Two Reissues From The Flamin’ Groovies Capture Their Retro Informed Essence

Flamin’ Groovies | Now / Jumpin’ In the Night | (Liberation Hall)
Now: 3.5 of 5
Jumpin’ In the Night: 3 of 5

Videos by American Songwriter

San Francisco’s retro minded Flamin’ Groovies released a trinity of albums in quick succession for the Sire label in the mid-late 70s. The final two of these (Now from 1978, and 1979’s Jumpin’ in the Night) are back in print on CD through this reissue. While neither can claim any tracks as timeless and definitive as 1976’s iconic “Shake Some Action,” both have their moments.

The band lost frontman/songwriter Roy Loney before SSA, but original member Cyril Jordan successfully picked up that ball and ran with it for all three releases with the addition of co-songwriter/singer Chris Wilson.  They pushed the band in a more Brit-centric direction, co-writing tracks on both Now and Jumpin’, with well chosen, sometimes obscure covers filling out the discs.

Now kicks off with a terrific version of The Byrds’ “Feel a Whole Lot Better” which captures the Groovies’ love of Brit/American folk and garage rocking, a thread that runs through these collections. There was also a resilient early Rolling Stones vibe to the band’s sound, an aspect reinforced by this disc’s back-to-back covers of Jagger/Richards’ lovely semi-obscurity “Blue Turns to Gray” and the far more definitive “Paint It Black,” the latter a near note-for-note duplication. Producer Dave Edmunds (who also helped pen some tunes) knows his way around this sound and highlights the Groovies’ tough yet melodic vibe by maintaining their rough edges while bringing a slight sheen to the energetic proceedings.

None of the Now originals have the instant hook appeal that made “Shake Some Action,” and before that “Teenage Head,” so striking. But songs like “All I Wanted” exude the raw chiming guitar/gutsy garage essence that goes a long way to making Now a worthy inclusion into the Groovies’ catalog, if not quite a lost classic.

Its follow-up begins with four robust, freshly penned tunes including the title cut. But the set loses steam about halfway through where six of the last seven songs are covers. The Byrds, Bob Dylan and Lennon/McCartney’s “Please, Please Me” are informed with the Groovies’ guitars and vocals but end up sounding like pleasant, often spirited but hardly memorable knockoffs of the versions that made the songs so notable. And even if they wanted to work up a Warren Zevon track, “Werewolves of London” was a misstep from conception to its lukewarm execution. The playing is also a little lackluster compared to the previous releases, making Jumpin’ In the Night an enjoyable diversion but little more.

Both are essential for existing fans but those new to the Flamin’ Groovies should be aware of 1989’s Groovies’ Greatest Grooves compilation.  It includes the best moments from these plus gems from the band’s entire career, expansive liner notes and a generous 75 minute playing time.

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Behind The Song: “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” by R.E.M.