Ohio Express “Ohio Express” (Buddah Records 1968)
The history of this Mansfield, Ohio band is riddled with knots. So rather than take you down a long and winding road of confusion and contradiction, it’s best to begin at the point when they officially became Ohio Express and garnered success. Fall 1967 was when the band crashed through the gates, scoring a top thirty hit single with the shrewdly christened “Beg, Borrow And Steal,” which freely combined elements of the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” “Hang On Sloopy” by the McCoys, and Dino, Desi and Billy’s “I’m A Fool” into one packet. The catchy ditty also appeared on the group’s debut album bearing the same name.
By early 1968 the cheery, chirpy curves of bubblegum music was in full swing, with bands such as the Lemon Pipers and the 1910 Fruitgum Company leading the way. Ohio Express soon joined club, as the saucy sneer of the annoyingly contagious “Yummy Yummy Yummy” gripped the number four spot in the spring, while the bouncing, pouncing “Down At Lulu’s” reached the number thirty-three position that summer. Both songs were included on the group’s second album, which was simply called “Ohio Express.” However, those purchasing the disc expecting to hear nothing but bright and shiny bubblegum banter were in for quite a shock.
Half of the tracks on “Ohio Express” are steeped in psychedelic exploration. Hypnotic and heavy, “Turn To Straw” quivers with freaky and frightening imagery peppered with scratchy feedback, creepy stoned-like vocals, fused with phasing and squiggly sound effects layer the landscape of “The Time You Spent With Me,” and “First Grade Reader” proposes a stream of speedy, slamming rhythms similar to those of Love’s “Seven And Seven Is.” Stitched of wobbly wah-wah guitars and echo-laden choruses, “Into This Time” holds tight as another orange microdot delight, and “Winter Skies” twinkles and blinks to a bopping beat crafted of Beach Boys styled harmonies and touches of reverb baked six-string exercises. A mixed bag of tricks and kicks, “Ohio Express” clearly exposed a completely different side of the band. Straddling the extreme line between sugar-coated pop and acid rock, the album certainly makes for a curious listen. Fans of the straight-up bubblegum music as well as advocates of Jimi Hendrix and Iron Butterfly are sure to enjoy the enigmatic artifact.
Review made by Beverly Paterson/2013
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