You can’t help but love this! Michigan garage rock legend Scott Morgan emerges with a new album nearly fifty years after forming his first band! Not only that, but aside from appearances on other bands’ records, the occasional single and scattered band projects, this marks Morgan’s first album under his own name! While not a happening on par with a new XTC album, let’s say, Morgan has always been a card-carrying flag-waver for all that is special and right about primal rock and roll and for him to produce a full album on a label with such a great rep as Alive at this point in his career is astounding. I mean, at the age when most rockers either decide to hang it up or just coast by doing “stunt” albums with others songs and high-priced guest stars and “high concepts” Morgan has put out an album doing what he has always done best – high octane garage rock with a little psyche, a little pop and a whole lotta R&B and soul. This could be the beginning of a new stage in his career, and what a career it has already been!
Morgan began his music career in 1962, forming his first band in his hometown of Ann Arbor, MI, shortly after being given his first guitar by his parents. Named the Rationals, Morgan formed the band with schoolmate Steve Correll who also had a passion for music and played guitar. It took two years for the band to solidify its’ lineup, just in time for the British Invasion to take hold and Morgan was like every other aspiring rocker during this time period, adoring the British rockers and studying their every rock and roll move. Of course, added to the mix was a dollop of R&B gleaned from Motown and many Michigan soul acts. The act began to make waves after hooking up with a manager and working on their act until they became one of the biggest acts in the state, releasing several regional hits and also having brief dalliances with major labels such as Cameo-Parway and Capitol records. By the end of the decade, the band’s music began taking on a harder, more psychedelic edge and their first album was recorded. Sadly, as soon as the album was completed, the bandmembers began experiencing personal friction between them and the band was soon kaput. Morgan didn’t wait long to find his next project, as a mere few months later Morgan joined a band named Guardian Angel. That project evolved into another, this time named Lightning but that band, alsom wound up as more of a short term project. Morgan’s next long term musical project would be formed in 1975 and feature guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith, onetime member of the MC5. The project, named Sonic Rendezvous Band, would become legendary amongst fans of high energy rock yet never cut an album, due to lack of interest from record labels. Since then, many discs of studio tapes, live cuts and rarities have been assembled and released of the band, which also featured Scott Asheton of The Stooges on drums. The band broke up in 1980 and since then, Morgan has had a series of bands, the most notable of which have been the Scott Morgan Band, Scots Pirates, Dodge Main and the Hydromatics.
Besides being Morgan’s first recording project under his own name, this new CD may also be the finest work he’s done. Not only is his voice as powerful and supple as ever, but his songwriting chops are first-rate and his choice of supporting musicians inspired. On board for this album are Matthew Smith (guitarist for Outrageous Cherry and The Volebeats), Jim Diamond (bass and production), Chris Taylor (guitarist for Mazinga and Powertrane) and Dave Shettler (drummer for the Sights) all doing their respective thing and doing it ferociously. Morgan manages to take the best hard R&B/soul of The Rationals and combine it with the hard rock of the Sonic Rendezvous Band to create an album encapsulating everything he does best, from blues to soul to rock.
I love the primal force of great garage rock so I gotta say I am digging this record. While I definitely enjoy an excellently arranged and skillfully played song with all the filigrees and gee-gaws one might expect from an ornately constructed composition with premium production, for my money, the pure essence of rock and roll’s passion and heart is captured under minimal conditions. I can listen to two-man groups doing the guitar and drums thing all day and though this is more fleshed out than those types of acts, Morgan and crew are on the same page. A lot of the best rock is music kept simple, with pounding drum beats, blazing guitars and liver quivering bass lines carrying the day. Anything else is pure icing on the cake, and, while musically delicious, is not necessarily required or needed and sometimes, not even wanted. On this album, Morgan has found the exact recipe to bring his version of rock and roll to life and he succeeds greatly on this disc. Lovers of pure rock and roll should get this ASAP.