Mungo Jerry – Dawn Albums Collection (2017)

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Mungo Jerry is known primarily in the U.S., unfortunately, as a one-hit wonder for their No. 3 Billboard hit “In the Summertime,” an international smash. Overseas, however, they deservedly added many other Top 40 hits. The proof is right here, as The Dawn Albums Collection highlights songs from Mungo Jerry’s first five UK releases.

All five albums in this box set have been newly remastered, and each disc is generously loaded with bonus tracks of non-album singles, b-sides, single mix versions, and foreign-only singles. The picture disc each come in album-replica cardboard sleeves with no spines, and are all housed together in a laminated clamshell box along with a full color booklet of liner notes provided by Alan Clayson detailing some of those beginning years of 1970-1974. Note to collectors: There’s a plethora of seven-inch single sleeves pictured throughout the color booklet.

The “In the Summertime” line-up of Ray Dorset, Paul King, Colin Earl and Mike Cole was short lived. Cole, their original bassist, was replaced in 1970 by John Godfrey for Mungo Jerry’s second album, before the band acrimoniously split up into two factions in 1972. Dorset and Godfrey ended up on one side, with King and Earl on the other. Still, there’s a pure joy on their first three albums – Mungo Jerry, Electronically Tested and You Don’t Have to Be in the Army – as this group happily mashes up jug band, blues, early rock ‘n’ roll and folk styles.

The Dawn Albums Collection ends up showcasing so many great original and cover songs, including “Maggie,” “Johnny B. Badd,” “San Francisco Bay Blues,” “See Me,” “Mighty Man,” “Somebody Stole My Wife,” “Ella Speed,” “That Old Dust Storm,” “Have a Whiff on Me” and the raucous stomper “Baby Jump.” It’s hard to pick a favorite! Mungo Jerry’s update of “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” transforms the Muddy Waters/Willie Dixon original into a stomp n’ shout, call-and-response number that was built for live concerts. By the way, singer/guitarist Ray Dorset can first lay claim to using the phase “alright, alright, alright” – not only in concerts from 1970 onwards, but also as the title a catchy 1974 hit single included on Mungo Jerry’s fifth album. Take that, Matthew McConaughey!

Mungo Jerry’s brand of amalgamated good-time music is very infectious, to say the least. For their second album, guitarist Paul King created the terrific acoustic blues-folk tale “Black Bubonic Plague,” which could easily have come off of Led Zeppelin III. Mungo Jerry’s third album, You Don’t Have to Be in the Army, continues in party mode with some more fab tunes. Changes loomed, however, with their fourth studio effort, Boot Power.

The album appeared in late 1972 with a U.K. skinhead-like cartoon image of the band – which, at this point, featured Ray and John with two new members, pianist Jon Pope and drummer Tim Reeves. (Colin Earl and Paul King went on to form the King Earl Boogie Band.) Adding drums to Mungo Jerry transformed them into a more conventional early ’70s rock band.

There’s no denying that “Open Up,” the single from Boot Power, is a very catchy number, but it’s also a good example of Mungo Jerry’s new rock-oriented direction. There were a couple excursions into the old jug band sound, including the Woody Guthrie cover “Going Down the Dusty Road,” but they also began to produce songs like “46 and On,” a generic, mid-tempo Kinks-like pop song aimed for the charts. By the time Mungo Jerry released 1974’s Long Legged Woman Dressed in Black, the final release included in The Dawn Albums Collection, they were down to a lineup featuring Ray Dorset with four other all-new members – and it’s been that way ever since.

The title track was completely entrenched in mid-’70s rock, reflecting the direction Mungo Jerry began taking on the prior album. The single “Wild Love” tried to bridge their classic jug band/rock sounds into one, but it sounds more like T-Rex. They had more success with recapturing that beloved old sound on traditional covers of “O’Reilly,” “The Sun Is Shining” and “Milk Cow Blues,” which showed Dorset hadn’t forgotten his roots. Elsewhere, however, “Summer’s Gone” is a unoriginal pointless rewrite of their first hit.

Actually, some of the ’50s-styled rock ‘n’ roll bonus tunes released as non-album singles are a lot better than the more generic album cuts on Mungo Jerry’s fifth studio effort. So, all in all, the first three albums are winners and should be in the collection of any lover of good-time, jug band-influenced music. The next two projects, after Mungo Jerry’s line up began to splinter, are mixed bags at best, with a few assorted good tracks here and there. Buying The Dawn Albums Collection, a very nice box set, is an easy, inexpensive way of grabbing them all.

Remembering the ’70s Biggest Songs

Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott has written for Shindig, Twist and Shake, Garage & Beat and Ugly Things. A big fan of all things rock and roll - especially the British Invasion, garage rock, psychedelic, new wave, folk rock, surf and power pop - he was a consultant on Sundazed Music's reissue of 'The Best of Butch Engle & The Styx: No Matter What You Say' in 2000, and has also provided liner notes for Italy's Misty Lane Records. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Steve Elliott
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