Album Review: Various — In Fuzz We Trust

The premise alone is enough to set your head a-spinning. First, start with a bunch of sixties garage bands, the kind immortalized on the legendary Lenny Kaye-curated Nuggets album. Now flash forward to the 1980s and beyond, when a second wave of bands spring up in tribute to the garage/psych sound of yesteryear. Now flash forward again to the 21st century, and have a number of those original 60s acts get back together to pay tribute to arguably the finest of those second-wave bands. Got it?

Well, get it. Because that’s the thinking that led to the new compilation In Fuzz We Trust: 60s Garage Legends Salute the Fuzztones. Rudi Protrudi‘s group existed and exists to re-create (with original-ish tunes) the sound and style of bands like Gonn and The Music Machine, so even though they’re from different eras, their spirits are decidedly kindred.

Now, I’ll bet you didn’t know that some of those old bands were still around. And as it happens, some of ’em actually aren’t, now. In fact several of the artists featured on In Fuzz We Trust have, sadly, passed from this dimension. Sean Bonniwell (Music Machine) and Arthur Lee (Love) are featured with The Electric Prunes and The Pretty Things(!) on a cover of The Fuzztones‘ “All the King’s Horses,” even though Bonniwell passed in 2011, and Lee even earlier in 2006. The SeedsSky Saxon (“Get Naked”) died in 2009, and Electric Prunes bassist Mark Tulin passed away in 2011. So clearly this project has been in development for awhile.

And it’s been worth the wait. Over the last several years, the American expat band – now based in Berlin – has mounted any number of theme-based albums: Horny as Hell employed brass and Hammond(!) organ; Illegitimate Spawn collected younger bands influenced by The Fuzztones, and the recent Snake Oil rounded up a bunch of groovy Fuzztones rarities and odds and ends. So in some ways, In Fuzz We Trust is just the latest theme package.

But it’s much more. It’s thrilling to hear some of those 60s bands (some of whom remain pretty obscure) crank it up and attack Fuzztones songs. Soundtrack heroes Davie Allan and the Arrows blast things off in style with “Avalanche,” and things keep rolling from there. Shadows of Knight fold some, er, familiar riffs into a cover of “I Never Knew,” and elsewhere everybody’s favorite tonsured rockers The Monks take on “Hurt on Hold.”

Question Mark and the Mysterians – one of the best live bands around today, no kidding – are a perfect fit for “Actions Speak Louder Than Words,” and Gonn tear into “Hallucination Generation.” And while some of these vintage bands don’t include all of the original members (c’mon now; what did you expect in 2013?), Strawberry Alarm Clock core members Mark Weitz and Randy Seol turn in a nice reading of “Charlotte’s Remains” (also found on SAC’s latest album, 2012’s Wake Up Where You Are. Long Island legends The Vagrants might not have Leslie West in the band these days, but their version of Rudi’s “Nine Months Later” still rocks pretty hard. And Vanilla Fudge‘s rhythm section (Bassist Tim Bogert and drummer-to-the-stars Carmine Appice) make “mincemeat” (according to Protrudi’s liner notes) out of The Fuzztones’ “Black Box.”

The “cool ghoul” Zacherley joins the Pretty Things for a monologue on “Ward 81,” and while the remaining acts are perhaps less well known than the aforementioned ones, the whole thing is a lot of fun. It works surprisingly well; if you don’t mind as bit of conceptual tail-chasing, In Fuzz We Trust is a thrilling eighteen-track journey through the past, into the present, and back into the past again.

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