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Electromagnetic Steamboat: The Reprise Recordings

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Album Review

According to the copious 40-page full-color liner notes that accompany this strictly limited-edition three-CD set, Electromagnetic Steamboat: The Reprise Recordings gathers "every unique master recording of the Fugs that was delivered to and survives in the Reprise [Records] archives." This includes not only the four long-players: Tenderness Junction, It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest, The Belle of Avenue A, and Golden Filth, but also an additional 40 minutes of material that never made it onto a standard commercial release. The Fugs first gained notoriety with their cerebral marriage of Lower East Side beatnik philosophies to electric folk music in 1964. This culminated in a series of definitive underground recordings on the New York City based ESP label. It was after a somewhat acrimonious split that the Fugs signed with the decidedly West Coast Reprise Records. The band's revolving door personnel features a few familiar session musicians during this era. Among the more notable names are Danny Kortchmar (guitar), Charles Larkey (bass), Bob Mason (drums), Richard Tee (organ), jazz legend Julius Watkins (French horn), and Ken Pine (guitar). Remaining at the inventive center of the Fugs are Tuli Kupferberg (vocals), Ed Saunders (vocals), and Ken Weaver (vocals/drums). Even with the lack of stability in the lineup, the nature of the band remained pure. In light of the political and social situations that the world faced in the late '60s, the Fugs' single-minded resonance of a Dionysian reality seemed practically surreal. The multi-dimensional "War Song" — originally issued on Tenderness Junction — acknowledges the duality of base gratification during wartime. Golden Filth is conspicuous as the only live album in the lot. Recorded at Bill Graham's Fillmore East, the set includes "I Want to Know," in addition to tracks from their ESP days — including "Coca Cola Douche," which is titled "CCD" for obvious legal reasons. The original album art from Cal Schenkel is also reproduced within the memorabilia-laden liner notes. The bonus material includes a monophonic mix of "Tenderness Junction," as well as a unique edit of the "Divine Toe" medley, which was previously available on The 1969 Warner/Reprise Songbook — a mail order-only promotional album offered from the record label. Additionally there is the "promo album version" of "Crystal Liaison" that was issued exclusively on the Some of Our Best Friends Are disc. Finally, the infamous five-track demo reel delivered — but never issued — to Atlantic Records is released here for the first time in its entirety. Electromagnetic Steamboat: The Reprise Recordings is limited to an edition of 5,000 and available exclusively through the Rhino HandMade.


Formed: 1964 in New York, NY [Greenwich Village]

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Arguably the first underground rock group of all time, the Fugs formed at the Peace Eye bookstore in New York's East Village in late 1964. The nucleus of the band throughout its many personnel changes was Peace Eye owner Ed Sanders and fellow poet Tuli Kupferberg. Sanders and Kupferberg had strong ties to the beat literary scene, but charged, in the manner of their friend Allen Ginsberg, full steam ahead into the maelstrom of '60s political involvement and psychedelia. Surrounded by an assortment...
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