Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Boots - Here Are The Boots (1966)

The Boots were a German outfit formed on the model of such British Invasion blues-based outfits as the Yardbirds, the Pretty Things, and Them. Lead singer Werner Krabbe had most definitely heard at least a couple of Van Morrison singles, while lead guitarist Jurg "Jockel" Schulte-Eckel utilized fuzz-tone effects for all they were worth, and also may have had a passing awareness of the Who; at least, he was known — before Jimi Hendrix ever started showing up with lighter fluid on stage — for playing his instrument with screwdrivers and other metal tools as well as the occasional beer bottle. The rest — Uli Grun on rhythm guitar, organ, and harmonica; Bob Bresser on bass; and Heinz Hoff on drums — variously pulsed, thumped, and pounded away behind these two lead punk maniacs, making some very busy as well as very bluesy records in the bargain, which were also characterized by fairly nimble vocal work. Somewhere midway between the Yardbirds and Them, with hints of the pyrotechnics that the Who and the Creation would perfect each in their own way, the Boots were popular in Germany and were also good enough to rate a recording contract with Germany's Telefunken Records, which yielded a pair of LPs as well as several singles. Krabbe exited in early 1966, following the release of their garage-punk single "Gaby," though the band hung on for another year. The latter single was featured on Rhino's summer 2001 release of Nuggets II.

The Boots' first album consisted almost entirely of covers of recent British and American hits, and/or R&B-rock oldies done the British Invasion way. No record by a 1960s record so dependent on cover versions is going to be great unless your name is the Rolling Stones or the Yardbirds, but The Boots do bring enough of a weird spin to the material to make it more worthwhile than the average such LP. Their obvious inspiration is from bands such as the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds, though Them and the Pretty Things weigh in as perhaps their biggest influences. The awkward accent (all songs are in English) and the fractured, almost zany arrangements they bring to the songs make them over into something odder, as well as making them invariably gloomier than their prototypes. Though R&B-based tunes are the main diet here, some of the more memorable tracks are stylistic departures, like their spooky cover of the neglected Zombies 45 "Remember When I Loved Her" -- one would guess, the only cover of the song from the time -- and the eerie instrumental "Enchanted Sea," which strongly recalls the Tornados (of "Telstar" fame). The 1998 CD reissue adds four bonus tracks, including the 45 cuts "In the Midnight Hour" and "Watch Your Step," along with live covers of Them's "One More Time" and Billy Boy Arnold's "I Wish You Would" (obviously based on the Yardbirds' version). All but one of the tracks ("Baby Please Don't Go"), however, is available on the best single-CD Boots compilation, Smash...! Boom...! Bang...!.

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