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Total Destruction to Your Mind (Remastered)

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Album Review

Jerry Williams, Jr. was a successful R&B and soul songwriter and producer who was relatively content with a behind-the-scenes career...until he sampled LSD toward the end of the '60s. His mind blown by psychedelics, Williams decided he needed another outlet for his creativity, so he became Swamp Dogg, a gnarly alter-ego obsessed with sex, class, drugs, politics, and anything that was crude. All the various undercurrents of the counterculture of the late '60s and early '70s, then, but the twist on Swamp Dogg's 1970 debut Total Destruction to Your Mind is how he channels all these obsessions into the framework of deep southern soul. Sure, there are elements of rock, funk, even country — wah-wah guitars whack away over hard four-on-the-floor beats, and Dogg covers an inordinate number of Joe South songs — but all this flair essentially functions as an accessory on hard, gritty, southern soul in the tradition of Muscle Shoals. Perhaps this allegiance to pure soul is the reason why Total Destruction to Your Mind didn't make many waves within the counterculture in 1970 — these horn-spiked grooves were just beginning to fade from fashion; it doesn't sound nearly as wild as, say, the Chambers Brothers of the time — and perhaps Dogg's obsession with drugs, sleazy sex, and cultural satire kept the album from being embraced by soul fans, and this genuinely odd blend also keeps Swamp Dogg's debut from blowing the minds of latter-day listeners, at least upon the first listen. It is not strange on the surface — Williams' consummate skills as a soul producer and bandleader keep these 12 songs cooking, whether they're riding a slow, low groove or a kinetic workout — but rather deeply weird underneath the skin. Once you start digging into the marrow of Total Destruction to Your Mind, it all starts to feel quite strange — all the songs about the synthetic world, the drugs, the sleaze, the Joe South songs — and its oddity becomes undeniable. Swamp Dogg possesses an idiosyncratic view of the world, one rooted in tradition but fiercely engaged in the present, and if nobody else saw things quite the same way as he did that certainly doesn't diminish the power of his perspective, particularly on Total Destruction to Your Mind, where he wrote the blueprint for all the decades to come. He refined his attack, and made it funkier and stranger, but in terms of sheer imagination, he never bettered this debut.

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Born: July 12, 1942 in Portsmouth, VA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '10s

Raunchy, satirical, political, and profane, Swamp Dogg is one of the great cult figures of 20th century American music. The creation of Jerry Williams, Jr., an R&B producer and songwriter of the '60s, Swamp Dogg fit no tidy category. In sheer musical terms, Swamp Dogg is pure Southern soul, anchored on tight grooves and accentuated by horns, but the Dogg is as much about message as music. Williams incorporated all the mind-bending psychedelic ideas of '60s counterculture -- drugs, sex, radical politics,...
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