Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: Deluxe Editions of The Seeds' Debut Album and 'A Web of Sound'

They couldn’t claim a string of international hits, but The Seeds were LA garage rock royalty, and sitting on the throne was yowling, howling spaceman Sky Saxon. He and his horde—rippling electric pianist Daryl Hooper, fuzz-faced guitarist Jan Savage, and slamming drummer Rick Andridge—spun out two-chord songs simple as nursery rhymes and monstrous as Grimms’ fairy tales. Their eponymous debut is a work of pure excitement, and though they’ve been accused of recording the same song over-and-over, there’s enough blood running through The Seeds to make it a killer record in the Ramones-vein. In fact, tracks such as the single-minded “Pushin’ Too Hard”, the mesmeric noise “Evil Hoodoo”, and the chanting “No Escape” are as punk as anything The Ramones and their brethren did a decade later. The debut single “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” contrasts the prevailing speed and stomp with a dreamy pace, but it also has Saxon’s most intense vocal as he erupts into anguished primal screams. I wonder if John Lennon was listening.

The Seeds’ second album further deflates accusations of monotony as it moves the band’s signature songwriting style into less crazed, more varied and psychedelic vistas. Consequently, A Web of Sound is not as visceral as The Seeds, but it burns with explicit references to sex and drugs and memorable tracks such as “Mr. Farmer”, the Kinky “Tripmaker”, the rainy “A Faded Picture”, and the horny epic “Up in Her Room”.

GNP Crescendo records issued The Seeds in 2012 and A Web of Sound the following year as deluxe editions with all sonic planes distinguished brilliantly. Just listen to how much the rhythm section booms on “Evil Hoodoo” and how effectively the highs of Saxon’s wails and harmonica cut through that din. Both discs were also loaded with bonus tracks, The Seeds containing an assortment of outtakes and alternate takes, such as a funny Little Richard pastiche called “Daisy Mae” on which Saxon sounds a bit like Tiny Tim and “Evil Hoodoo” in an extended version even longer than “Up in Her Room”.

A Web of Sound offered even more with both the album’s stereo and mono mixes (guess which one’s better), a selection of boss alternates and outtakes (led by the baroque and rather demonic early version of “The Wind Bows Her Hair”), and A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues in its entirety and in its previously unissued mono mix. The album is better than its reputation because The Seeds play as well as ever and their style translates nicely to pure blues, but the material certainly isn’t very memorable and it does feel like a step backward, like if the Stones had followed Aftermath with The Rolling Stones. Sky does too much grumbling and mumbling, rarely getting into the manic zone that made him worshipable. While A Full Spoon might not be worth the admission price on its own, it is a very nice bonus to include on an album as good as A Web of Sound. The liner notes on both discs— oral histories with all surviving Seeds (Saxon died in 2009) —are also outstanding. Next month, Crescendo is apparently reissuing its deluxe edition of The Seeds in the UK next month, but they can both be purchased now through in the US here:
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