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Early Steppenwolf/For Ladies Only

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★★★★☆
(5 Reviews)

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  • I had the Matrix on vinyl years and years ago. While a lot of people were turned off by the long, Grateful Dead-style gradual descent into The Pusher, I always liked it. I’ve got a couple of Doors soundboards that also were recorded in the spring of ‘67 at The Matrix, a tiny venue where most shows were recorded by the forward-thinking Augustus Stanley Owsley (aka Bear). Yes, THAT Owsley, who created thousands of doses of LSD and turned on a generation. His interest in recording has resulted in a legacy of recordings of an era long gone, and he served as the Dead’s official concert recorder during their formative year. The fact that some 2,000+ Dead shows exist on tape (now digitized) will forever been Owsley’s unacknowledged legacy. (Later, concert promoter Bill Graham would follow Owsley’s lead and record most shows at the Fillmores (Auditorium, East, West) and Winterland — the benefits of which can be found at the Wolfgang’s Vault site, where many of those shows are available as downloads.)

    Back to Steppenwolf…the first half of this CD is something I would like to own in remastered form. By the time For Ladies Only came out, John Kay and company had peaked (wink, wink, for all you who know in what other manner peaking meant…) and were fast becoming a cliche. The constant turnover among band members didn’t help. The first two albums are “essential owning,” but the disorganized “At Your Birthday Party” signaled the start of a band in decline, although “Monster” saw them return to brilliant form briefly.

    That said, the Matrix show captures a specific date in May 1967 before “Born to Be Wild” catapulted the band into top 40 airplay, and they enjoyed a few years “at the top” — and also began to disintegrate. I love the Matrix show and will probably buy this two-fer solely to get that album, which, sadly, is out of print in the U.S.

    I don’t know if John Kay held on to his songwriting rights. I would suspect he didn’t, because with the exception of the gold Mobile Fidelity release (expensive, but worth it) of the first album, all the original albums are available in first-generation CD transfer, which is so-so at best. The Steppenwolf catalog is one of the few from that era that hasn’t received the “remastered, with bonus tracks” treatment. C’mon, if Grand Funk deserves the remaster/bonus track treatment, surely Steppenwolf does, too!

    As a teenager coming of age in the late ’60s, Steppenwolf was, for a couple of years, THE BAND, for me. I’m in my mid-50s now, but I still enjoy an occasional trip down memory lane. I just wish those visits to a bygone era were remastered and had better audio quality.

    Oh, well, I’ll take what I can get, so I guess I need to finish and order this CD…

    Peace.

    (UPDATE: I did go ahead and order this CD. I’ll update my review once it arrives and comment as to audio quality. I plan to take the Early Steppenwolf portion, rip it to 320 kbs mp3, and then burn as a CD-R, to play in my car, and then I’ll rip it again in 128 kbs mp3 for my iPod.)

    Posted on January 6, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • For those of you who are fans of the jam band, side 2 of Early Steppenwolf contains the greatest extended jam ever, The Pusher. Steppenwolf takes this genre and shows how it should be done, with no self gratifying,poinless guitar solos or aimless drum solos. This is one tight polished powerful jam. If you like this song you will probably never want to hear the short version again. Hoyt Axton did the original version of this, and you all should do yourself a favor and give it a listen. It is one great song.

    Posted on January 6, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This is an very interesting Package from The Wolf. These Two Records are by the Same Band, but they could not be any Different from each other. “Early Steppenwolf”, was recorded in San Francisco in May 1967 when this Group was still known as: “The Sparrow”. The Band played a Small Club called: “The Matrix” that was owned by Marty Balin, who was the lead Singer of The Jefferson Airplane. It was at one of the Shows in this tiny Club when by accident the “Off-The-Wall” Jamming by Nick St. Nicholas, the bassist, Took, the Sparrow on a New Musical Adventure into Improv. One by One, all Members of the Group jumped up on the Small Stage and assisted Nick, doing something New for The Sparrow, who used Tightly Rehearsed Arrangements of the Blues and Rock Standards of the Day, The Band let the Music Play them, and on this night they Discovered their Musical Voice. This Jam would Melt into; “The Pusher”, the Anti-Drug Song. This Performance became the Stuff of Legends, and because of this new found Release, everything in their World from this point onwards would be different.

    In addition to the Epic 21 Minute version of: “The Pusher”, the 1969 Record, Titled: “Early Steppenwolf” contained The Wolf’s renditions of Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker. “Power Play’ & “Tighten Up Your Wig” from the pen of Leader, Vocalist/Guitarist: John Kay further define the Steppenwolf Sound, that these Amazing Musicians were introducing into Stoned Hippy Heads. As these Historic Recordings, were finally made public after the Group had achieved Major Success on the Pop Charts, This Record was met with Universal Praise by Critics and Fans. It would still have been a Big Hit if:’ “Corrina, Corrina”, in this Amazing early version was the only Song on it, it’s just that Good!

    In contrast, the 1971 Record: “For Ladies Only” sounds as if it was Produced by a Totally Different Band. Four Years had gone by since the Club Daze of 1967. Steppenwolf had become one of America’s favorite Rock Bands after Coining those Words: “Heavy Metal Thunder”. John Kay, still led the Group, but aside from Drummer Jerry Edmonton it was a New and Different Band in Sound and Style. John Kay, stated at the Time of “Ladies” release that Steppenwolf had made a Record that Spotlighted the Bands “Tender” Side of playing. Love Songs by this Bunch of Highway Hellions…..WHAA???

    Well, for me “For Ladies Only” along with “Steppenwolf 7″ are my Two Favorite Records by this Fantastic Band {Throw in, “At Your Birthday Party” into that list as well!}. This Record was not as Hard-Edged as the LP’s of 68-69, but this is still well crafted Hard Rock and not “Soft” by any measure {John Kay COULD be Tender, but Soft?…No Way!}. Ladies has some real Fine Songs on it’s Grooves. “Shackles And Chains”, “The Night Time’s For You” “Tenderness” and “I’m Asking”. There are Acoustic Guitars and Pianos featured in the place of Roaring Power Chords and Feedback, and they are Played to Perfection by these Guys, this was still a Top-Notch Band that could write Excellent Songs and Out Play just about anyone else.

    The 9 Minute: “For Ladies Only” more than hints at Progressive Rock with a Beautiful Piano Passage in it’s Middle. This Majestic Gem is a Classic, that should have received more attention on FM Stations back in 1971. There are Hit Singles here on: “Ladies”, but the Public gave this record a Lukewarm indifference on the Charts. And Steppenwolf, would start a Slow Slide in Popularity from this Point onwards.

    Yes, it is Odd to play these Two very distinct Records Back to Back. But, it does show that in Four Years time, Evolution can be Mighty for a Rock Band. Steppenwolf, are One of The Greats, there is No Doubt of that fact. Listen and hear why this is so…FOUR STARS !!!

    Posted on January 6, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Due to contractual obligations Steppenwolf had to release 2 albums a year and these 2 came shortly after another but are the least equal. To start with the latter one, “For Ladies Only” has a smooth and polished production, but contains some of the greatest songs of the time, either written/sung by John Kane and/or other bandmembers. The instrumentation is flawless. I like this album as one of their best. No fillers or weak songs, some are really stunning, even 35 years from date. On the contrary the first album is not Steppenwolf at all (!), but the band before that, Sparrow, with some of the members which showcased in the latterday band and offered us the strong first studio album with “Born to Be Wild” (not presented here). Recorded in the Matrix in San Francisco in early 1967 (hey, remember that one from the Doors?) the music is raw, to say the least. Opener “Power Play” ends up on the “Monster” album, together with “Tighten up your Wig” (later also on “Steppenwolf The Second”) the only group originals, Hoyts Axtons dreary doom “The Pusher” closer is an extended version played in that vein (the much lighter studio rendition is on the first album) whilst “Corrina, Corrina” is a not very special popsong. That leaves only two other covers unmentioned, John Lee Hookers “I’m going Upstairs” and Howlin Wolf /Willy Dixons “Howlin’, for my Darlin”. The band had a huge section of smash hits thereafter and offered truely great albums. That makes listening to the beginnings somewhat uneasy (the later “Live” is much much better), so it is strange that BGO combined these two toghether, which in a way is the same as combining the moon and the sun, dark and light, fire and water. These are two complete different bandoutings. Therefore try to find each album solely or at least listen to them individually. In that case they offer the most. Besides that Steppenwolf will always remain one of my everlasting favorites.

    Posted on January 6, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • BGO records does it again…combining rare out of print cd’s with an eye to the collector who appreciates the effort…who else would buy this CD except real fans of Steppenwolf?
    Early Steppenwolf is classic acid drenched blues rock recorded in SF before the wolf became big…great jams and the sound of heavy metal thunder on these traditional blues workouts and previews of some tracks that Steppenwolf would later record in studio.
    For Ladies Only is also for men but I am not the 1st to say that it is not their best effort but found a place for fans who had trouble tracking down the original CD release.

    Posted on January 6, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now