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A-Square (Of Course): The Story of Michigan's Legendary A-Square Records

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Hugh ’Jeep’ Holland was in many ways the catalyst for the Detroit rock revolution of the late 1960s. This enigmatic individual graduated from running hip record store Discount Records in Ann Arbor to his operating his own label and management stable, as well booking every major act that played in Michigan during that heady era. The legendary bills at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom were all overseen by Jeep, and many musicians in the state still single him out as the true steward of 60s Detroit rock. A-Square (Of Course), named for Jeep’s booking agency, chronicles the fascinating career of this lovable rogue whose reputation preceded him. It draws principally on the vaults of his A-Square label, so beloved of 60s garage collectors, but also includes rare recordings by some of the groups that Jeep managed and/or booked. Foremost amongst the latter are the MC5, whose super-rare 1968 single Looking At You was issued by the band on A-Square without Jeep’s knowledge. It is featured here from the original master tapes, as are the incendiary early recordings by the Scot Richard Case, later known by the acronym SRC. The Thyme were another popular group that Jeep nurtured, and in addition to their singles, several unissued tracks by the outfit are included. Jeep also booked the Bossmen, later to become Grande stalwarts the Frost, and several previously unreleased tracks are present on A-Square (Of Course). Of great interest to Stooges freaks will be a live track by the rarely heard Prime Movers, featuring a snotty young Iggy Pop on drums and lead vocals, circa 1966. Collectable items by the Up, Apostles, Rain and others round out the set, which is profusely annotated and illustrated with items from Jeep’s personal archive. A-Square (Of Course) finally and definitively documents a major chapter in Detroit rock history.

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  • I grew up in Ann Arbor when these bands were in their
    heyday,I love garage rock. Everybody has heard of the MC5,
    but other good bands are represented on this CD; SRC, The Frost,
    The Prime Movers, etc. Excellent collection.

    Posted on November 14, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I received the album in good time in great condition. I am a little disappointed in the content, but that is not the seller’s fault. Too many Rationals songs, not enough of the hard rocking tunes I remember from my high school days in Chelsea, A2 neighbor to the west.

    Posted on November 14, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • The high points of this collection definitely puts it into the must buy category of any 60’s music afficianado. They are The Scot Richard Case (early SRC)recordings of not one but 2! Pretty Things covers plus a version of I’m So Glad which easily equals The Cream. Their original song Who is That Girl and cover of The Who’s Cobwebs and Strange are great also. The 2 MC5 recordings sound better than ever especially the fabulous Borderline.Iggy Pop lays down the blueprint for his fine singing voice which we all know and love on I’m a Man. But the “Big” find has to be a group called Half-Life whose song Get Down actually gives the MC5 a run for their money (Please! there has to be a full album by these guys somewhere). Oh,did I forget the great demo version of The Frost’s Mystery Man. The rest is less hard rock type music(more Hollies and Zombies,there’s even a great cover of Time of the Season) but I’m sure it’ll sink into my subconscious eventually. An all around fantastic compilation that really makes me drool thinking about The Rationals collection that’s on the way. To hear these classics from the original master tapes instead of from crummy sounding bootlegs will be a wonder to behold!

    Posted on November 14, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This is a great album of little known Ann Arbor groups or some that are known in early configurations. I know for a personal fact that The Bossmen & The Frost tracks are being used without permission. Just go ask Dick Wagner, he wrote & sang the tracks. He told me Jeep had no right to take those tapes and leave town. Most of the tracks here are unreleased, with promises of a Rationals anthology soon. No one from the record label has answered my emails as to when the Rationals cd is coming, but any disc about A Squared Records without The Rationals is just fluff, and with most of the songs unreleased tracks anyway, can’t be truly representative of the label. I love this record even tho it is flawed for the above reasons, and hopefully there is a Volume 2 planned as well as the promised Rationals multi-label anthology (they were only on two in their lifetime, and a live album after).

    Posted on November 13, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This collection features 25 recording by about ten different artists recorded primarily in the years 1966 thru ‘68 on the Ann Arbor based A-Square record label.
    It opens appropriately with The Scott Richard Case featuring a locally charting rendition of Skip James’ “I’m So Glad”, a slightly different take than the version from the previously released Fresh Cream album. For many in the greater Detroit AM Radio market, it was to be the first exposure to both the tune and SRC. The next track by this group is a superb cover of The Pretty Things “Get the Picture” featuring a faithful rendition of Phil Mays unique and breathy soulful white-Brit voice. The group’s more muscular take of the Mays/Taylor “Midnight to Six Man” is more representative of a Detroit Style of music. In “Who Is That Girl” there is some foreshadowing of what was to become the signature psyche sound of SRC in the soon to follow Capital recordings but the laudable Qualkenbush guitar tone is barely evident in any these four cuts. Why any right-thinking group of musicians that did not include Keith Moon would choose to record “Cobwebs and Strange” is beyond my understanding. However this overlong ditty does feature as fine of Slide Flute work that could be found in Southeastern Michigan at the time.
    The MC5 were both underground and live legends when the originals “Looking at You” and “Borderline” were pressed. The first, a snazzy example of two-chord power rock and the latter serving up one of rock’s greatest-ever intro’s. If Jeep Holland had not been in such awe of John Sinclair, local activist and The `5’s spiritual guru, those of us who eagerly awaited this record may not have been so disappointed in the recording quality, poor mix, clipping and out-of-tune bass. A shame, really. Perhaps if John Sinclair had stayed out of the control room is a wishful metaphor for a large part of the MC5’s career.
    And so are presented the two largest acts to come off this fractionally complete A-Square collection., The above were amongst the biggest five in town at that time which also included The Amboy Dukes, Bob Seger and The Last Herd or Bob Seeger System and The Rationals. All having had relations with the label at one time-or-another.
    Lots of local groups performed the quirky “Back in the Jungle”. I always wondered where it came from and now the answer is known. And another by the Apostles is “Tired of Waiting for You” utilizing a B3 in place of the Davies guitars. “She is a Friend” (Rain) offer’s up some California styling and features a tambourine accompanied by some occassionally fine harmonies, an annoying bass tone and even a Roger McGuinnish guitar break.
    “Easy Way Out” by the Bossmen opens with an ominous guitar line and becomes remindful that it’s still the mid-Sixties shortly after the first four measures. Some Knickerbockers inspired harmonies in here too. If there are any doubts about the decade, we are reminded again with the tight “I Cannot Stop You” which could easily have been a hit for The Buckinghams.”Listen My Girl” gives us even more haunting guitar from one of Michigan’s Masters. And speaking of Dick Wagner, an early version of “Mystery Man” by the Frost is included with less flair or polish than the more known Vanguard issue.
    Odd’s are good that this reviewer heard The Thyme’s version of “Time of the Season” before the Zombie’s album received FM airplay. It’s a rhythmically complicated tune performed well with some semi-hollow body elec guitar pieces filling in for the lack of Rod Argent’s keyboard. You’d have to guess there was some thyme and takes spent in the studio on this one. Nearly a third of the cuts on this disc come from The Thyme. Personally, I was in no ways willing to spend my hard-earned cash on anything this group produced but interpretations like “I Found You” (Gene Clark) and “Window Song” still speak quality and are nicely representative of the times. Perhaps the D.C,B,A digression of “Somehow” (an original) hadn’t been used by every fledgling rock group at the time but somehow I doubt it. From the bolero start of “I Found a Love” (Cat Stevens) there is some suspicion this song could have been utilized by a Phil Spector girl group. “Very Last Day”, a throw-back to an even earlier time in the `60’s offers further proof that anything can be committed to tape for posterity. The never released “No Opportunity…No Experience” is a little reminiscent of its writer, Richie Havens. The opening is also remindful of the Amboy Duke’s anthem and includes some period style wah in the refrain. Pick it up, pick it up!
    Who was the original: Led Zep’s first album or “Get Down” by Half-Life? Who cares, 40 years ago I’d have happily plunked down a buck for this 45. This is a nice piece of work including the near-monotone vocal. What became of these guys?
    The Up were formed in 1967 but “Just Like an Aborigine” released late in the decade may have been their only “hit”. Driving percussion, a hollow body bass, two-chords and some punky vocals pretty much covered things.
    And so to close with the Grandad of Punk and “I’m a Man” which one supposes is included not because it’s fair enough cover but the not-to-be-confused with Keith Relf vocals of the soon-to-attain fame J. Osterberg.
    As collection of representative Michigan R&R music, there is some gold to be mined here. As a tribute to Jeep Holland and A2, this collection probably only scratches the surface of the person that most of us knew only as the guy that owned the label to which we aspired and was also responsible for booking so much local (and National) talent into our Teen Clubs and High Schools (for cryin’ out loud, The Who performed at Southfield High!) and later, the Ballrooms. Only those that knew him better were likely to understand what a complete asset he was to the overall health and state of the music community in general which, in Michigan, at that time, took a backseat to no other planet we knew.

    Posted on November 13, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now