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Hampton Grease Band - Music to Eat (1971) review


Hampton Grease Band “Music to Eat”(Columbia, 1971)

When purchasing a record guide book, I have learned to look carefully. The way I have learned to go about this is to skip to something I have a very strong opinion about anyway, like for instance, Funkadelic. Yeah! Funkadelic is a great example because most guide books, the ones that use the "star" rating system seem to go by maybe the Billboard chartings, I guess. Most will tell you that Funkadelic's greatest Lp, the one to start with, is "One Nation Under A Groove". That's the "5 star". And my favorite, "America eats It's Young" gets 1 1/2 stars or some shit. Know what I mean? Does this confuse what I already think? No. One of my biggest problems is that I tend to become a "superfan" of a group and if I like them I will end up buying them all, usually starting from the beginning and going until it washes out for me. But during a groups best years I will defend them for making their artistic statements! I will stick it out. And know that some of the best records are the ones that "grow" on you, right? There are also reasons for digging something from just a musician's perspective, ya know. Like guitar tone, drum sounds, room reverb. Just sink in and become close to the atmosphere of the recording. Picture the scene outside the building the music was recorded in.......

In 1971 it was a world of muscle cars, beer cans with pull tabs (that you could "daisy chain" together to make necklaces out of). The slang was different in 1971....the word on the street. The air smelled a little different, the sky was a little different blue. All the dudes had thier cut of shorts on at the swimming hole. Rolled up American flag bandanas for headbands. Chics with their bikini's. Joints rolled in strawberry papers. 8 tracks were as easy to come by as records. The street signs were different. Close your eyes and listen to the record and let it take you there. Because it is there, isn't it? When the tape is rolling it is getting all that. When you hear the audiophiles talk about listening to the room. You get the word on the street, the daisy chains, the strawberry joints, the muscle cars....those are in the room too. That's what was going on, in conversations,  just before the tape started rolling.

In 1970, Columbia records, signed the Hampton Grease Band from Atlanta, GA. A band that had been around since the mid-60's. A band that opened for the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band. It is rumored that Hampton Grease Band's 1971 Columbia masterpiece "Music To Eat" was the lowest selling Lp that Columbia had made, at that time.

Hampton Grease Band is Bruce Hampton (later of Col. Bruce Hampton and The Aquarian Rescue Unit fame) on vocals and trumpet, Jerry Fields on  drums, percussion, trombone and vocals, Mike Holbrook on bass, Harold Kelling on guitar and vocals and Glenn Phillips on guitar and sax. This album, classic double album is right away much like Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band...or The Mothers or The Fugs. In fact, after this album Frank Zappa supposedly signed them to his Straight/ Bizarre labels. I can't find that they actually recorded and released anything as this band after Music To eat. There are a few reviews out there who just hate this record. It is a very noncommercial record. But hey....


This record is wild happy craziness! It is basically just 5 songs. Like I said, sort of like Capt. Beefheart's Magic Band. Two absolutely excellent guitar players. An absolutely fantastic drummer and bass player, crazy spurts of horns, not a lot, just a little and not often. The guitar playing is so matched to each other. Not very distorted, just over driven a little, no effects. There are 4 songs reaching to 19 minutes plus and one song just over 5 minutes. The band plays together in that telepathic way on these long passages, it's easy to just get lost in the jamming. And it's not just one long "same" rambling jam either it goes from this to that in different, well arranged parts. The lyrics are, well....let's just start from the beginning... the first tune is called "Halifax" and he sings it as if he is reading descriptions from the World Book encyclopedia about Halifax (Canada?) or Halifax travel bureau or something. "wouldn't you like to come to Halifax?...air mass is moving eastwardly...." Maria is the only tune under 6 minutes. It speaks of a 13 year old boy named Sancho lusting after Maria who is 5 years older. They tell the story well with crazy laughter and all. At one point he is reading from a spray paint can (or that's what it sounds like to me) "keep out of reach of children"...."contents are under pressure". The last song "Hey Old lady and Bert's Song..." they get into a southern rock jam that is right up there with early Allman Brothers with the dual guitars weaving together like snakes dancing. It is, to me, as focused as it is experimental.

Yep put this one on and listen to THIS sound of 1971. Hot summertime in Atlanta 1971. It is a light hearted beautiful trip....I love it.

Review made by Phillip R. Eubanks (of Plastic Magic)/2013
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