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Music Review: The Matadors – Get Down From The Tree!

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The Matadors were one of the finest garage bands Czechoslovakia ever produced. It never ceases to amaze me how universal music can be. Regardless of oppression, language barriers, and all of the other cultural hurdles this band rocked. Thanks to Munster Records, the rest of the world is now able to revel in their raw rock and roll.

Get Down From The Tree! takes its name from the opening track on this new 24-song collection. It features all of their studio recordings from 1966-1968. The package marks the first time all of their singles and one-offs have been compiled with their lone, self-titled LP.

The results are an impressive document of a band emerging in one of the least likely places, during those famously lysergic years. The Matadors began by playing mainly international hits of the day. Their set included tunes from the likes of The Who, The Small Faces, and The Pretty Things. R&B was also a fave, and the collection includes covers of “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” as well as “My Girl.”

There were many more influences in the ether back then, however, as The Matadors’ version of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” attests. “Extraction” is an example of where the group’s collective head was at in 1968, when The Matadors was recorded. “Extraction” is a six-minute studio improvisation that had a lot more in common with what The Seeds were up to at the time than Smokey Robinson.

With recordings like these, there are often some early missteps along the way, and The Matadors were no exception. They struggled with English especially, at least at first. Early singles such as “Sing A Song Of Sixpence” and “Old Mother Hubbard” were written by “reinterpreting” English children’s stories.

Throughout their career, The Matadors were plagued by personnel changes. After touring behind their album, the group effectively disbanded just in time for the notoriously slow Communist regime to actually release it in Czechoslovakia. What was left of The Matadors were asked to become the house band for a touring version of the musical “Hair,” which they did until 1970 as the Broadway Matadors.

In the early seventies, the core of the group mutated into a legendary Krautrock outfit called Emergency. Over the past few years, The Matadors have occasionally reunited to play short sets of their former hits for the faithful.

Get Down From The Tree! is a cool dispatch from the other side of the world at a time when music was undergoing rapid changes. It is a must for fans of Nuggets and other mid-sixties garage-rock collections.

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