Texas Garage/Psych Legends’ Definitive Retrospective!
“It’s The End: The Definitive Collection” by The Zakary Thaks (1966-1969/2015)
No less than half a dozen compilations have attempted to document the rather small, but absolutely essential, musical catalog of Texas garage/psych legends The Zakary Thaks. This Corpus Christi band released half a dozen classic singles between 1966 and 1969, showcasing the songwriting and musical talents of the band, especially vocalist Chris Gerniottis’ introspective lyrics and the fuzzed out lead guitar of John Lopez, but was never afforded the opportunity to record an LP. Big Beat Records, UK, has compiled 22 tracks, the largest collection of recordings by The Zakary Thaks ever offered with a total run time just over 60 minutes. Thanks to Big Beat’s compiler/ archive researcher Alec Palao the original master tapes were located and the result is an hour of full throttled, Texas flavored, British influenced high octane heavy garage/psych rock and roll, complemented by a 16-page full color booklet containing track annotations as well as the most detailed band history ever.
The twelve single tracks (a- and b-sides) originally released on the J-Beck, Mercury, Thak and Cee-Bee labels form the foundation for this new collection and represent the two distinct phases of The Zakary Thaks’ sound. The pounding, insistent beat of ‘Bad Girl’ the band’s debut single, featured the snarling vocals of Gerniottis and revved up guitar of Lopez that characterized the group’s first four singles released on the J-Beck label (Mercury Records picked up ‘Bad Girl’ for national distribution but the song did not hit and was the lone release on the label). The group wrote their second single, the hard hitting ‘Face To Face’ at rehearsal with Gerniottis finishing the lyrics that same night. A couple of weeks later the single was released, featuring luscious lead guitar lines and incredible solos by Lopez which became the hallmark of The Zakary Thaks sound phase one: high powered garage rock served up Texas style. Sadly the band members followed the advice of their management unquestionably which led to tension, especially when a studio producer was brought in who had no experience with a hard rock band like The Zakary Thaks. No longer allowed unlimited freedom in the studio the band labored on, even when the group’s fourth single ‘Mirror Of Yesterday’ had strings and orchestration added against the group’s wishes, and despite the fact that the band’s sound was progressing to phase two: full blown, heavy psychedelic rock. The new sound was accompanied by changes in lifestyle, and inevitably conflict, among members of the band.
By January, 1968, both Gerniottis and rhythm guitarist Rex Stinson had been kicked out of the band and the J-Beck label was no more. The remaining trio of Lopez on lead guitar and vocals, Rex Gregory on bass and vocals and drummer Stan Moore recorded the band’s fifth single, pairing original tunes ‘Green Crystal Ties’ and ‘My Door’ and released on the Thak label. Gerniottis referred to the lyrics, sung jointly by Lopez and Gregory, as “meaningless and ethereal,” but the sides feature Lopez’s stunning guitar and are the high water mark for The Zakary Thaks musically as well as the best coupling ever released by the band. The three piece sound gave Lopez the freedom to let it all hang out on guitar. Unfortunately the single did not sell. After a stint as vocalist for The Liberty Bell, Gerniottis returned to The Thaks’ ranks, making them a quartet for their final single ‘Everybody Wants To Be Somebody’ released in 1969 bearing the Cee-Bee imprint. The b-side ‘Outprint’ featured British Invasion drums a la Dave Clark, courtesy of Moore. Unfortunately, despite Lopez’s gorgeous, yet restrained, guitar and Gerniottis’ confident melodic vocals, the single failed to sell and proved to be the final release by The Zakary Thaks during the band’s lifetime.
“It’s The End” features an impressive ten additional tracks. The set’s opener ‘She’s Got You’ was first released by Big Beat in 2013 and is a harbinger of the band’s repertoire with its driving beat, raging vocals and chugging lead guitar. Big Beat presents The Zakary Thaks in stereo for the first time with alternate versions of ‘Can You Hear Your Daddy’s Footsteps’ ‘Please’ and ‘Mirror Of Yesterday.’ Add to these songs the amazing raga rock classic ‘A Passage To India’ which somehow went unreleased until 2010, alternative versions of ‘Face To Face’ and ‘I’d Only Laugh,’ and three tracks on which The Zakary Thaks backed former Bad Seeds’ vocalist Mike Taylor, whose recordings were credited to ‘Michael’ and the story is complete.
It is unfortunate that The Zakary Thaks were not more prolific in the studio. The tracks found on “It’s The End: The Definitive Collection” evidence the songwriting talents of all The Thaks, but especially vocalist Chris Gerniottis with his introspective lyrics and John Lopez’s absolutely stunning guitar, whether a snaking lead line or one of his fuzz filled solos. Lopez never fails to please the listener and is a prime example of the “Great Texas Guitar Slinger.” Unfortunately, as was the case with so many other great bands of the time, none of the singles hit big, lacking in distribution among other things, and despite playing gigs with bands like Steppenwolf, The Byrds, Johnny Winter, Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Jefferson Airplane, Herman’s Hermit’s, The Yardbirds and the mythical 13th Floor Elevators, The Zakary Thaks were to never taste the fortune and fame found by all the other bands.
Compiled, researched and with liner notes penned by Alec Palao this marks the first time the master tapes and correct single versions have been utilized and all the tracks have been lovingly mastered by Nick Robbins at Sound Master Ltd. resulting in this sonically superior, absolutely essential collection of The Zakary Thaks, which will please all fans of garage/psych music from the late 1960s, especially those who prefer their music guitar driven and heavy! “It’s The End: The Definitive Collection” lives up to its title and is unquestionably the definitive retrospective of The Zakary Thaks!
The Zakary Thaks were:
Chris Gerniottis (lead vocals) A C
John Lopez (lead guitar, vocals) A BC
Pete Stinson (rhythm guitar) A
Rex Gregory (bass, keyboards, vocals) A B C
Stan Moore (drums) A B C
Original Singles Discography:
‘Bad Girl’ c/w ‘I Need You’ (J-Beck 1006; Mercury 72633,1966) A
‘Face To Face’ c/w ‘Weekday Blues’ (J-Beck 1009, 1967) A
‘Please’ c/w ‘Won’t Come Back’ (J-Beck 1101, 1967) A
‘Mirror Of Yesterday’ c/w ‘Can You Hear Your Daddy’s Footsteps’(J-Beck
‘Green Crystal Ties’ c/w ‘My Door (Thak 1001, 1968) B
‘Everybody Wants To Be Somebody’ c/w ‘Outprint’ (Cee-Bee 1005, 1969) C
Selected Reissue Discography:
“Form The Habit” (Beat Rocket Records BRCD 131, 2001)
“Passage To India” (Cicadelic Records CICD 9665, 2010)
“It’s The End: The Definitive Collection” (Big Beat Records CDTOP 326, 2015)
Review made by Kevin Rathert/2015
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