Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 26: Blues Magoos, "Never Goin' Back To Georgia"

Artist: Blues Magoos
Song: "Never Goin' Back To Georgia"
Album: Never Goin' Back To Georgia
Year: 1969

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As has been stated before, one of the most difficult aspects of musical creation is that of "the groove," and sustaining it for an extended period of time.  While nearly every band can get a groove going at some point on some song, it takes a certain level of musical expertise to create such a sound on a consistent basis, or to keep the groove going on the same song.  There was perhaps no time in history that concentrated heavier on "the groove" than during the late 1960's, as the psychedelic movement brought forth many seemingly uncategorizeable sounds that simply "revolved" around a single, deep groove.  While one can make the case that these sounds were the pre-cursor to much of the electronic music movement, the fact of the matter is that this basic element is the core of nearly every band; a shared sound or musical phrasing around which the entire group can work.  Though there were countless bands that made a career from exploring "the groove," obviously a majority fell by the wayside, and one of these many unsung masters of musical groove was the Bronx, New York based blues-rock band, Blues Magoos.  Having scored a handful of moderate hits during the mid-1960's, the group went through a handful of lineup changes over their career, yet the core of their sound always revolved around simple rock riffs and detached, almost snotty vocal work.  Then, as the 1960's came to a close, the group took a sharp turn and "became" a psychedelic blues band.  It was on their forth record, 1969's Never Goin' Back To Georgia, that their true skill as musicians comes to light, and the albums' title track is one of the most impressive groove-jams ever recorded.

In reality, the incarnation of Blues Magoos that is featured on Never Goin' Back To Georgia barely resembles the lineup that gave the group their hits a few years earlier.  This accounts for the drastic change in musical approach, yet the fact remains that this may very well be the groups' finest musical achievement.  In fact, the only member of the original lineup that can be found on this album is vocalist and guitarist, Emil "Peppy" Thielhelm.  Moving from the more blues-based sound to an instrumentation that has a heavy Latin feel, a pair of conga players, as well as flutist Dean Evanson give "Never Goin' Back To Georgia" an absolutely amazing tone.  The song structure remains very loose throughout the seven-and-a-half minute runtime, as it in many ways resembles a "jam session," as various instruments fade in and out of the mix, as if the band members were walking around the studio, "seeing" what sounds fit the groove.  At its core is the brilliant keyboard work of Eric Kaz, and his progressions bring the pop element to the forefront.  Sounding as if they are "doubled up" by the xylophones, the sound on "Never Goin' Back To Georgia" is unlike anything else, with the most remote connection being the early work of Santana.  The duo of John Leillo and Richie Dickon on percussion truly take the song to another level, as they incorporate a wide range of instruments, giving the song an amazing amount of depth.  At times, the band seems as if they are following jazz-based solo progressions, and the fact that one can hear these elements, in perfect harmony with elements of blues, funk, soul, rock and countless other styles serves as a testament to the fantastic musicianship within this incarnation of Blues Magoos.

Though they are rather few and far between on "Never Goin' Back To Georgia," the sparse vocals that can be found are the one clear link to the early years of the band.  The somewhat detached, almost punk-like singing, often by the entire group, hits at the core of what made the groups' earlier songs successful, and they work just as well on this tune.  The vocals are placed across the track in a manner which further reinforces the "jam" aspect of the song, as they drop in on a few occasions in places where they almost don't "make sense," they they always "work" within the music.  Furthermore, the fact that the rest of the band seems to join on "when they feel like it," solidifies the idea of how loose the session was, and yet it simultaneously lays out the laid back, deep groove spirit of the song itself.  While the music is amazingly complex, the lyrics and singing take the opposite approach, and one would be hard pressed to find a more simple, direct vocal.  Doing nothing more than repeating the refrain of "...never goin' back to Georgia, I'll never go back no more...," one is left to interpret just "what" the lyrics might mean.  With possibilities ranging from a bad gig to the song being a reference to the days of slavery, there are countless meanings that can be drawn from this simple line, and the fact that the group members themselves never "cleared up" this question makes it all the more universal in some ways.

Though they are rarely linked, the truth of the matter is, upon closer inspection, one can find many aspects of the punk rock sound within the psychedelic rock of the late 1960's.  From unconventional musical arrangements to vocals that were either detached or filled with massive amounts of angst, there are far more similarities between these two sounds than their are differences.  Many of these elements can clearly be heard within Blues Magoo's 1969 song, "Never Goin' Back To Georgia," and it remains one of the hidden gems of the era.  Completely changing their lineup and sound, the album alienated much of their fanbase, as a majority of the "pop" element of their music was gone, leaving instead a psychedelic-blues band, and dropping in a heavy dose of Latin sound.  While their current fans may not have appreciated this change, in retrospect, it is the sound developed on Never Goin' Back To Georgia that unquestionably severed as a massive influence on the blues-rock and Latin jazz that would rise during the early 1970's.  The song itself immediately drops the groove onto the listener, and it is a truly special musical achievement that the band is able to sustain this amazing groove for the nearly eight-minute run of the song.  Each of the band members performs brilliantly, as there are clearly more instruments than players on the song, and this is also why the song can be seen as a heavy influence on the entire "jam band" sound.  Remaining today one of the many groups who were "lost in the shuffle" of their era, there is simply no other band that sounds quite like Blues Magoos, and few songs that can compare to the greatness of their 1969 tune, "Never Goin' Back To Georgia."


Anonymous said...

Thank you Guru, In 1969 I was 15 yrs old and worked on a Mayflower moving truck and spent most of the summer in the South.Heard NGBTG on a truck stop jukebox and loved it. I'm 57 now and wanted to hear it again, and I finally found it, thanks to you. Appreciate it pal. Take care, Dman.

Anonymous said...

Metro-Media Stereo: I first heard this in 1969 when I was 15 on WNEW-FM in New York. Rosco played it in the evenings. Great jam glad you posted it ... Thank you!

Ivory Bill said...

I was only fourteen when I heard Roscoe playing this on Metromedia FM (again, in '69.) The mp3 brought back great memories (I loved this song, and the Blues Magoos,) and made me feel much better since I am not as old as the previous commenters. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sorry to burst your bubble about this song being so great, but it is just a cover version (a/k/a "rip off") of Joe Cuba's 1965 hit, "El Pito".

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