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Rock - Released May 20, 2015 | Mercury Records

History remembers the Blues Magoos as one-hit wonders from the garage rock era who faded out not long after "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet" dropped off the charts in early 1967. However, like most groups who hit the Top Ten in the '60s, the Blues Magoos tried hard to land another chart single, and it was arguably bad luck rather than a lack of skill that kept them out of the Top 40. The Mercury Singles 1966-1968 features the A- and B-sides of the eight 45s Mercury Records released during the Magoos' tenure with the label. While the band's first two albums, Psychedelic Lollipop (1966) and Electric Comic Book (1967), are better than average '60s garage efforts, The Mercury Singles is a more satisfying listening experience than either of them. That's not to say it doesn't have filler -- the whacked-out noise collage "Dante's Inferno" demonstrates why some bands shouldn't smoke reefer in the studio, and the holiday single "Jingle Bells" b/w "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" sounds like an afterthought tossed off in an afternoon. But most of the tracks find the Magoos playing at the top of their game; the opener, "Tobacco Road," is a high-powered run through every trick in the group's repertoire, "One by One" is a superb bit of jangle pop, "There She Goes" is an admirably chaotic blues-psych freakout, and their cover of the Move's "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" is great fun. The Blues Magoos were more than capable in the studio, delivering tight and energetic performances throughout this collection, and the remastering of these mono mixes gives them the solid punch they deserve. The 1992 collection Kaleidescopic Compendium: The Best of the Blues Magoos is still the best one-disc celebration of this underrated band, but The Mercury Singles 1966-1968 shows the Blues Magoos mastered the greatest rock & roll medium of their day, the 45-rpm single, and it sums up their salad days in a concise 45 minutes. ~ Mark Deming

Rock - Released January 1, 1966 | Island Def Jam

The Blues Magoos sound less like psychedelic visionaries than a solid garage band with a taste for the blues on their debut album, Psychedelic Lollipop, though the lysergic reference of the title certainly put them ahead of the curve in 1966, when LSD was still obscure enough to be legal in much of the United States. The album leads off with the group's first and only major hit single, "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet," and unlike most albums released by one-hit wonders of the mid-'60s, the single isn't the most exciting song here. That honor goes to the Magoos' cover of J.D. Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road" (which Lenny Kaye selected for his iconic garage rock compilation Nuggets), featuring some gutsy guitar work from Mike Esposito and Emil "Peppy" Thielhelm and impressive organ swells from Ralph Scala as the tune leans into a major rave-up midway through. Outside of that, Psychedelic Lollipop rarely sounds like a classic, but it's solid stuff -- the covers are chosen and played well (including a committed take on James Brown's "I'll Go Crazy"), the originals show the band knew their way around rock & roll, R&B, and blues with no small aplomb, and the band could stretch out on numbers like "Sometimes I Think About," "Worried Life Blues," and "Tobacco Road", while generating excitement and not losing the plot. Psychedelic Lollipop doesn't sound like the work of a great band, but certainly like one who were better than average, and considering how many bands who cranked out a single like "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet" ended up making albums clogged with filler, it says a lot that even the weakest tracks here show this group had talent, ideas, and the know-how to make them work in the studio. ~ Mark Deming

Rock - Released May 1, 1968 | Mercury Records

Basic Blues Magoos (1968) -- the final long-player with the lineup of Ralph Scala (keyboards), Ronnie Gilbert (bass), Emil "Peppy" Thielheim (guitar), Mike Esposito (lead guitar) and Geoffrey Daking (drums) -- is arguably their best and easily most progressive outing. Perhaps this can partially be credited to the combo's retreat from creating in the comparatively uninspired environs of a studio. Instead, they essentially cocooned themselves into their legendary Bronx, New York digs, which at one time had been inhabited by none other than Gram Parsons. The autonomy paid off, as did their sizable influence from the U.K.-derived mod and freakbeat scenes, kick-started no doubt by a recent tour with the Who. Nowhere is that more evident than the cover of the Move's "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" or the similarly spirited original light psych opener "Sybil Green (Of the In Between)" and the propulsive "There She Goes." "All the Better to See You With" and "Chicken Wire Lady" provide a harder edge and sit well beside the notable Brit pop vibe of "I Wanna Be There." "I Can Move a Mountain" is a long lost jangle pop side tinged in a darkness recalling "Love Seems Doomed" from the Magoos' debut, Psychedelic Lollipop (1967), especially the insidious vocal arrangement. On the other side of the spectrum is the affective baroque-tinged "Yellow Rose." The refined acoustic ballad is unlike the majority of the album's aggressive amplified excursions. As the title might suggest, "Presidential Council on Psychedelic Fitness" is a bit of an indulgence, as is "Subliminal Sonic Laxative," the latter being nothing more than a minute and change of a sole subsonic frequency -- a 'D' note. Collectors and enthusiasts should be aware of the highly recommended and significantly expanded [RoviLink="MR"]Basic Blues Magoos [Bonus Tracks][/RoviLink] (2004) from Repertoire, tacking on monaural 45 rpm versions of "I Wanna Be There," "There She Goes," "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" and "Yellow Rose." Also included is the rare single "Let Your Love Ride" b/w Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," issued prior to the Magoos' late-'60s reformation with only Emil "Peppy" Thielheim. Sadly, Basic Blues Magoos failed to join their earlier LPs on the charts, as it is debatably their most solid effort. ~ Lindsay Planer

Rock - Released January 1, 1967 | Island Def Jam

The Blues Magoos' first album, Psychedelic Lollipop, earned the band a major hit single, "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet," and in the grand tradition of striking while the iron was hot, the New York-based quintet were back with their second LP, 1967's Electric Comic Book, less than five months later. The sophomore effort is a noticeably more ambitious piece of work than the Magoos' debut, and while psychedelia was a catchphrase more than anything else on the first record, Electric Comic Book sounds trippier and a bit more expansive by comparison (the goofy "Intermission" tosses in some fairly obvious marijuana and cocaine references which would have been almost unthinkable in 1966, and the drug angle in "Pipe Dream" isn't exactly subtle). In addition, a few months of playing live had tightened up a combo who already sounded pretty good together, as well as bolstering the confidence in Ralph Scala's vocals and keyboard work and the fuzzy interplay of guitarists Mike Esposito and Emil "Peppy" Thielhelm. However, the blues and R&B elements that were a large part of Psychedelic Lollipop's strength have faded into the background here (except for a overdone cover of Jimmy Reed's "Let's Get Together"), and though the band could come up with a respectable pop tune, "Baby, I Want You" and "Take My Love" sound like throw-aways that were tossed together quickly to fill out a record not quite 30 minutes long (though "Take My Love" does have the very memorable line "Take my love and shove it up your heart"). Psychedelic Lollipop is well short of a classic, but overall it's a stronger and more coherent set of songs than Electric Comic Book, which sounds like the quickly recorded follow-up that it truly was, though it does have moments that suggest the band could have made another album as good as the debut with a bit more time and attention. ~ Mark Deming

Rock - Released January 1, 1992 | Island Def Jam