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Music Review: The New Improved Electric Prunes – Just Good Old Rock and Roll

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Does anyone remember when “New Coke” was introduced?

After much marketing hype and excitement, many Coca Cola aficionados rushed out to try the “New Coke” when it was introduced in 1985. Ad campaigns promised it would be even tastier than the old (now called Classic) Coke.

I was reminded of that campaign as I listened to the latest reissue of an Electric Prunes album. As fans know, the Prunes made it big in 1960s psychedelic rock after the release of the single “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night.”

The tip off on this newly released album should have come from the words “The New and Improved” Electric Prunes prefacing the album title Just Good Old Rock and Roll.

Sure enough, none of the original Prunes (four California high school buddies who originally formed the band in the late 1960s) played on this line up, having since broken up (trivia note: The “Classic Prunes” did later reform; none of the “New Prunes” played together after this album, a single, and a short tour).

Much like “New Coke,” the “New Prunes” – Mark Kincaid (vocals, guitar); Brett Wade (vocals, flute, bass guitar); Dick Whitestone (lead vocals, drums); Ron Morgan (guitar) – serve up a palatable offering. But when you’re expecting “Coke Classic” and get “New Coke,” it’s a bit disconcerting if not downright disappointing.

While the “New Prunes” have enough guitars and organs to produce the psychedelic rock produced by “Classic Prunes” the music is more conservative – think Three Dog Night with a bit more organ. But just a tad – there’s nothing casual on this album which also is a bit jarring. While “Classic Prunes” was a bit rough around the edges, the “New Prunes” sound as if they’ve been engineered to within an inch of their lives.

That’s not to say this 11-track album doesn’t have its good moments. The album, first released in 1969 and just re-released by Collectors’ Choice Music, has some instantly recognizable hits including “Sell,” “14-Year Old Funk,” and even “So Many People To Tell.”
But sadly there are also some real clunkers here that are just – let’s just say it – dull. Think of long, boring guitar riffs leading you not into a nice, easy trance but off the edge to nowhere.

One All Music Guide critic likened the album to a sound such as “Maurice Starr trying to put together another New Kids on the Block with new faces.”

I couldn’t agree more. The only thing the “New Prunes” has in common with the “Classic Prunes” is the name.

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About Nancy Dunham

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    Congrats! This article has been forwarded to the Advance.net websites and Boston.com.

  • http://www.creativeartisticliving.com/electricprunes.html Robert Morgan

    As the Brother of the late Ron Morgan, I have to say your comments although may have touched a mark in some instances; it doesn’t seem fair to the musicianship of this lineup. It is understandable that one who is not a musician, views a musical arrangement as “going nowhere”. The result of this album was more plagued by bad calls of the management not to mention the Reprise folks, than to critique the music. That period was a interesting transition from the progressive avante-garde sixties approach to a more mainstream Rock album. To many musicians, that period was a sad commercial pitfall in comparison, where musicians were bought and sold by the spark of high heeled boys in the big corporate suits. Robert Morgan.

  • Sean

    This is a fantastic album. It shouldn’t matter who was in the band or not, especially since the Electric Prunes had become essentially a studio project before this record even came about.
    You should note that this was the only Electric Prunes album up to that point that saw the actual band members (who were great by the way) write all but one track as well as play the instruments.
    Too much focus is put on the lineup and far too little on the music. I mean…we’re not lawyers battling over royalties and trademarks – and those had been secured anyway. Like it or not, this band was the Electric Prunes in 1969 and 1970. Cheers.

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