Frijid Pink – ‘The Deram Recordings 1970-1971’ (2023)
Best known for their guitar-driven arrangement of the traditional song ‘House Of The Rising Sun’, a Top Ten hit in no less than 14 different countries, Detroit’s Frijid Pink mixed psychedelic and blues based rock tunes with the occasional ballad.
The group’s sound was dominated by the distorted lead guitar of Gary Ray Thompson and powerful vocals of Tom Beaudry, performing under the stage name Kelly Green, with bassist Tom Harris and drummer Rick Stevers completing the lineup, occasionally supplemented by keyboard player Larry Zelanka. Esoteric Recordings has gathered the band’s two Deram albums adding non-LP single sides in a new two disc release.
January 1970’s ‘Frijid Pink’ is dominated by Thompson/Beaudry compositions, the duo contributing seven of the LP’s nine tracks. Album opener ‘God Gave Me You’ is an uptempo bluesy ballad led by Beaudry’s vocals, with Thompson adding a searing wah wah laden solo. ‘Crying Shame’, written by producer Michael Valvano, is a fuzzed out rocker with Thompson contributing two heavily distorted solos. ‘I’m On My Way’ is a boogie number with Thompson’s restrained slide guitar giving the tune a Ten Years After vibe. ‘Drivin’ Blues’ is a hot Canned Heat style number led by Beaudry’s mouth harp and Thompson’s guitar. ‘Tell Me Why’ is a scorching rocker dominated by Thompson’s heavily distorted, wah wah aided guitar work. ‘End Of The Line’ is another hot rocker with Thompson delivering a memorable solo and shredding guitar outro. ‘House Of The Rising Sun’, which reached #7 on the US charts, #1 in Germany, is Thompson’s tune from the start, his distorted psychedelic guitar joined by Harris’ thundering bass and Beaudry’s wailing, bluesy vocals. Despite coming only some five years after The Animals took the song to #1, many consider this the song’s definitive version. The album’s longest track at seven and a half minutes ‘I Want To Be Your Lover’ mixes social commentary with its blues rock sound. Thompson delivers three driving solos and Stevers adds an extended drum solo. The album closes with the six minute ‘Boozin’ Blues’, a slow burn blues number which shows the softer side of the band, Zelanka’s piano joining Thompson who adds two extended solos. The disc closes with two non-LP singles, a revved up cover of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ with Zelanka’s boogie woogie piano, Beaudry’s bluesy vocals and yet another hot Thompson solo. Propelled by the hit single, the album reached #11 on the US charts, #5 in Canada. The disc closes with the mid-tempo ballad ‘Music For The People’ which features Zelanka’s organ and a female backing chorus along with the restrained guitar of Thompson and plaintive vocals by Beaudry. Unfortunately, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ topped at #72 on the Billboard charts while ‘Music For The People’ failed to have any impact at all.
Disc two opens with the eight tracks comprising the band’s June 1970 followup LP ‘Defrosted’ with Thompson and Beaudry writing or co-writing all eight tracks. The long player was more hard rock and blues oriented, with Zelanka featured considerably more than on the debut. ‘Black Lace’ is a high powered guitar driven blues rocker with Thompson supplying a roaring outro. ‘Sing A Song For Freedom’ is a commercial, good time piece of rock and roll with a chugging guitar intro leading to a searing solo by Thompson and thunderous bass from Harris as Beaudry belts out “sing a song for children, sing a song for me, sing a song for freedom, sing a song for me”. ‘I’ll Never Be Lonely’ has an organ intro which brings Procol Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’ to mind, with Zelanka’s organ and Thompson’s guitar center stage, the latter delivering two stunning solos. ‘Bye Bye Blues’ is another slow burn blues tune showcasing Thompson’s usage of his wah wah pedal. The eight minute plus ‘Pain In My Heart’ has a heavy, but not distorted, guitar intro as the band shifts into hard rock mode, with Stevers’ pounding drums and Beaudry’s screaming vocals vying with Thompson’s extended solo. ‘Sloony’ is a boogie instrumental with Thompson supplying fiery guitar reminiscent of Alvin Lee. ‘I’m Movin’’ is a straight ahead blues rocker with hints of the psychedelia found on the band’s debut. The album closer ‘I Haven’t Got The Time’ is another heavy blues rocker with Thompson’s solo again the center of attention. ‘Defrosted’ peaked at a disappointing #149 on the charts and ‘Sing A Song For Freedom’ reached only #55 when released as a single. The disc closes with both sides of two non-LP singles, the first which would be the final release by Frijid Pink in its original incarnation. ‘We’re Gonna Be There’ is, in reality, a cover of ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’, somehow credited as a band original. The b-side ‘Shorty Kline’ is a gentle ballad with Zelanka’s organ showcased and Thompson’s guitar restrained. The final two single sides were written after Thompson and Beaudry had exited the band, thus performed by Frijid Pink, Mark II, with guitarist Craig Webb and vocalist Jon Waring. A-side ‘Lost Son’ is a piano led ballad with Webb adding a tasteful solo and Jon Waring pleasant vocals. B-side ‘I Love Her’ is a guitar and piano fueled shuffle with Webb contributing a final solo as the disc and set come to a close. Neither of the singles would have any impact on the charts nor would further releases by Frijid Pink before their disbanding in 1974, after which there have been sporadic reformations and recordings, but none approaching the success of the original quartet.
‘The Deram Records 1970-1971’ comes in a tri-fold digipak with a 12 page full color booklet featuring an essay by Steve Pilkington, album artwork, memorabilia and complete credits. The band sounds great thanks to the 24 bit mastering job of Paschal Byrne. The two disc set contains the essential works of Frijid Pink at its peak, and will be of interest to fans of psychedelic and hard rock as well as 1970s and classic rock.
Frijid Pink – ‘The Deram Recordings 1970-1971’ (Esoteric Recordings, 2023)