Years before Joe Stampley began his ascent to country stardom, he fronted a Louisiana rock band, the Uniques, who were quite popular in the South, although national attention eluded them. The group were ironically named in light of their failure to establish a truly distinctive style. They were adept at blue-eyed soul, covering William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water" and Art Neville's "All These Things," landing a huge regional hit with the latter tune. They were also capable of waxing good, original, Southern-flavored pop-rock, especially on "Not Too Long Ago," another big Southern hit. And, oddly enough, they also did an all-out, raunchy, R&B-hued garage-band stomp, "You Ain't Tuff," which gives the band a somewhat misleading image among garage band collectors.
In comparison to their 1966 debut LP Uniquely Yours, the Uniques' second album, Happening Now, was a little bit of a disappointment, though not without its assets. The main flaw is that, in common with numerous albums issued by good but not great bands in the mid-'60s, there are too many covers of familiar hit songs. In this disc's case, those include "96 Tears," "Oh Pretty Woman," the Animals' "Don't Bring Me Down" (which does have a remarkably accurate Eric Burdon-like vocal), the Outsiders' "Time Won't Let Me," the Swinging Medallions' "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)," and even Gerry & the Pacemakers' "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," which wasn't standard garage/frat band fare. This isn't as dull as it seems; the Uniques were a good group with a very fine singer/organist, Joe Stampley, and certainly sound like they would have been a hell of a band to have at your party or club if you couldn't afford bigger names. It's not all that original, however, even if it's a pretty good snapshot of mid-'60s Southern rock that adeptly blended more standard garage rock with soul and swamp pop. It does have a surprisingly nice cover of "And I Love Her" (even if it seems to be faded out prematurely), and a couple decent tracks outside of the hit cover category in the tough single "Run and Hide" and the more melodic "Look to Me," which has a really peculiar clavioline-like keyboard solo.