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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf

Review by Gary Hill

The debut album from Steppenwolf, this is quite an impressive release. It’s not the most consistent album, at least in terms of style. Sure, everything here is strong, some of the music just feels like it doesn’t fit with the rest of the material. But that’s kind of a positive, too. It shows a band that was working at stretching beyond any kind of musical restraints. You can’t go wrong with a disc that has both “Born to Be Wild” and “The Pusher” on it, either.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Sookie Sookie

It wouldn’t be a big stretch of the imagination to think of this as some lost Creedence Clearwater Revival song. Sure, it’s a bit edgier than you might think of from them (sort of like adding some Deep Purple to the mix), but it’s not all that different.

Everybody's Next One
There’s a lot of psychedelia in this hard rocker. It’s cool, but definitely dated. I can make out a little Grateful Dead at times, but with a harder edge.
Berry Rides Again
Based on an old time rock and roll sound, this is without question a tribute to Chuck Berry. There are both musical and lyrical references to the man’s music. It’s a fun tune. 
Hoochie Coochie Man
This cover song is a killer blues rocker that turns out to a smoking jam later in the piece. 
Born To Be Wild
Here we get the band’s biggest hit. This rocker is just plain classic. If you’ve never heard it, you are not reading this because you live in a cave somewhere. This track includes the first reference to “heavy metal”. 
Your Wall's Too High
This is a psychedelically tinged hard rocker that’s classic Steppenwolf in terms of the musical stylings, even if it’s not one of their better known pieces of music. 
Desperation
A slow bluesy number, this is good, but not all that special. 
The Pusher
Frankly, I’ve always thought this track was stronger than “Born to Be Wild.” It’s a slower cut, but it’s very powerful. It’s perhaps a bit like The Animals. I love the guitar soloing that carries on throughout much of the track, and the vocals are so passionate. 
A Girl I Knew
The most purely psychedelic piece here, this starts with a mellow section and moves out to some soaring psychedelia later. It’s a good tune, but doesn’t really feel like it fits with the rest of the stuff here. That said, it’s quite intriguing in its experimental nature. It reminds me quite a bit of Tomorrow. 
Take What You Need
A more typical Steppenwolf rocker, this is good, but not a real standout. It seems about ready to launch out into a killer psychedelic jam, but then just fades out instead. 
The Ostrich
Based on a Bo Diddley beat, this has a psychedelic Steppenwolf approach transcending that basis. This is actually one of the most intriguing tracks on show here. It might not be as successful as some of the other stuff, but they really stretch it here. It reminds me at times of a harder rocking Doors. It’s really quite a cool piece of music.
 
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