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Sucking the 70s | review | classic rock | compilation | Lollipop

Sucking the '70s

(Small Stone)
By Brian Varney

This is such a great idea, I can't believe no one's had it before. Tribute albums are, by and large, woeful propositions (though Small Stone is responsible for one of the few good ones, 2000's Aerosmith tribute Right in the Nuts). There are a variety of reasons for this, but the most common problems are unimaginative arrangements (for instance, Warped's extremely faithful cover of AC/DC's "Dog Eat Dog," one of the very few all-out losers on this platter) and the fact that most of the bands participating are not as good as the one(s) to whom they are paying tribute.

However, Sucking the '70s succeeds where so many before have failed because the very concept encapsulates such a large chunk of space and actually encourages bands to take chances and exert themselves in ways that normal tribute albums do not. Everything from cock-rockin' bombast (Five Horse Johnson's superb set-opening run through Mountain's "Never in My Life," Suplecs' towering version of Rush's "Working Man") to mind-melting psych (The Heads' version of the obscure "For Madmen Only," originally performed by May Blitz, and Los Natas' equally synapse-disrupting take on Hawkwind's "Brainstorm") to downtuned bubblegum (Scott Reeder's finger-popping version of Sugarloaf's "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You") is covered and nearly everyone succeeds wildly.

Indeed, such is this set's success that it presents a pretty strong case for the '70s as rock music's finest decade. Though such an assertion would've been laughed outta school, say, 3-4 years ago, the decade in question's star has risen considerably since then. "Serious" rock critics and other failed academics (how's that for complete failure?) pointed and will continue to point to the '60s as the decade to top all others, and while I will not deny that a whole lotta finery was birthed during those years (especially the ones at the end), the wide-ranging greatness contained within these 35 songs (original versions, obviously, since we're talkin' '70s), as well as all the cool cultural and social shit, much of which is evoked by this set's beautiful packaging, that we all associate with the '70s (Gimme cowboy boots and a Dodge Charger with an 8-track player over frilly shirts, bowl cuts, and Beatle boots any day) fills me with a warm longing that thoughts of hippies, peace marches, and Woodstock do not. I suppose that makes me a self-centered hedonist who doesn't care for the well-being of his fellow man, but as Popeye once said, I yam what I yam.

Fuck, there's some great stuff on Sucking the '70s. Even the bands that trod upon sacred ground, like Lamont, who give a great version of the untouchable "Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings" (originally by ZZ Top, whose early records I love like the air that allows my continued survival) and Alabama Thunderpussy, whose version of "Hymn 43" tears Jethro Tull's great original into long, thin strips, succeed more wildly than they have any right to. At the other end of the spectrum are bands that reach for the cheese hoop by tackling bands and/or songs that aren't especially good. The best example is Backdraft, whose version of Whitesnake's "Child of Babylon" is terrific enough to make me want to head straight to the record store to grab some Whitesnake LPs from the dollar bin (which is exactly what I'm going to do as soon as I'm done writing this). And because there's nowhere else to put it, this is as good a place as any to mention Porn (The Men Of)'s deconstruction of Neil Young's "Out on the Weekend," which cannot be described without the use of the word "evil." Young's original, which opened Harvest, the one Neil album your parents probably had, thanks to hits like "Heart of Gold" and "Old Man," is here recast as a hellish, grinding maelstrom, a slow-motion swirl of dirty water going down the drain, anarchic entropy slowed to the speed of a slug.

There are many, many more highlights (I can't believe I haven't mentioned Throttlerod's version of "Black Betty," Clutch's "Cross-Eyed Mary," or The Brought Low's lighter-in-the-air version of a forgotten Rolling Stones song, "Till the Next Goodbye"), but, alas, time and finger stamina are short. Suffice it to say that any among you who obsessively watch the film Dazed and Confused and feel a nostalgia for an era of bellbottoms, afros, souped-up muscle cars, KISS pinball machines, and vinyl records will feel better having this around. Other bands who contribute are Dixie Witch, The Glasspack, The Last Vegas, Halfway to Gone, Puny Human, Raging Slab, Black Nasa, Hangnail, Roadsaw, Novadriver, Disengage, Milligram, Tummler, Fireball Ministry, Spirit Caravan, Lowrider, The Mushroom River Band, Broadsword, Doubleneck, Lord Sterling, Tectonic Break, and Gideon Smith & the Dixie Damned.
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