Neal Ford & The Fanatics "Good Men" (Big Beat Records, 2013)
Another thoroughly welcome, and long-awaited release is "Good Men" a powerful collection from Neal Ford & the Fanatics. It contains the very best work from this Houston, Texas group, who are much loved on the sixties garage scene. Taking many of the essential elements of rock'n'roll, pop, r&b, and the so called "British Invasion" sound and amalgamating it all to create something of their own individual sound, the group became kingpins of the Houston mid-60s scene. They were also well aware of the the changes happening within the emerging folk-rock arena. Much of the time the Fanatics' sound is driving and wild, yet they could equally take on a more moody and beguiling approach as ably demonstrated by the likes of 'Bitter Bells', the sublime 'I Have Thoughts Of You' and one or two other examples, while they could also pull off some really great crunching teen garage raunch. It's this facet of their sound that has won them huge admiration among TX 60s punk aficionados. That sound is perhaps best exemplified by the set's pounding title cut, the authentic nature of 'Don't Tie Me Down', plus the likes of 'Shame On You','I Will Not Be Lonely', 'I'm Gonna Have That Girl' and 'I Can't Go On'. A juicy interpretation of 'Woman', a favourite early flipside originally by The Zombies, is also one of the album's spotlight tracks. Special mention must go to organist Lanier Greig who, once recruited in 1966, leaned in with some great original songwriting, adding a thoroughly dynamic edge to the group. His and Ford's 'For You', which, amazingly, remained unissued commercially until decades later when issued on Caped Crusader, is a startling, worthy specimen of the psychedelic teen punk sound the Yardbirds helped to usher in. Guitarists Jon Pereles and Johnny Stringfellow also deserve merit as their playing throughout is exceptional.
Although quite diverse in their overall range of styles, the majority of "Good Men", including a swathe of tracks unissued at the time of recording, truly hit the mark and will be a gloriously rewarding spin time and time again not only for TX punk diehards, and sixties fans alike, but also for those who just dig to hear good music but have yet to discover these joys.
Review made by Lenny Helsing/2014
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