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Collector's Choice Music reissues the San Francisco folk-rockers' puzzling major label debut: a collection of sixties cover songs.

Music Review: Beau Brummels’ 66

If ever there was a cautionary example of a group mishandled by the music industry, the Beau Brummels are it. With two sublime folk-rock singles ("Laugh Laugh" and "Just A Little") on the charts in 1965, the San Fran band's first record label, the short-lived and shot-loose Autumn Records, quickly collapsed and sold its catalog within a year. As a result, the Brummels wound up at Warner Bros. Records, and their first release for Warners turned out to be . . . a collection of cover songs! (And this was despite the fact that the band had a strong songwriter in guitarist Ron Elliot.) Whose bright idea was this, anyway?

In the liner notes for Collector's Choice Music's new reissue of this musical misfire, Richie Unterberger attempts to nail the responsible parties, but doesn't provide a definitive answer. To be sure, the Brummels weren't the only ones padding their resumes with a current covers set – in '64, the Supremes attempted a collection of then-contemporary British Invasion hits, for instance – but it was a decidedly odd choice for a major label debut. To make matters worse, the final product, 66, can't decided whether it wants to be a group-flavored reinterpretation of these oh-so-familiar tracks or a Sounds of the Sixties studio group replication. When it's the former, the platter has its enjoyable moments, when it's the latter – as when lead singer Sal Valentino subordinates his uniquely mournful voice to imitate Peter Noone crooning "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" – it just sounds lame.

66 is typically most successful when the material being reworked has a folk-rock vibe in its core. The album opens on a strong note: John Lennon's "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," a track that fits Valentino's melancholy song stylings beautifully. Further along, the band puts its sonic stamp on Paul Simon's (mislabeled "Paul Smith" – of Smith & Garfunkle? – by CCM on the disc's back cover) "Homeward Bound" and the Mamas and Papas' "Monday Monday" to good purpose. And in perhaps the album's most surprisingly successful remake, they replace the descending bass lines in Nancy Sinatra's big hit, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," with garagey guitar fillips. The amusing results wouldn't sound out of place on one of Rhino's Nuggets compilations, placed 'tween tracks by the Standells and the Music Machine.

Much more hapless are remakes of "Louie, Louie" and "Hang On Sloopy" (essentially the same song, of course), along with a totally misapplied version of Sonny Bono's "Bang Bang." The Brummels' "Bang" fumbles the memorably kitschy bridge of Cher's original single so completely that the guys never get the song back afterwards. "The Hits of Our Time Performed by Five Who Know How," is how Warner Bros. attempted to sell 66 to a less-than-enthusiastic record-buying public. Listening to "Bang Bang" or the band's misapplied attempt at recreating Rolling Stones menace on "Play with Fire," and you might wanna take issue with the "who know how" part of that blurb . . .

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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