The Sonics

Here Are The Sonics!!! (Norton ’65, '99) Rating: A-
Although they only had a few regional hits and weren’t together for long, The Sonics deserve a mention in any respectable history of rock ‘n’ roll. In many ways they were the American Northwest’s answer to The Animals, as they played a similarly ferocious brand of r&b-based garage rock. The band’s slashing guitars (Andy Parypa) and primitive rhythms (Larry Parypa, bass; Bob Bennett, drums) are definite selling points, and their prominent use of saxophone (Rob Lind) also made them stand out, but what really made them special was singer Gary Roslie (also piano/organ), one of the very best soul/rock shouters of the ‘60s. Alas, like The Animals, The Sonics were limited songwriters who relied heavily on cover songs, some of which ("Roll Over Beethoven," "Money," "Night Time Is The Right Time," "Good Golly Miss Molly") have been done to death. Other less well-known efforts like "Boss Hoss" (a Roslie original) and "Dirty Robber" (another cover) are hindered by fairly generic songwriting, but the energy level is usually sky high and the overall performances are generally impressive (aside from The Sonics doing The Beatles doing Chuck Berry on "Roll Over Beethoven" and sounding almost tame compared to Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels on "Good Golly Miss Molly"). I really like the guitar work on Rufus Thomas' "Walking The Dog," and I actually prefer their energized version of "Do You Love Me?" to The Contours' classic original. The stomping "Have Love, Will Travel" and the frenetic "Keep a Knockin'" (a bonus track on the reissue along with three less impressive songs from a Christmas album) are also highlights, with Roslie predictably stealing the show, but unsurprisingly it is the three Roslie-penned songs that were selected for the Nuggets box set that are this album's best. "The Witch" is led by its guitar/sax interplay and memorable stop and start dynamics, while "Psycho" is a terrific twist on the song made famous by Chubby Checker. But my personal favorite, indeed one of my favorite songs ever, period, is "Strychnine," which has a badass lyric ("Some folks like water, some folks like wine, but I like the taste, of straight strychnine"), a monstrous surge, and Roslie's out of this world ("out of his mind" is more like it) screams. Simply put, rock 'n' roll doesn't get any purer or more wildly exciting than The Sonics at their best, and though the material here isn't always worthy of the band's performances, Here Are The Sonics!!!, the bands first's and best album, is a minor classic of hard rocking '60s music.

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