The San Francisco-based Mojo Men are best remembered for their top-40 hit cover of Stephen Stills' "Sit Down, I Think I Love You." By the time that ornate 1967 single was released, the original group had recorded several bravado-filled sides for Tom Donahue's Autumn label, fallen out with their drummer, picked up former Vejtables drummer/vocalist/songwriter Jan Errico, and recorded these demos before recording for Reprise. To be fair, "demos" is a coarse description given the recordings' sparkling studio quality and the care lavished on the vocals and overdubs. But even though many of these tracks rival their output on Autumn and Reprise, the sessions were used to work out new material, showcase the band's songwriting to their new producers, and to suggest outside material that might be suitable. The only aural artifact that really suggests "demo" are hotly mixed vocals that don't always lay firmly in the instrumental backings.
The addition of Jan Errico had a noticeable impact on the band's sound, pulling them in more melodic directions and adding a folk-rock vibe to numerous tracks. The macho sentiments of the group's earlier "She Goes With Me" may not have fit the new lineup (though they did essentially reprise their earlier "Dance With me" on "There Goes My Mind"), but Errico could sing with full-throated force. The vocal attack of "What Kind of Man," for example, sounds like a midway point between the sharp verbal punctuation of Mary Travers and the snotty garage attitude of Paula Pierce. Errico and bassist/vocalist Jim Alaimo made a solid rhythm section, and their voices blended into winning harmonies. The group could equally well rock a primitive Bo Diddley beat for "'Til I Find You" as they could take it down tempo for the ballad "Don't Leave Me Crying Like Before."
The influence of former Autumn labelmates The Beau Brummels is heard on "Is Our Love Gone," and a cover of Jay and the Americans' "She Cried" adds fine group harmonies. Several of Alaimo and Errico's originals were re-recorded for later albums, but many more are only heard here. These mid-career recordings fit perfectly between the garage rock of the Mojo Men's Autumn sides and their more polished Reprise recordings, and are sure to enthrall fans of either. Big Beat's "West Coast Promotion Man" Alec Palao offers up top-quality liners and photos from his personal archives to round out a stellar package. [©2008 hyperbolium dot com]