Bubble Puppy - Hot Smoke and Sassafras

16 May
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Recording for International Artists Records, the crazed Texas label that brought the world such acid-damaged visionaries as the 13th Floor Elevators, the Red Krayola, Lost & Found, and Electric Rubayyat, the Bubble Puppyseemed by comparison to be a beacon of semisanity -- a rather typical psychedelic band of the period who seemed more interested in having a good time and cranking up the amps than in reimagining the size and shape of the inner cosmos. But that's not to say they weren't a good psychedelic band -- the band's best known tune, "Hot Smoke and Sassafras," was a charging guitar-heavy rocker that deservedly became a hit single, and its flip side, "Loney," was nearly as good.

Truth to tell, those two songs are the most interesting tracks on the Bubble Puppy's first album, A Gathering of Promises, but the rest of the material is certainly more than just filler -- softer tunes such as "It's Safe to Say" and the title cut show off the band's surprisingly strong harmonies and folk-rock influences, while the interlocking guitars of Todd Potter and Rod Prince drive "Beginning," "Hurry Sundown," and the epic "I've Got to Reach You." the Bubble Puppy could write and play like seasoned pros, and with the exception of "I've Got to Reach You" they had the sense to wrap up their tunes in three or four minutes, so that this album actually manages to end before it wears out its welcome. It's not exactly a work of life-changing genius, but A Gathering of Promises is still a noticeably stronger and better crafted album than most bands of their time and place were turning out, and if it had enjoyed wider distribution (and another song or two as good as the single) who knows where they could have ended up. [The 2004 reissue tacks on monophonic single mixes of "Hot Smoke and Sassafras," "Lonely," "Hurry Sundown," and "Beginning," as well as four songs from non-LP singles; the mono mixes certainly boast a lot more punch than the often eccentric stereo versions, and "Thinkin' About Thinkin'" is a thoroughly enjoyable slice of hook-heavy guitar mauling that should have made the cut for the LP.]


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