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Early Steppenwolf/For Ladies Only

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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…


    (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