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The Epic Years 1974-1976

Review by Gary Hill

Steppenwolf really created a sound that was so strong. Their brand of blues-leaning hard rock was fairly unique when they emerged in the 1960s. I'd argue that it was probably a big influence on a lot of the music that emerged in the 1970s. After breaking up beyond their initial run of albums, the band got back together in 1974 and released three new albums in as many years. This box set gathers all three of them along with two bonus tracks on the second disc. Each CD comes in a cardboard sleeve, and an informative booklet is included. All of that fits into a cardboard clamshell box to complete the package. The music here is most the kind of thing you expect from the group, but it also stretches out a little from time to time. All three of these discs are worthy of being part of the Steppenwolf catalog.

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Track by Track Review
Slow Flux
Gang War Blues

Killer blues rocking riffs get this under way. The tune has such a classic Steppenwolf sound to it. The organ lends some tasty retro textures. This is a powerhouse opener. They drop it back for a mellower section mid-track, but bring up back up with a vengeance from there.

Children of Night
Another with a real classic Steppenwolf sound, this is a little more reflective. I really dig the guitar fills a lot. The chorus hook is suitably catchy, and the cut has some great riffing.
Justice Don’t Be Slow
There is a jazzy, bluesy groove to this cut. It's another that's trademark Steppenwolf. This includes some sound-bites in a rather psychedelic mid-track break. While not my favorite tune on the disc, it brings variety and style.
Get into the Wind
The rocking groove and sound on this is so classic. It's also so strong. I love the dramatic twisting part of this, but the whole tune is great. In fact, I'd consider this one of the best pieces here. It includes some killer keyboard work, including a solo.
Another blues rocking tune, this has some great hooks. The sound is a little more modern than some of the rest. It's still unmistakably Steppenwolf, though. The talk-box guitar solo is on fire. There are some really intriguing sounds built into this thing via various effects. The tune really turns into a cool groove on the extended closing instrumental section.
Straight Shootin’ Woman
More of a straight-ahead rocker, horns bring something different to the table. There are some intriguing angles to the piece. It brings more variety to the set, while still fitting well within the Steppenwolf catalog.
Smokey Factory Blues
This is a change. The vocals give it away as Steppenwolf, but there is almost a progressive rock feeling to this. The keyboards bring that to bear as they hold the bulk of the instrumental arrangement. When the guitars take control later, and the tune moves out to more of a rocking motif, it feels more like what I expect from Steppenwolf. Either way, this is great stuff.
Morning Blue
This is a blues rock based ballad. It has some real drama and magic built into it. The hooks are great. The organ brings a lot of style. This just screams "Steppenwolf."
A Fool’s Fantasy
After a unique trippy intro, they turn out into some seriously funky rocking sounds for the song proper. This is another killer tune. It has some intriguing changes. It's a tune that is instantly recognizable as Steppenwolf but brings some fresh angles into the mix.
Fishin’ in the Dark
I love the groove of this song. It's trademark Steppenwolf. The horns and keyboards brings something special to it, but the great riff really makes it work. The guitar solo is smoking. There are some almost proggy, playful sections built into the cut, too.
Hour Of The Wolf
Caroline (Are You Ready for the Outlaw World)

More of a mainstream pop rock sound is on the menu here. The horns and keyboards feature prominently. This is fun, but other than the vocals it doesn't feel all that much like Steppenwolf to me.

Annie, Annie Over
While this has some of that mainstream sound, this feels more like the kind of blues rock I expect from the band. This is more pop rock oriented, but it's also quite tasty. The organ work really adds something special to it.
Two for the Love of One
A meatier hot rocker, this is a step up from the last track. It's more guitar dominated, but it does have some smoking hot organ work. This feels more like trademark Steppenwolf.
Just for Tonight
The mellower, slower moving section that starts this brings a different sound. The cut works out to more hard rocking stuff that's more expected. It alternates between those two sections as it works forward. I swear there are female vocals in the background on the more laid back parts of this, but I don't see a credit for it. This has some killer guitar work built into it.
Hard Rock Road
This feels very much like a transition from the hard rocking sound that Steppenwolf created in the 1960s and the more modern mid 70s sound that dominated radio waves. If anyone had a natural right to that kind of sound, it was this band, so it's effective, if a bit of a different flavor. Horns and backing vocals bring a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd vibe to it at times.
Someone Told a Lie
Mixing the kind of sound we heard on the previous one with something a bit more classic, this is strong tune. It has some more hints of talk box on some of the guitar parts. This is catchy and a lot of fun. The organ solo is on fire, too.
Another’s Lifetime
A bluesy ballad approach is on the menu as this gets underway. There is a real down-home vibe to it. The track powers up in a pretty classic way, while still maintaining its basic concepts.
Mr. Penny Pincher
This song almost feels like a progressive rock twist on Steppenwolf. While it's a big change, it's also a great song. I'd consider this one to be one of the standouts of the set. It has enough trademarks to keep it consistent, but it also brings so many proggy trappings that it really stretches the sound in a great way.
Bonus Tracks:
Angeldrawers (B-side of single)

This classic rocking sound has plenty of style and charm built into it. The piece is another that brings some proggy things to bear. It's also so tasty, particularly given that it's a B-side. It's nearly an instrumental with just some chorus vocals.

Caroline (Are You Ready for the Outlaw World) (Mono promotional single mix)
This single version of the track works really well.

Up-tempo drumming starts the album and holds it for a time. Then a classic Steppenwolf instrumental arrangement joins with plenty of energy. This has a catchy chorus and plenty of driving Steppenwolf trademarks built into the mix. This title track is meaty, classy and such a great way to start this third disc of the set.

(I’m a) Road Runner
Classic hard rocking sounds are all over this tune. It manages to be catchy and still have real meat on its bones. They really make this cover tune their own.
Rock n’ Roll Song
Acoustic guitar brings this mellower tune into being. I am not sure why, but I'm reminded just a little of Emerson Lake and Palmer. This still has an unmistakable Steppenwolf vibe.
Train of Thought
Another cover, this tune was first released by Cher. The opening mellower movement feels a bit unfamiliar for Steppenwolf, but they really build it as their sound as it gets rocking. They put in a great rocking rendition of the tune.
Life is a Gamble
A killer mainstream rocker, this has plenty of Steppenwolf trademarks. I love the piano work on the piece, and there are some great hooks, as well. This isn't anything fancy, but just solid bluesy rocking music done really well.
Pass it On
This has a mainstream pop rock with some gospel and folk in the mix. The sound is very much of its time, and the vocals make it decidedly Steppenwolf. I just don't think this works all that well compared to the band's catalog.
A bit more like what I expect from the band, this rocker is a mainstream one that it's reasonably effective. While I wouldn't consider this a highlight, it's a step up from the tune that preceded it. The instrumental section takes us into some intriguing territory with its almost proggy angles.
Lip Service
Steppenwolf funk is in the driver's seat here. This closing instrumental piece is so cool and takes on some proggy tendencies at times.

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