The Skeptics – The Complete Early Years, 1965-69 (2012)

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Bartlesville, Oklahoma was where the Skeptics came from. Although the band failed to pierce the national charts, they ruled the regional circuit, and in light of The Complete Early Years, 1965-69 (Gear Fab Records), it’s not difficult to hear why.

Featuring all five of the group’s singles, along with a few previously unreleased tracks, the anthology bleeds with exciting expressions, executed with exuberance and determination. In the beginning, lead singer Jerry Waugh wrote the band’s songs, while later on Wayne Carson Thompson, who laid a golden egg with “The Letter” by the Box Tops, donated some goods to the cause.

Pinching the main lick of “La Bamba” and inserting it into a crispy folk-rock concept, circled by jarring breaks, “It’s A New Thing To Me” jumps for joy with clumps of catchy hooks. Burning and churning with heated hormones and swinging rhythms, “Apple Candy,” “Turn It On” and “Bit O’ Honey” pay lip service to the brash and brawny garage punk of those beloved “Nuggets” bands, where “I Told Her Goodbye” and “Ride Child” center on a moodier and more melancholic angle of the Skeptics.

Stark and dramatic, “East Side Tenement House” tells a torrid tale of poverty and hunger, and “Certain Kind Of Girl,” equipped with the shrilly squeal of a harp and stomping beats, blends lashes and dashes of the Mojo Men’s “She’s My Baby” with snatches and patches of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About A Mover” into one spectacular slab of blues-infested garage rock. As for “Stripes,” well, that’s a strange but tasty stew of jazz, rock, blues and raspy country styled vocals. The subject matter isn’t exactly cut of commercial cloth either, for it’s about a guy who kills his girlfriend and goes to jail.

As the decade drew to a close, the Skeptics started divorcing their rock and roll roots in favor of a full-fledged funky soul sound. Decked out in brassy arrangements, floor shaking grooves and buckets of blood, sweat and tears, “Down To The Bone” resembles the sort of hard-edged stuff the Temptations were engaged in during their “I Can’t Get Next To You,” “Psychedelic Shack” and “Ball Of Confusion” phase.

Lifting a cue from the British royalty of the times, with heavy references to the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and the Zombies, and merging such inspirations with the folk pop of the Leaves and the Beau Brummels, topped off by the shaggy, raggedy garage rock snarl of the Standells and the Shadows of Knight, the Skeptics were actually creative enough to allow their own homegrown tactics rise to the occasion.

Sparked by ripe melodies, fresh energy and tightly performances any way the coin is tossed, The Complete Early Years 1965-69 is an essential purchase for those big on the music of the era. Considering most of us did not witness the Skeptics firsthand, this disc is the next best thing to being there!

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