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The Knickerbockers: The Challenge Recordings [Box] *

Track List

>You Really Got Me
>All Day and All of the Night
>Jolly Green Giant, The
>Twine Time
>Land of 1000 Dances
>In Crowd, The
>Jerk, The
>Jerk Town
>She's Not There
>All I Need Is You
>Bite Bite Barracuda
>Room for One More
>Limbo Rock
>In the Misty Moonlight
>It's Not Unusual
>Whenever I See You [Demo] - (previously unreleased)
>Mighty Mighty Barracuda - (previously unreleased)
>Last Call - (previously unreleased)
>I Can Do It Better
>Can't You See I'm Trying
>Please Don't Fight It
>Just One Girl
>I Believe in Her
>Wishful Thinking
>You'll Never Walk Alone
>You Kind of Lovin'
>Harlem Nocturne
>Coming Generation, The
>I Want to Hold Your Hand
>There She Goes
>I Know a Place
>King of the Road
>Hully Gully, The
>Girl From Ipanema
>I Ain't Got a Right
>Lies [Demo]
>For Her [Demo] - (previously unreleased)
>One Track Mind
>I Must Be Doing Something Right
>She Said Goodbye
>Come On and Let Me
>Give a Little Bit
>Playgirl [Version One]
>Pad and How to Use It, The
>Like Little Children
>She's Gotten to Me
>Is That What You Want
>Come and Get It [Version One]
>Turn to Me
>Just Out of Reach
>You're Bad
>Gotta Stop This Dreaming
>I Want a Girl for Christmas
>My Feet Are Off the Ground [Version One]
>You're Something Else [Demo] - (previously unreleased)
>And Then You [Demo] - (previously unreleased)
>I Must Be Doing Something Right [Demo] - (previously unreleased)
>Chuck Berry Medley
>We Got a Good Thing Going
>Playgirl [Version Two]
>High on Love
>Stick With Me
>Come and Get It [Version Two]
>Chapel in the Fields
>Love Is a Bird
>Rumors, Gossip, Words Untrue
>I Love
>Can You Help Me
>Please Don't Love Him
>What Does That Make You
>Sweet Green Fields
>Guaranteed Satisfaction
>Come and Get It [Version Three]
>As a Matter of Fact
>They Ran for Their Lives
>My Feet Are Off the Ground [Version Two]
>Funny Face [Demo]

Album Notes

Recording information: 01/1967; 02/1965; 02/1966; 02/1967; 03/1966; 03/1967; 04/1966; 04/1967; 06/1966; 06/1967; 08/1965; 08/1967; 10/1965; 11/1964; 1964; 1966.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Knickerbockers had more than one hit. They had two. "One Track Mind" just missed Billboard's Top 40 in 1966, several months after "Lies" galloped to a peak position of 20 in late 1965. Twenty isn't a blockbuster number but "Lies" is considered a classic 45 thanks in part to its inclusion in Lenny Kaye's 1972 garage rock compilation Nuggets. Their presence on Nuggets suggested the Knickerbockers were a hard and wild garage band, an assessment that isn't strictly true. Certainly, the Jersey-based quartet could kick up some dust as they bashed out three chords but Sundazed's four-disc 2015 box set The Challenge Recordings -- a disc containing everything the group did, including the full-length LPs Jerk & Twine Time and Lies, the 1994 archival set The Great Lost Album!, singles, alternate takes, and previously unissued demos -- paints the portrait of a hard-working combo willing to try on any sound that might get them an audience. This eagerness led them straight to "Lies," as expert an imitation of the Beatlemania-era Fab Four as there ever was, but the Knickerbockers didn't content themselves with mimicking John, Paul, George, and Ringo. During their brief time at Challenge -- a stint that essentially amounts to all of 1965 and 1966, although there is a demo from 1964, a stray single and other unreleased items from 1967 -- the band touched upon every mainstream rock or pop sound of the pre-psychedelic '60s, starting as a fratty combo grinding out party covers of R&B and British Invasion hits -- not to mention a version of "The Jolly Green Giant" by early '60s rock & roll kingpins the Kingsmen -- and quickly touching upon surf and the limbo, folk-rock, and swinging pop, coming across like an AM pop station condensed into one quartet. After the hit, the productions got grander -- they were slathered in strings and horns that placed them somewhere between B.J. Thomas and Glen Campbell -- but they also had an eye for snazzy covers of crossover standards ("Harlem Nocturne," "The Girl from Ipanema") and they were hip enough to spin "King of the Road" into a groover in the style of the Sir Douglas Quintet. All of this can be heard on Sundazed's original CD reissues of the band -- apart from the unreleased 1967 side "Guaranteed Satisfaction," where the group swaggers convincingly -- but the reason why these recordings sound better as a box than on their own is how listening to four discs in succession emphasizes how the Knickerbockers jumped aboard every trend and, even if they didn't always cop a style with distinction, there's a charm to their hard-working aesthetic. Plus, their malleability is almost an asset: it makes The Challenge Recordings seem like a time capsule of what American rock & roll really sounded like in the mid-'60s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine


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