Share UNREFORMED – The Coba Seas (Norton Records)
First impressions: The kid in the cover pic with the Rickenbacker really looks like Iggy. There are no coincidences.
To business: After James Williamson got sent to juvenile detention for refusing to cut his hair in 1965 ("What would Bob Dylan do?"), his mother and Army colonel stepfather packed him off to the Anderson School, a pricey, co-ed boarding school for troubled yoof located in upstate New York. But he took his Fender Jaguar and Silvertone amplifier along with him, and in due course, was recruited by the campus rock 'n' roll band, the Coba Seas, who played a repertoire that included Brit Invasion, surf, and American garage snot classics.
As it happened, the Coba Seas' drummer's dad was a professional recording engineer who'd just finished working with the Beatles on the tapes of their Shea Stadium concert. One weekend, he showed up at the Coba Seas' rehearsal spot with a pro-quality recording rig and taped their band practice, sans vocals. He even went so far as to have the tapes tweaked to add some reverb before pressing acetate copies for each of the band members. (Some dad, huh?) The other Coba Seas apparently had no idea what had become of their former lead guitarist ("Raw Power" Stoogedom, Sony exec-hood) until the drummer, Michael Adams, read an article in "Mojo", and eventually they reconnected, the end result being the release of the tape by sterling Noo Yawk garage label Norton.
The resultant product – six songs, a total of about 28 minutes, skimpy but still more than "The Kinks' Greatest Hits" – is surprisingly listenable. Not as pro as, say, A Session With the Remains, but these were high school kids, for chrissakes. Their versions of "Empty Heart," "Gloria," and the inevitable "Louie Louie" (consider it a rehearsal for Metallic K.O., waxed when Iggy was still pounding traps for the Prime Movers and dreaming of Sam Lay-hood) feature a few flashes of Williamson's future brilliance, but you really have to use your imagination to make the leap from there to Raw Power – kind of like comparing Leslie West's garage daze as documented on the Vagrants' recently released and highly worthwhile I Can't Make A Friend to his signature work with Mountain. But taken on their own terms, the aforementioned tracks plus the Coba Seas' versions of the Raiders' "Just Like Me," Stones' "Heart of Stone," and Animals' "It's My Life" are all fine, filled to the brim with the correct spirit. You could even use this record as background for a drunken session of garage karaoke, if you were so inclined.
For Stooges/Williamson completists and total garage maniacs only. But that would be most of usassembled here - Ken Shimamoto
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