US underground heavy rock sensations Poobah released this very fine sophomore effort U.S. Rock back in 1976, and the folks at Ripple Music are making it available once again, remastered and with 4 bonus tracks, lyrics, and photos. If you haven't heard of this band or discovered their kick ass proto-metal sound, this is as good a place to start as any.
Featuring the stellar guitar skills & vocals of Jim Gustafson, Poobah on this album also included Ken Smetzer (vocals, keyboards), Gene Procopio (drums), and Phil Jones (vocals, bass). Imagine a mix of Mk III & IV Deep Purple, James Gang, Led Zeppelin, Foghat, Cactus, Aerosmith, Trapeze, and Grand Funk Railroad, and you have an idea of the style of this energetic American band. "Flesh Fantasies" and "Pullin' Me Down" are muscular funk metal tracks that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Purple's Stormbringer or Come Taste the Band albums, while "Watch Me" and "Coast to Coast" also find metallic riffing, tasty Hammond organ, and funky grooves forming a whirlwind of sound not unlike classic Trapeze, Deep Purple, James Gang, and the Edgar Winter Group, with a little bluesy boogie ala Cactus. "Let's Rock" is squarely in that Cactus/Foghat boogie zone, and Gustafson's Jimmy Page-meets-Jim McCarty styled licks are absolutely blistering on the hard rocking "Thru These Eyes".
Fans of Uriah Heep will love the crunchy guitar riffs and insistent Hammond organ on the heavy "Crazy", with Gustafson's vocals hitting those high notes like a cross between David Byron and Ian Gillan. "Keep on Rollin' " is a straight forward rocker with catchy hooks and more of these delicious Purple/Heep styled guitar/organ riffs, while "Right Out of the Night" is the albums longest and most prog-rock styled piece, with atmospheric keyboards from Smetzer, emotional vocals, and floating arrangements, bringing to mind Styx or Kansas. Jones takes the lead vocal on the raunchy riff rock of Out of You", the closing track on the album proper that features plenty of wicked guitar work, thick grooves, and tasty Hammond.
The bonus tracks are a lot of fun as well; "Your Way, My Way" is a dreamy prog number with lush string synth washes and a great vocal from Gustafson, "Cold Blooded Lover" a catchy little hard rock tune, the atmospheric "Enjoy What You Have", and a ripping live version of "Steamroller", the semi-legendary title track from Poobah's third album.
Honestly, there were so many great heavy rock/proto-metal bands on the scene back in the '70s who never quite made the big time, many of them nearly as good as the heavyweights who became superstars, and Poobah sit up there very high on that list. This is a fantastic album for any lover of heavy music from the 1970s, so if you didn't discover this one back in 1976, now's your chance to do so.
by Pete Pardo
1. Flesh Fantasies (Ken Smetzer) - 3:03
2. Pullin' Me Down (Ken Smetzer) - 3:14
3. Watch Me - 4:36
4. Coast To Coast (Ken Smetzer) - 2:12
5. Let's Rock - 2:48
6. Thru These Eyes (Ken Smetzer) - 3:05
7. Crazy - 4:07
8. Keep On Rollin' - 4:19
9. Right Out Of The Night - 4:55
10.Out Of You - 3:14
11.Your Way, My Way - 3:47
12.Cold Blooded Lover - 2:10
13.Enjoy What You Have - 6:35
14.Steamroller - 9:08
All songs by Jim Gustafson except where stated
Bonus Tracks 11-14
Track 14 recorded live at Idora Park
*Jim Gustafson - Lead, Acoustic, 12 String Guitars, Organ, Vocals
*Phil Jones - Bass, Vocals
*Gene Procopio - Drums, Percussion, Screams
*Ken Smetzer - Lead Vocals, Piano, Organ, Synthesizer
*Ralph Haring - Drums (Track 14)
*Fred Schnieder - Drums (Tracks 12,13)
*John Grazier - Synth (Track 11)
*Gus Theofilos - Guitar (Track 14)