Monday, April 18, 2011

Rock Island - Rock Island 1970

Rock Island's obscure 1970 debut attempted a daring but unsuccessful synthesis of many of the most popular musical styles of late-'60s pop. Part blues-rock, part insipid acid rock, typical album tracks like "Blue, Blue Lady," "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," and "I Remember" fall absolutely flat on a combination of formulaic songwriting and Sgt. Pepper/Summer of Love-type lyrics, ridden with clichés. The pseudo-folkie "Hard and Never Easy," for instance, isn't just idiotically redundant, its psychotropic trip to the center of your mind sounds like a gutless take on the Amboy Dukes, and singer B.J. Taylor rarely helps matters with his occasional bum notes and all around ineffective impressions of the era's prevalent singing styles. On the other hand, lead guitarist Mike Kennedy rescues many a tune with his nimble fingerings and searing tone (see the hard-rocking "She Has Left Me" and his extended solo showcase, simply entitled "Blues"), but not even his Chicago-by-way-of-Brit-blues chops (Bloomfield, Clapton, Peter Green, etc.) can single-handedly carry the day. Instead, confused eclecticism rules: whether it's the uncomfortable contrast between chart-minded arrangements and extended solos heard on "Runnin' Through My Mind," or the way that "When I Was a Boy" suddenly breaks off from its intentionally childlike (how psychedelic!) lyrics for a jazzy piano solo (possibly influenced by cross-town prog-jazz pioneers the Flock?) that makes both sections seem a little underdeveloped. In any case, there's not much here unless you're an absolute nut for the era's psych-rock. AMG.

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