THIS MOST RECENT collection of The American Amboy Dukes, taken from the first three albums, is strictly one for masochistic archivists. Amusement value only. If that.
Side one contains the whole of their ghastly mini-concept ‘Journey To The Center Of The Mind’ which purported to persuade people that Detroit might be host to the Second Coming.
Even Frank Zappa gave it the thumbs up.
Plenty of melodrama, doped and spiked in the slipstream of genuine West Coast rock – but all the same they definitely missed the boat.
By ’68 people had wised up to the truth lying behind those earnest myths, yet Ted Nugent and Steve Farmer squeezed every last drop out of telling the kids that They Had The Power. A lot of other things going on then were equally naive but at least they invariably had some unashamed melodic content (The Byrds), or could concentrate on primitive excitement (The MC5). The Amboy Dukes fell short of deciding where they wanted to be and thus ended up nowhere.
Nugent particularly was visibly influenced by Quicksilver Messenger Service, and it shows on side two’s ‘Migration’ and ‘Prodigal Man’. He’s a more than adequate guitarist: flash, a few good ideas, a distinctive sound, an abundance of excess and a paucity of memorable licks. These two tracks epitomise such factors in a pathetically dull setting. Meaningless jams whose pedestrian development underlines the rest of the band’s tendency to plod. Nugent was into pseudo-jazz even then but Rusty Day’s screeching only makes you want to laugh. Maybe I’m being cynical in retrospect but… did anyone actually ever get off on this stuff? Yeah, I know, Ted Nugent.
Record two, side one, contains the only passable rock and roll herein. An unsubtle, broody interpretation of ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ and a few more cuts form their debut LP. The Amboy Dukes doing ‘I Feel Free’ I can do without but ‘Young Love’ and ‘Psalms Of Aftermath’ have a certain inept nosnostalgic appeal.
Andy Solomon replacing Rick Lober on keyboards didn’t improve the sound too much and eventually led to the break up of the group after the appallingly pretentious Marriage On The Rocks album. ‘Shades Of Green And Gray’ and ‘Loaded For Bear’ indicated how they travelled in circles looking for inspiration.
Now Nugent fights guitar battles of the century every other week. He also reckons that he’s the best guitarist in the world and stuffs the new Amboy Dukes albums so full of riffs that they defy sane analysis. All seems pretty silly to me, Ted. Why don’t you retire gracefully and let people like Jack Elam (who really could) go out fighting?
© Max Bell, New Musical Express, 3 May 1975