Forgotten series: Various artists – The Super K Kollection, Volumes 1-2 (1994)

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The late 1960s belonged to Jeffrey Katz and Jerry Kasenetz, who twiddled the knobs on gobs of singles and albums referred to as bubblegum music. Deceptively simple and often carved of lyrics parroting nursery rhythms, bubblegum music was a hot commodity, with bands like the Music Explosion, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Ohio Express, the Lemon Pipers, the Archies and Crazy Elephant being the most successful of the lot.

Serious rock fans, or perhaps serious rock snobs would be a better description of such folks, took great delight in criticizing bubblegum music, because aside from sporting rudimentary arrangements and exceptionally hyper mannerisms bordering on silly, it lacked a social consciousness.

Songs about puppy love, candy, food, playing children’s games, and yes, bubblegum music, were the main topics of these calorie-rich anthems, which were in complete contrast to the progressive sounds, introspective meditations and political statements sweeping the rock and roll landscape at the time. Musicians were thriving on sonic exploration and further aimed to enlighten audiences with their philosophical poetry. Tune in, turn on, drop out and wave your freak fly high was the message.

Compared to the Doors, Cream and Jefferson Airplane, bubblegum music appeared to be positively whimsical and innocent. But the truth is, the music wasn’t that different from the fare the Beatles, the Hollies or the Beau Brummels originally scored points with. Bouncy, hook happy and rife with sing-along choruses, the music was remarkably catchy. The material was neatly crafted, resulting in glowing examples of radio friendly pop rock. For a couple of good years, bubblegum records sold in very large quantities, leading it to be one of the top genres on the airwaves.

Jeff Katz and Jerry Kasenetz also operated their own organization, Super K Productions, and these two discs contain some of their more obscure concoctions. Although a number of these tracks are formed of bubblegum ingredients, a variety of other styles are included in the works. Jeff and Jerry may have been pigeonholed as kings of the sticky sweet stuff, but they actually dipped their fingers in an assortment of musical fashions. These guys were definitely geniuses, and their contributions to rock and roll should never be undermined.

The British Road Runners open the proceedings on The Super K Kollection Volume 1 (Collectables Records) with “Elevator Man,” a swirling, chilly slice of psychedelic pop beauty that recalls the Pretty Things during their Electric Banana phase, tailgated by Bobby Bloom’s perky bubblegum soul-studded “When.” Elsewhere on the set, J.C.W. Ratfinks sizzle with power and purpose on the penetrating “I Feel A Fever Comin’ On,” while “Overloaded” by Octopus, Ohio LTD’s “Take A Big Hit On The Jug” and The Super K Generation’s “Mama Lu” all swagger with cocky authority to a festive boogie vibe. The Chicago Prohibition 1931’s “Hipological” evokes the Lovin’ Spoonful in vaudeville gear, and Lt. Garcia’s Magic Music Box’s “El Hombre” steps in as a nutty piece of rambling monologue from a New York City taxi cab driver.

On The Super K Kollection Volume 2, we’re slayed by the heavy duty garage rock rush of the Shadows of Knight’s “My Fire Department Needs A Fireman” and the precious blue-eyed soul of “Just Because” from the Feathers. Bleeding with emotion, “You Hurt Me Girl” by Freddie and the Dreamers is a touching Merseybeat minted pop nugget, and the 1910 Fruitgum Company treat us to “Go Out In The Rain” and “Bingo Bingo.” Blending sunny paisley visions with a dance hall music slant, the instantly infectious “Ah La” from the Flying Giraffe features a vocalist who is a deadringer for Donovan, and parked on the opposite corner of this needling little pop ditty is Crossfire’s “C.O.D.,” a hairy, hard rocking jamboree devised of shouting guitars, crushing drumming and atrociously gruff moaning and groaning.

Orbiting anywhere from charmingly cheesy to stunning innovation, The Super K Kollection Volumes 1-2 supply a smart balance of fun and fascination. Weird enough to attract those with a nose for left-field art, but accessible enough not to scare away mainstream music followers, creativity abounds within the grooves of both these packages.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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