971  Genya Ravan - Genya Ravan

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