LONG BEFORE the Midwest was overrun with groups who survived for years without hit records by playing interminable guitar solos to vacant-eyed kids at an endless succession of concerts and festivals, the Amboy Dukes had already made their mark. As part of the second generation scene that developed in Detroit, they played the Grande and all the other hot spots, but they also toured widely and pleased audiences their willingness to “get it on” to such an extent that they have been in constant demand since 1966, and leader Ted Nugent has become a living legend.
Their dent on the national music scene has never been comparable to that on their home turf, however. Their five albums sold well where they were known, but the Mainstream label which owned them was unable to spread that popularity. Now, at last, things may be ready to change. Although the Amboy Dukes have undergone a total changeover in personnel, Nugent is no less the fiery, charismatic kamikaze guitarist, and the new group is every bit as well equipped to back him, if not more so.
Call of the Wild is the most consistently heavy album the Amboy Dukes have made. Six of its eight songs boast fast tempos and power chords; the lack of melody and in many cases lyrics, is made up for by constantly churning lead runs. With more imaginative riffs, the Amboy Dukes could become a strong domes-tic contender for the Deep Purple audience.
The most ear-catching numbers here are ‘Call of the Wild’, an instrumental with good speed-guitar, ‘Sweet Revenge’ which benefits from a vocal chorus, ‘Renegade’, another instrumental, and the seven-minute ‘Below the Belt’ which is guaranteed to drive all lovers of Iron Butterfly and Mountain into the most profound state of ecstasy. Nugent, remember, was one of the original pioneers of wounded-elephant guitar, so coming from him this stuff carries the weight of authority.
‘Cannon Balls’ has a promising start but quickly falls into the same blues mire that drenches ‘Rot Gut’. There’s some good noise in it, but not as good as the noise in ‘Ain’t It the Truth’ or ‘Below the Belt’. As for ‘Rot Gut’, well if you like the Siegel-Schwall Blues Band you might like this. Where these guys come from, the blues is still treated with respectful deference.
Actually, if you want to know the truth, this album is full of nothing but amplified noise and jerkoff guitar. No songs, no tunes, no pretense of economy. It’s pure 1968, no pop at all, and one of the most direct albums this genre has produced. There are no drum solos, no bass solos, no Pigpen blues moans, none of that crap. Just guitars, guitars, guitars, a Motor City guitar army whose only objective is to come into your town and help you party down. Ted Nugent has always given his followers exactly what they want, and Call of the Wild is full of it. If you have uttered the word ‘boogie’ in the past 24 hours, this is your kind of album. Eat it up.
© Greg Shaw, Phonograph Record, March 1974