While much closer to their later sound than that of their first album as The Knowbody Else, this disc still has some eccentricities and even progressive elements that would mostly be gone by the time the band changed their name to Black Oak Arkansas. Though dating from 1970, this material wasn't released till '74 under the more familiar BOA moniker as Early Times. Stax Records had a well produced album with some fine songs but foolishly sat on it till the band had already become popular. Better late than never.
While opening cut Someone Something may have a horn section similar to many artists at Stax Records (who'd released The Knowbody Else's first LP), it actually sounds more like the band so many of us grew to love than you might expect. When I'm Gone is a mellow hippie style country number, again not so far removed from their later material. Third cut Let Us Pray leaves absolutely no doubt this is BOA, already adept at laying down the southern boogie that they became known for. Sly Fox is lyrically what you'd expect from the boys, but musically is a bit more proggy. Mean Woman (If You Ever Blues) definitely opens in a progressive mood, complete with Black Widow style flute. Once it gets rolling, though, you know you're in Black Oak. Interesting music for sure. No One And The Sun is a hauntingly beautiful, atmospheric song similar in a way to Light Your Windows from Quicksilver Messenger Service's debut. An excellent cut, but recorded earlier than the other music found here, and already included on The Knowbody Else album released in '69. Theatre is another cut that comes really close to the sound of the records to come. The words and music of Collective Thinking is pure Black Oak Arkansas, straight up. Album finale Older Than Grandpa starts off in a slow country style, filled with reminisces of growing up in rural Arkansas, but with the chorus becomes a true soul stirring southern rock anthem.
Though this album is a bit uneven, and the band hadn't quite reached full maturity, the songs are just too good in my opinion to rate less than five stars. I love this record and I love this band. They would go on to release a straight flush of seven excellent studio albums before losing any steam. They've had their ups and downs since then, but are still making great music and generating a good time to this day. Black Oak Arkansas has put a smile on my face and pleasure in my soul for over 30 years. They'll always be one of my very favorite bands.