The debut album by Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys is a forgotten gem of the late 1960s. Despite moderate commercial success, a hit single, and some fine music, the release is usually only remembered for the fact that Jimi Hendrix co-produced the album. I can’t think of another non-original album that Hendrix produced, but in any case it was rare for him to assume that role.
Roy Michaels (bass, guitar) began his career during 1964 as a member of The Au Go Go Singers with Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. When his bandmates moved on to the Buffalo Springfield, he formed a trio with Bob Smith (keyboards) and Michael Equine (drums and guitar). During 1967, Larry Packer (lead guitar) and Charlie Chin (rhythm guitar, banjo) joined the group and Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys was born.
During 1967 they were noticed by Hendrix and his manager, Michael Jeffrey, who invited the band to open for The Experience on a number of occasions and signed them to a recording contract. When they entered the studio, Hendrix went with them as their producer.
Oddly their hit single is the only non-original track and is very different from the rest of the material. “Good Old Rock ‘n’ Roll” is a medley of “Sweet Little Sixteen/Long Tall Sally/Chantilly Lace/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On/Blue Suede Shoes/Party Doll.” It is simple, energetic, straightforward, likeable rock and roll and a fine introduction to the band and their music as the album’s first track.
The individual tracks are well-crafted, many are catchy, and the band members were excellent instrumentalists and vocalists. The weakness of the album is the eclectic nature of the music, as the songs don’t really fit together, which gives the album a disjointed feel.
“Can You Dance to It” has a smooth pop feel to it. The nine-minute “Track In A (Nebraska Nights)” is an extended jam that shows just how adept the band members were as musicians, especially lead guitarist Packer. On the other hand, “Favors” and “Charlie’s Waltz” have a spacey psychedelic rock flavor with some predominant keyboards, a style that sounds dated today.
The Street Giveth…and the Street Taketh Away was a unique stop for the band as they would move to California and explore a country rock fusion sound on their next three albums before disbanding in 1977.
Today the band may be a nostalgic after thought but their debut album is well worth exploring. It may be tied to its era but it is still nice to have it back in circulation.