Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One From The Vault

ARTIST: Leapin’ Len Montague And The Frizzbeez
ALBUM: Hybrid In An Elevator
RELEASE DATE: February, 1991
*(Album art not available. Above photo of Mr. Montague courtesy of The Montague Performing Arts Center in Acton, Ontario)

The following album review might be true…

Leapin’ Len Montague and the Frizzbeez one-upped their major-label debut, “Fudge It!” with the solid, vastly underrated effort entitled Hybrid In An Elevator. Hybrid’s lead single, the jumpy hard rocker "Nearly Caught It" proved itself a highlight on the hugely successful, Hamilton-themed Steel Workers Unite movie soundtrack. But even though Leapin’ Len and his band stacked up quite well against their more famous peers in that particular showcase, the exposure didn't make them stars. Perhaps it was because Hybrid In An Elevator had been released several months before the soundtrack, or perhaps it was due to Len‘s 3 month battle with lime disease that lost them the chance to capitalize on the extra publicity that goes along with new releases. For whatever reason, Steel Workers Unite didn't push sales of Hybrid, as the latter only scraped the lower reaches of the Billboard charts. And that's a shame, because the record is quite good — the best songs here are easily among the best in their limited catalog, and the songwriting was their most consistent yet.
“Watching The Lightning Storm”, it’s epic theme of immortality apparent after one listen, is the perfect companion to the sweeping orchestration the Frizbeez create with a little help from the Royal Hamilton Symphony Players. It’s a majestic number and a hell of a way to kick start an album.
“Lee’s Theme”, the second track, continues the drama, starting with a lilting keyboard melody and quickly escalating into one of the finest power pop moments ever laid to wax. Batting third in the line up is “Wake Up Stu”. It’s one of the weakest tracks on the album, partly due to the background noise which has been famously attributed to guitarist Frankie Tunic’s pet cockatoo who died during the recording of that number. The band, incredulously, decided to go with this take, which I firmly believe was a major contributing factor in the album going largely unnoticed. Leapin’ Len’s magnificent finger cymbal playing almost saves the track, but not quite.
Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, the next number (“No Dumping“) brings the album back in a monolithic way, defining not only the band but the sound and style of '90’s hard rock. Expanding on the breakthroughs of prior EP‘s, Leapin’ Len and the Frizbeez fuse their majestic hard rock with a mystical, rural English folk that gives the record an epic scope. Even at its most basic — the muscular, traditionalist “Sidrabene Gypsies” — the album has a grand sense of drama, which is only deepened by Montague's burgeoning obsession with mythology, religion, and the occult. Montague’s mysticism comes to a head on the eerie folk ballad "Persephone The Placid," a mandolin-driven song with haunting vocals from guest star Mickey DeSadist, and on the epic “Cheese Bread and Shaving Cream." Of all of Montague's songs, "Cheese Bread and Shaving Cream" is the most famous, and not unjustly. Building from a simple finger picked acoustic guitar to a storming torrent of guitar riffs and solos, it encapsulates the entire album in one song. Which, of course, isn't discounting the rest of the album. "The Oakville Beaver" is the group's best folk song, and the rockers are endlessly inventive, whether it's the complex, multi-layered "Brother Michael," the pounding hippie satire "Long Hair and Fritos," or the funky riffs of the title track. But the closer, "The Legend Of Hoover," is the one song truly equal to "Cheese Bread," helping give Hybrid the feeling of an epic. An apocalyptic slice of urban blues, "The Legend Of Hoover" is as forceful and frightening as Montague and the Frizbeez ever got, and its seismic rhythms and layered dynamics illustrate why none of their peers could ever equal them.

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