Forgotten series: The Racket Squad – The Racket Squad/ Corners Of Your Mind (1968/69)

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In the beginning they were called the Fenways. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they were a major draw on the regional circuit. Spunky singles such as “Be Careful Little Girl” and “The Walk” translated into huge local hits.

The Fenways also played on “You’re The One” by the Vogues, which peaked at the No. 4 spot on the nationwide charts late in 1965. But as was the story with a host of bands, they were floored by the newfangled nuances of psychedelic music, and wasted not a second altering their outlook and approach.

Garbed in Nehru jackets and love beads, the Fenways switched their name to the Racket Squad in 1967, and signed a contract with the Jubilee label. During their tenure, they recorded two full-length albums for the roster, which have been scrabbled together in 1999 by Collectables Records as a solitary disc. Bonus tracks are a plus, as well as informative history of the group.

Released in 1968, the band’s first album, The Racket Squad is dominated by cover songs, but they’re reprised in a relatively adventurous manner. For instance, they tar and feather “The Loser” by the Skyliners with dollops of distortion, supplying it with a spacey feel. The Reflections are saluted via a respectable interpretation of the cute and chipper “(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet,” and an instrumental version of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe” stutters and shuffles to an unusual arrangement.

As far as original material is concerned, there’s the soul-pitched pizzazz of “Higher Than High” and the jolly, jumpy “Let’s Dance To The Beat Of My Heart,” which hangs tough as a fetching pop piece.

The Racket Squad’s follow up album, Corners Of Your Mind arrived in the shops in 1969, and examined the band traveling in a heavier direction than what was heard on the debut disc. Embracing the multiple imaging pioneered and practiced by Jimi Hendrix, the record is saturated with winks to the famed guitarist. A copy of “Little Wing” is even featured on Corners Of Your Mind, but it’s actually the Racket Squad’s own compositions that rank as showstoppers. Hazy choruses, implemented with head-spinning shifts and freaky rhythm chording captain the course on “Minstrel,” “You Turn Me On” and the title cut of the album.

Both The Racket Squad and Corners Of Your Mind are great records. Pronounced by tight, professional performances, drafted of confident vocals, rich melodies, arresting keyboard noodles and sharp guitars, an agreeable collision of pop and acid rock maneuvers are housed within the albums. Here are sounds bound to tease and please the ears of those willing to listen.

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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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