Back in the late '60s, Michigan bands like the Up, SRC and, obviously, the MC5 were providing the soundtrack to a particularly difficult time for U.S. politics — a period which saw the Vietnam War, rebellions in Detroit and other big cities, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hugh "Jeep" Holland was the man responsible for booking those aforementioned bands to appear at Russ Gibb's legendary Grande Ballroom, and it wasn't long before he'd set up his own label, A-Square (Of Course), named after his booking agency.
This compilation brings together many of the bands that made the label a success and, while undeniably patchy, there are enough gems here to make it a worthwhile purchase. The two contributions from the 5, the often neglected "Looking At You" and rarely heard "Borderline," are characteristically frantic slabs of soul-infused rock genius, while Stooges fans will revel in the Prime Movers' "I'm A Man," featuring a young Iggy Pop on vocals and drums. Elsewhere, SRC pops up five — count 'em five! — times, the best offering being album opener "I'm So Glad," a cover of Skip James with a more Kinks-inspired melody.
The two covers by the Apostles are less impressive: "Stranded In The Jungle" was better handled by the New York Dolls in 1974; meanwhile the Apostles' straight version of the Kinks' "Tired Of Waiting For You" is redundant. "Just Like An Aborigine" by the Up is far better, a caustic and gloriously repetitive slice of '60s psychedelia. Other local bands like the Bossmen, the Thyme and Half Life fill out the rest of the record with varying degrees of success. Ultimately, though, this is a compilation that harks back to a wonderfully creative period in Detroit's rich rock history and could serve as our very own Nuggets.
Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.