For the first featured rock and roll album I thought I would start with a relative unknown. The band is the Soledad Brothers, the album Steal Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit to Move.
This is the second release for Detroit blues combo the Soledad Brothers and for those unaware of the band, it offers a great cross section of their music, sound, writing style, and what makes this band one of the best unknown bands of all time. With a rough musical sound that sounds like it was recorded in a club live in the 1950s or early 1960s, The Soledad Brothers offer a unique combination of blues, roots rock, and folk all wrapped in a rough exterior that is emphasized by the recording techniques. Although their first album appears rougher and more raw, this album offers a better variety of music as the band touches on its various influences. Early rock and roll is of course the focus and this small band rips through rock and roll songs with an intensity greater than probably any of the original rock and rollers could have imagined. Combined with a Rolling Stones swagger and raw harmonica blasts, this album is one where you can almost hear the audience clapping and stamping its feet as you would in a live setting.
The band's blues influence and roots rock base is easy to pick out but like other garage rock bands that have come out of Detroit in recent years (most notably the White Stripes) there is a rough sound that is reminiscent of early punk music like the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and MC5 (minus the politics, art, and kinky lyrical topics). Oddly enough though, I would most equate their music to stripped versions of The Doors and Led Zeppelin but filtered through those punk influences. On this album, the moody, bluesy number, “There's No Sunshine when She's Gone” especially recalls Led Zeppelin's “When the Levee Breaks”, “No Quarter” and the Doors' “The End” due to its mystic feel, droning guitar riff and wah guitar solo.
The album is spaced with odd drum blasts, which although most interesting the first time through, don't necessarily detract from the album as a whole. With rock and roll roots being at its heart, rough blues being its bread and butter, and album highlights that range from soft and folk-like to brooding and dark, this album offers a perfect look at the Soledad Brothers in all their rough guitar, harmonica blowing glory. Where similar garage rock bands that came out of its recent revival tend towards the punk side of the spectrum, this album and this band are firmly in the roots rock and roll arena, even more so than their more well known counterparts, the White Stripes.
Now I understand that this album may not appeal to the casual listener. It is far from the polished radio friendly rock and roll/pop that is popular these days. Its even pretty far away from the traditional blues of B.B. King and Buddy Guy. Instead it offers raw emotion wrapped in rough guitars wrapped in rough harmonica and played through a smoky haze. Imagine a small little blues band playing in a dive of a bar and you probably have the right idea. If you're a blues person you might find it interesting to hear what blues sounds like when distilled down to its absolute essentials. If you're a rock and roller, take a good look at the early days transplanted in the 21st century and if you're into both then do what I do and crank the stereo and enjoy.
I offer this album as proof that rock and roll doesn't have to be polished stadium rock to be great, and that sometimes the best show you'll ever see is in a smoky club with about 30 people.