Crabby Appleton – ‘Go Back-The Anthology’ (2023)
Purveyors of “power pop” before the term was even in the popular music lexicon, California based quintet Crabby Appleton released two albums and several singles on Elektra Records between 1970 and 1972.
Cherry Red Records has compiled both albums, supplemented by mono single mixes and two brief tracks only included on the original 8-track release of their debut long player in the new two disc anthology ‘Go Back’.
Crabby Appleton consisted of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Mike Fennelly, keyboard player Casey Foutz, bassist Hank Harvey, percussionist Felix “Flaco” Falcon and drummer Phil Jones. The band’s self-titled 1970 album was composed of twelve tracks all penned by Fennelly. The opening tune and title track for this compilation is a revved up, fuzzed out three minute pop rock classic, with Fennelly’s guitar and Foutz’s keyboards to the fore. Released, in a slightly different version, as the band’s first single ‘Go Back’ reached the top 40 Billboard charts, peaking at #36. ‘The Other Side’ is a lighter, melodic pop tune featuring gorgeous Fennelly vocals and Foutz’s organ. ‘Catherine’ has a delicate melody with more beautiful Fennelly vocals and Foutz keyboards. ‘Peace By Peace’ is an uptempo number showcasing Fennelly’s guitar, Falcon’s percussion, with Foutz’s organ exuding an ELP vibe. ‘To All My Friends’ is a piano and percussion driven tune, reminiscent of Badfinger. ‘Last Night In Your Sleep, John’ is the first of two ditties originally found only on the 8-track release of ‘Crabby Appleton’. ‘Try’ is a driving organ and percussion propelled track, released in edited form as the b-side of ‘Go Back’. ‘Can’t Live My Life’ is a gentle pop rocker with Fennelly’s vocals and Falcon’s percussion standing out, which was also issued, in an alternate version, as a b-side. ‘Some Madness’ is another light pop rocker showcasing Falcon’s percussion, Fennelly’s vocals and Foutz’s organ. The album’s longest track at just over seven minutes, ‘Hunger For Love’ is uptempo with Fennelly supplying a tasty guitar intro and echoed vocals before the focus shifts to Foutz’s organ and Falcon’s percussion, the duo contributing a memorable interlude. ‘How Long Will It Take’ returns the band to lighter mode with Fennelly delivering exquisite acoustic guitar and vocals, Falcon’s percussion and Foutz’s organ floating as the tune gently plays out. ‘Last Night In Your Sleep, Fred’ is the other track from the 8-track release and closes the album. Despite the quality of songs it contained ‘Crabby Appleton’ topped out at #175 on the Billboard Hot 200 album charts. The disc closes with six single sides, all presented in mono. Alternative versions of ‘Go Back’ and ‘Try’ are followed by the group’s second a-side ‘My Little Lucy’, an alternative version of ‘Lucy’, a track included on the group’s sophomore long player. The tune is a fuzzed out rocker with Fennelly’s slide guitar soaring over the insistent riff of Harvey and Jones. With its commercial appeal it’s a mystery why the single failed to chart. The mono single version of ‘Some Madness’ is followed by the lost Crabby Appleton single ‘Grab On’, a non-LP a-side with Fennelly’s guitar and Foutz’s organ pushing the beat and Fennelly supplying a memorable lead line and fuzz filled finish to another shoulda/woulda/coulda been hit. The disc closes with the mono single, alternative version of ‘Can’t Live My Life’.
Disc two begins with the eleven tracks comprising 1971’s ‘Rotten To The Core’. ‘Smokin’ In The Morning’ is a bluesy shuffle with Fennelly and Foutz contributing solos on slide guitar and piano respectively. ‘Tomorrow’s A New Day’, a hot rocker with Fennelly’s lead guitar blasts and solos complemented by gorgeous vocals failed to chart when released as a single. ‘It’s So Hard’ is a melodic organ fueled tune with slide guitar accents and a short solo. ‘Makes No Difference’ is a mid-tempo track with a delicate melody, Fennelly’s slide guitar and Foutz’s organ joined by choral vocals emitting a Joe Cocker vibe. ‘You Make Me Hot’ is a snappy rocker, Fennelly’s slide guitar complemented by Foutz’s pounding piano. ‘One More Time’ is a change of pace country rocker featuring slide guitar and fiddle. ‘Lucy’ is a hard rocker with Fennelly’s slide guitar front and center, his vocals screamed over the tune’s heavy riff before his swirling solo drives the song home. ‘Paper To Write On’ is a country rocker featuring a Foutz organ interlude. ‘Lookin’ For Love’ again hints at country rock with Fennelly’s slide guitar carrying the tune, Foutz adding organ accents and a crisp solo. ‘Love Can Change Everything’ is a delicate country rocker reminiscent of Buffalo Springfield with nice vocal harmonies and an organ interlude. Album closer ‘Gonna Save You (From That)’ is a six minute piece featuring numerous tempo changes and another delicate melody. Fennelly’s slide guitar is joined by Falcon’s percussion reminiscent of Santana and Foutz adding an extended organ solo emitting an ELP feel which plays the song and album out. Sadly, ‘Rotten To The Core’ failed to crack the charts, and by 1972 Crabby Appleton was no more. The disc is closed out by the mono single versions of ‘Tomorrow’s A New Day’ and ‘It’s So Hard’.
‘Go Back-The Anthology’ comes in a tri-fold digipak and includes a lavishly illustrated full-color 28 page booklet with a new 5000 word essay by David Wells. Crabby Appleton sounds better than ever thanks to the mastering job of Simon Murphy. The set will appeal to fans of 1970’s rock, power pop and classic rock and is highly recommended.
Crabby Appleton – ‘Go Back-The Anthology’ (Grapefruit, 2023)