Though the Kingsmen will be forever cherished as the garage combo behind the definitive version of rock 'n' roll's national anthem, "Louie Louie," the original band broke up shortly after waxing that definitive side. Drummer Lynn Easton and lead guitarist Mike Mitchell formed the nucleus of the band that recorded the latter day albums, including this fifth and final entry in the group's catalog. With original lead vocalist Jack Ely gone, and the song list heavily peppered with covers of well-known hits, the band was clearly running out of gas by the time of these 1965 sessions; ironic, given that much of the USA's best garage rock was created that same.
There are still a few highlights here, including the Levine-Resnick penned "Trouble," drawn from the same inkwell as material the pair wrote for The Standells, Shadows of Knight and others. Ditto for the original harmony pop-rocker "(I Have Found) Another Girl," which sounds like a lesser page from the Sloan & Barri songbook. The album's remaining originals, "Grass is Green," "Daytime Shadows," and "Children's Caretaker" find the Kingsmen stretching into pre-hippie folk-rock and neo-psych territory; a future direction the band never fully explored.
The bulk of the album is taken up with passable-but-not-stellar cover versions. The Beatles' "If I Needed Someone" features a suitable folk-rock groove and strong harmonies (heard again on a cover of "Hush a Bye"). Bobby Lewis' "Tossin' and Turnin'" never achieves frat-rock lift-off; same for The Troggs' "Wild Thing" and James & Bobby Purify's "Shake a Tail Feather." The Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb" is the worst of the lot, with an anemic vocal that sounds like an amateur in a carnival karaoke booth. Better is a slow take of "Land of 1000 Dances" that takes its groove from Cannibal and the Headhunters, rather than Wilson Pickett. Finally, a horn-driven arrangement of Don & The Goodtimes' "Little Sally Tease" is too busy for its own good.
Other than "Under My Thumb," everything here is listenable, if not exactly memorable. Listening to the Kingsmen harmonize on "Hush a Bye" one can't help picture Fonzie and the shark. There are enough nuggets here to show that the band hadn't been completely emasculated, but enough songs struck in neutral to signal the end. Sundazed's CD reissue adds a bonus track of the punchy, mono single "Killer Joe." This is primarily for completeists, or those willing to buy a CD for a few killer tracks. [©2007 hyperbolium dot com]