Tag Archives: NRBQ

NRBQ • High Noon – A 50-Year Retrospective [5CD Box Set]

First released in 2016 and now freshly repressed, High Noon – A 50-Year Retrospective is the NRBQ collection to end all collections. Unlike numerous one- and two-disc packages that have tried to sum up the New Rhythm & Blues Quartet’s unique take on rock ’n’ roll, this set does the job nicely. The fact that it took five CDs to do it means that this was no easy feat. Trying to describe NRBQ in one review, likewise, ain’t gonna be easy. And yet, I’m gonna try.

NRBQ are like the tastiest stew you’ve ever had. With every spoonful you get a taste of something different. You might get something rockabilly inspired like “RC Cola and a Moon Pie,” you might get a country funk like “Flat Foot Flewzy,” you might get a power pop classic like “Me and the Boys,” or you might get a sweet little pop ballad like “This Love Is True,” or any other of the many different flavors NRBQ adds to the pot. They are one of the few bands who can play about any style you’d care to hear. They’re also hard to classify, genre-wise, because even when they’re doing “rockabilly” they’re adding something to make it seem like a whole new style. From song to song, album to album, and especially era to era, there are elements that are always there: musicianship, humor, exuberance and zeal. Whether it’s Terry Adams’ crazed clavinet or piano playing, Al Anderson’s killer guitar picking, or any of the other members’ talents (too many over 50 years to name here), NRBQ never fail to deliver… whatever it is they’re trying to deliver.

Curiously, Omnivore’s superb look at the 50 year old group starts somewhere toward the end (or present-day, I should say, since NRBQ is still together), goes back to the beginning (1966!) and then works its way back to where we started. Not so curiously, I began back in ’66 with Disc 2, being pretty familiar with the band’s early stuff, then through the ’70s and ’80s material – the ’Q I like the most – and up to where High Noon ends in the 20-teens. I’m still digesting the band’s last two decades (what with the multiple personnel changes, even more stylistic turns, etc.) and High Noon gives me a good way to do that, with Discs 1 and 5 covering the second half of their history (1989-2016). So far I really like the Buck Owens flavored “Fightin’ Back” and “21-50 to Headquarters.” With 116 tracks, you’d think this behemoth would be overkill. Not so. In a way, it just begins to tell the NRBQ story. I mean, there are classic cuts in their canon that aren’t even here (hello, “When Things Was Cheap” and their covers of “Wild Weekend” and “Tonight You Belong to Me”)!

Knowing that a 5 CD compilation might be too much commitment for some, the record label took the liberty of putting out High Noon in a two disc “highlights” version and a 2 LP set, too. The track list on both of those looks worthy of your time if you’re not sure you’re up to the task of digesting so much NRBQ, but seriously, if you go that route you’ll probably end up buying this package anyway. And maybe that was Omnivore’s idea all along.  — Marsh Gooch

4.5/5 (Omnivore Recordings OVCD-190, 2016/2020)

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NRBQ • NRBQ [CD, LP]

Omnivore put out an epic five disc box set last year, trying to somehow encapsulate the fifty year history of NRBQ. There was no way for the label to summarize just what makes this band so amazing in a mere five CDs, so they’re forgiven for missing a mark that really no one could hit. The fact that they even tried earns them major kudos. This time around they’ve reissued the band’s first album, NRBQ. Released in 1969, this record introduced to rock fans the wide world of the New Rhythm & Blues Quintet, a band name that also tried to encapsulate just what these guys were all about. It’s a wonder that Columbia Records signed these guys and put out a few records by them in the first place. Because you can’t pigeonhole NRBQ. They’re primarily a rock band, sure, but where do they stand in that strata? Hard rock? No. Country rock? A little. Jazz? Well, how many rock bands have covered Sun Ra (besides MC5)? Rockabilly? Sometimes. A mixture of all of those sub genres and more – that’s what NRBQ does. Imagine what a tough job the marketing department had trying to figure out who to sell this record to!

On NRBQ, the band – fronted by vocalist Frank Gadler, Steve Ferguson on guitar/ vocals and Terry Adams on keyboards/ vocals – demonstrates much of what made them so amazing. From covers of Eddie Cochran (“C’mon Everybody”) and Bruce Channel (“Hey! Baby”) to their hard rockin’ take of the aforementioned Sun Ra’s “Rocket Number 9,” to their own slightly countryish tunes like “Kentucky Slop Song” and the MOR-y “You Can’t Hide,” plus a neat little traditional ditty called “Liza Jane” that induces someone’s hound dog to bark along with it – phew! – the genres and influences on this record make it a hard sell on paper. So you gotta put this motherfucker on and let it do its thing! It comes down to this: you either get NRBQ, or you don’t. That’s been the problem since day one, because if you say that to the Q virgin you’re gonna sound like an asshole. But it’s the truth. And you don’t wanna be called a liar, do you?

Judging from the pre-release digital download, and comparing that to my ’80s vinyl pressing, Omnivore’s done a great job with NRBQ. They’ve expanded the cover to a gatefold, added some historical photos, and likely created new liner notes. (The original release’s back cover is nothing but liner notes, and they’re very much of the era in their language and longwindedness.) Considering the album’s never been out on CD, this reissue is important to longstanding NRBQ fans. For those who haven’t gotten into them yet, well, why not start here? You could try the box set or the one disc highlights release, or grab one of the other compilations that can be found on the internet, but don’t (yet). Just get this and give it a shot. You may just find you get it. If you don’t, then wait a few years and try again. Maybe by then Omnivore will have put out NRBQ’s second album, the one they did with Carl Fucking Perkins!

3.5/5 (Omnivore, 2018)

 

 

 

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