Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Knickerbockers - 20 Classic Tracks (1965-1967)


In early 1966, the Knickerbockers hit the Top 20 with "Lies," the best and most accurate early Beatle imitation ever recorded; the lead vocals were a dead ringer for John Lennon and the whole production could have fit in snugly on the second side of A Hard Day's Night. Actually a frat rock band from New Jersey who didn't write much of their own material, they never made anything else as successful. A couple decent follow-ups -- "One Track Mind" and the similarly mock-British Invasion "High on Love" -- were small hits, but their albums were even blander than many of the era's other one-shot artists. Their three noteworthy singles were all featured in Rhino's Nuggets series. Drummer and singer Jimmy Walker briefly replaced Bill Medley in the Righteous Brothers.





The Knickerbockers' "Lies" is one of the greatest songs the Beatles never wrote -- an American-born soundalike single that hit the charts nearly two years after the onset of the British Invasion. The group managed to produce two more chart hits, "One Track Mind" and the frantic "High on Love," before exhausting the faux-Beatles formula and shifting into Four Seasons-like vocal group songs ("Please Don't Love Him"), psychedelic pop ("Sweet Green Fields"), and blue-eyed soul ("Come and Get It"). The 20 Classic Tracks! concentrates on the group's Challenge singles, including all of the above-mentioned tunes, and adds a handful of album tracks and unreleased recordings for the mollification of collectors.

 The falsetto "Jerk Town" tries to please everyone by roping together surfing, hot rods, and dance crazes in one mildly ridiculous song, while a cover of Barrett Strong's "Money" and a hard-rocking "Chuck Berry Medley" touch base with earlier rock & roll traditions. Former teen idol Jerry Fuller produced the sessions and contributed a few compositions, as did future soft pop stars Seals & Crofts. A pre-Bread David Gates arranged "My Feet Are Off the Ground," and Glen Campbell may or may not have sung background vocals on "Can't You See I'm Tryin'," which he co-wrote. Sundazed has subsequently released a number of other Knickerbockers album reissues and anthologies, but The 20 Classic Tracks! remains a comprehensive anthology of the group's Challange recordings from 1965-1967, featuring all of the group's Top 100 hits and more.



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