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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Rhinoceros

The Elektra Albums - 1968-1970

Review by Gary Hill

This act didn't get as much respect as they deserved. Think a lot of that comes from the fact they were put together by Elektra Records after auditions, rather than being signed as a group. The thing is, if you listen to this cool set that brings all three albums together, you'll find that they were really talented and created some great music. The three CD set includes all the CDs in cardboard sleeves reproducing the original albums (two of them gatefolds) and a booklet in a cardboard sleeve. It's a classy product with some strong music that lands covers a range from blues rock to soul and psychedelia.

You will find bonus video footage of this release available at the Music Street Journal Youtube channel here: .youtube.com/watch?v=S7FeBQuK1jo

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
CD One: Rhinoceros
                  
When You Say You're Sorry

A bluesy rocking riff brings the album in. The cut gets a psychedelic, soulful edge added to it. There are some cool changes. The vocal arrangement is top notch, and the organ lends some real 1960s flair. There are small hints of things like Iron Butterfly for a moment or two here and there. Overall, this lands more along the lines of blues rock with some leanings toward soul music.

Same Old Way
A cool slow psychedelic movement brings this cut into being. That holds it for the first vocal section. Then they shift to a rather down home country concept for the next movement. They bring it back out to the psychedelia from there. That seems to end, but some guitar brings in a short, and rather tentative instrumental section that serves as the actual closing.
Apricot Brandy
Killer bluesy rock with a fast tempo and mean riffing starts this tune. It is a classy instrumental piece.
That Time of the Year
This powerful blues rock tune is one of the highlights of the whole set. It has some exceptionally evocative textures. The guitar and organ both bring so much to the song. This builds out in a classic 1960s way as it continues driving forward. This era is known for the psychedelia, but it also had some of the best blues rock, and this is right op there among groups like Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.
You're My Girl
This cut does have more of a psychedelic edge than the previous cut did, but it's just a minor thing. Soul music is a much bigger influence on this, along with the blues rock. It's an energized tune that seems to predict things like Grand Funk Railroad.
I Need Love
This feels very much like something James Brown or perhaps the Blues Brothers would have done. It's a powerhouse tune that rocks like crazy.
I've Been There
I like the slow moving, rather bluesy, rather soulful concept of this number. It's a bit mellower and more keyboard based. It does have some psychedelia in the mix.
Belbuekus
A high energy and smoking hot soulful rocker, this really grooves. It has some killer guitar work, too. There is a powerful shift toward neo-classical psychedelia and proto-prog later in the piece as they work through an instrumental section.
Along Comes Tomorrow
This starts on the mellower side of the equation, but gradually works outward to a more rocking zone. It has plenty of psychedelia in the mix. It makes a return to the mellower stuff, too, making it one of the more dynamic pieces with a good contrast, particularly when it powers back up to rocking zones again further down the road.
I Will Serenade You
This bluesy tune has some hints of gospel music and soul in the mix. It's more of a power ballad type song. The vocal arrangement steals the show, but the organ is a prominent part of the arrangement.
CD Two: Satin Chickens
                    
Satin Doll

This short cut is a cool jazz jam. It features some smoking hot jazz guitar and piano. There are some non-lyrical vocals near the end.

Monkee Man
Coming out of the previous tune, this has a blues rock turned psychedelic sound. This is more of a soulful number once it gets going. It's a cool grind.
Find My Hand
This number starts with a mellow groove. Blues and country are both present to some degree, but overall this is more of a psychedelic tune. It has some moments that wander toward progressive rock a little, and the number does get a bit more powered up as it goes.
Top of the Ladder
Soul and blues merge well on this energetic tune. It's classy, but not really a standout.
Sugar Foot Rag
Now, this is a trip. It's a short bluegrass instrumental that's a lot of fun.
Don't Come Crying
The psychedelia comes in with a vengeance here. There is still some definite blues rock in the mix, but this has a lot of psychedelic edge. This is another highlight of the set. It's is laced with such a cool, echoey atmosphere.
Chicken
There is some studio banter at the start of this that is funny. Then we get instrumental weirdness along with voice sound effects. This is a goofy number that includes barnyard sounds as it gets underway. It eventually works out to a more traditional kind of blues jam, but there are definite hints of both psychedelia and jazz in the mix. It's an instrumental and an oddity.
It's the Same Thing
The blues rock concept here has some soul built into it. There is a loose sense of freedom to it in some ways. It feels a little playful, but not to the degree of the previous song. This is also another piece that calls to mind the kind of sound that Grand Funk Railroad made their forte.
In a Little Room
A mellower cut, this is more of a jazzy, bluesy ballad type of number.  While this is pretty, it's not really a standout. It is definitely a change.
Funk Butt
Coming in high energy and with a great groove, this is a fun cut. It has plenty of soulful rock and roll. There are definitely elements of Booker T and the MGs type sound. It has some non-lyrical vocals, but otherwise is an instrumental.
Back Door
I dig this soulful, bluesy tune. It's a fun cut. It's another that feels like something The Blues Brothers might do.
CD Three: Better Times Are Coming

          

Better Times

Starting rhythmically, this works out into a cool groove that makes me think of the band War. It has some killer funk and jazz in the mix. This is so strong and so much fun. It's definitely another highlight of the set.

Old Age
Funk and soul are the key driving factors on this killer tune. It has some real proggy and jazzy jamming, though. This is a fast paced stomper that's another of the strongest tunes here. In fact, this might be my favorite song of the whole three CD set.
Sweet, Nice 'N' High
Soul music and blues are on hand here. This is a strong tune, too, but not at the same level as the first two songs on this third disc.
Just Me
I dig the driving groove on this powerful tune. This instrumental is all class.
Happiness
Soulful blues is on display here. This cut is other that makes me think of James Brown to some degree.
Somewhere
This is an interesting and unusual tune. I can make out some hints of psychedelic rock here. There are some sections that feature the sounds of a storm. This s a mellower, and almost dreamy cut. Yet it still has plenty of blues in the mix.
It's a Groovy World
This is a groovy song. Hey, I had to say that, right? The tune has a lot of soul music in the mix along with some psychedelic rock in terms of some of the over layers. It's a fun cut. The guitar solo is decidedly psychedelic.
Insanity
Soulful blues rock is the order of business on this instrumental. While it's effective, it's not a standout by any means. Still, it has some cool jamming built into it. I particularly like the organ solo.
Lady of Fortune
James Brown is definitely an influence. This also makes me think of War and Rare Earth. It's a killer groove this is another highlight.
Let's Party
A fun rocker, this has a lot of soul music in the mix. It's just a good time song. Then again, you could probably gather that from the title, right?
Rain Child
We get some studio banter, but less in your face and more serious than that on "Chicken" along with some tuning up as this starts. A bluesy guitar line brings this out from there with some spoken stuff over the top as more banter. The vocals come in literally screaming in a blues way. This is a classy groove. While it's not a highlight of the set, that's more about the strength of other music here than any weakness built into this piece.
 
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