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Crabby Appleton
Elektra EKS-74067
First Charted: June 1970
Chart Peak: #175
Weeks Charted: 6

Crabby Appleton is an inventive L.A. group in the classic mold: high ringing guitar, crackling organ and a lead vocalist whose delivery is strenuous and dramatic, in contrast to his phlegmatic demeanor, which carries all the sullen narcissistic charisma any band need. Another patented, short-lived hype group? Nope. Crabby Appleton, I'm happy to report, is the real thing -- no great innovation, but as satisfying a definition of the mainstream rock band as we've had this year.

Take their recent radio hit, "Go Back." With its Tommy James and the Shondells bass riff and rather petulant vocal, it sounds like scores of other songs, yet retains a certain distinctive quality that impresses and stays with you. And the whole album is just that good: passionately done, almost haunting, somewhat familiar though you can never quite place the specific influences. There's's "The Other Side," a poignant ballad with melancholy, understated guitar and full-bodied vocal harmonies swelling affectingly, filtering faint traces of the Everly Brothers, Beatles and even last year's L.A. "country" groups, which that steady Procol Harum organ comes welling up and then returns to a muted glow at the bottom of the track. Comparisons don't really express what happens here -- the keynote is warmth.

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Some of Crabby Appleton's songs take on the character of those minor classics encountered occasionally deep in obscure LPs, well-nigh perfect progressions that seem to represent something at once universal in feeling and texturally indigenous to rock, so that you could point anyone to it and say: "This is rock and roll."

One such is "To All My Friends," the personal credo song which closes side one and seems like a kind of anthem. The melody is relatively complex but the arrangement is very simple; opening with steady marching piano chords, words, melody and the oddly moving shrillness of the vocal come together is a subtly moving experience: "Looked all over/Over every good part of the land/Just to find them that could understand/The meaning of love/And the answer/After everything's bought and been sold/They push and they shove." The wistful sense of youthful confusion there is genuine, and most rare.

Musically Crabby Appleton's songs are impeccable, cleanly rendered without sacrificing the basic feeling. Casey Foutz' organ work is especially fine, though his solos on the longer numbers seem to ramble a bit. There are traces of well-absorbed styles from baroque music to a fine seasoning of Latin percussion, but it's first and foremost a rock album, and one of the few lately to feature several ballads as imaginative and compelling as the rockers.

Despite some rather pointed political commentary ("Throw a rock at a man and you'll get something back/Put a gun in your hand, there ain't no turning back..."), the main spirit communicated by this record seems to be a kind of open innocence (without being puerile) that we have all but forgotten lately. Even the fast songs show traces, as in the decidedly teenage nasal wail of "Go Back"'s chorus: "Go back gehrl/As fast as you can!" I like that, and everything else on this first album, which is nearly faultless and communicates the vitality of American youth and American music better than the last and the next ten hypes showering in. Get it.

- Lester Bangs, Rolling Stone, 10/29/70.

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