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Steppenwolf: All Time Greatest Hits

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  • With all due respect to my fellow lovers of Steppenwolf, reviewers like Labrodorman focus too much on John Kay. Don’t get me wrong, Joaquim Krauledat was an absolutely incredible interpreter of song (and masterful songwriter in his own right), but he was not the only songwriter, nor was he the driving force that made the band’s music so deep AND dancable. To begin with, Hoyt Axton wrote “Snowblind” and “The Pusher,” not John Kay. Mars Bonfire wrote “Born to Be Wild,” “Ride with Me,” and “Tenderness.” John Kay had CO-writing credits on a number of songs, including “It’s Never Too Late,” “Hey Lawdy Mama,” “Move Over,” “Who Needs Ya,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “Jupiter’s Child,” “For Ladies Only,” and “Monster.” The few songs Kay wrote solo include “Rock Me,” and “Screeming Night Hog.” (All of the above info is right there on the CD’s label for all to read.) My point is not to disagree with anyone about the how great Steppenwolf was, but rather that it was a BAND, not a man. In fact, two words come immediately to mind: Jerry Edmonton. He was an exceptional drummer (born Jerry McCrohan, brother of Dennis “Mars Bonfire” McCrohan, he died in a 1993 car accident — RIP), who, in addition to co-writing “Hey Lawdy Mama” and “Monster,” provided one of the best dance beats of any rock drummer around. In fact, I’ve recently come to believe that Steppenwolf, with all its “hard rock” credentials (including the coining of “heavy metal” as a music term), might best be described a “rockin’ soul” band. And a lot of that soul comes from John Kay’s vocal style, but also from Goldie McJohn (John Goadsby)’s keyboards (aside from all his well-noted organ work throughout, his electric piano on “The Pusher” is truly sublime, and you can’t help but twist your torso on listening). The band had a lot of bass players and guitarists (with Klaus Karl “Nick St. Nicholas” Kassbaum and Larry Byrom being their most notable, respectively), but they managed to retain a consistent, solid sound throughout their important years (68-72). Steppenwolf was my favorite band in 6th grade in 1971, and through the years I have returned to them over and over again, repeatedly blown-away by just how deep-down good they were. I am so glad to read all these glowing reviews by others of my ilk, but don’t forget that it was John Kay who joined Jerry Edmonton’s band, The Sparrows, and together they co-founded Steppenwolf (using the name suggested by their producer, Gabriel Mekler). My recommendations: the “Greatest Hits” CD, and “Live,” which together showcase the band’s tight studio work with their scorching live performances.

    Posted on March 16, 2010