Sunday, November 10, 2013

Black Oak Arkansas “Back Thar N’ Over Yonder”

By Phillip Smith

Being a BOA fan, I’ve been waiting for an album like this for a long time.  Back Thar N’ Over Yonder bestows upon us five new Southern Rock tracks featuring reunited former members of the band, jamming along side by side with the newer members. Returning to record alongside Jim “Dandy” Mangrum, Rickie Lee “Ricochet” Reynolds Johnnie Bolin and George Hughen are Pat “Dirty” Daugherty, and Jimmy “Soybean” Henderson.  And as info-mercial extraordinaire, Ron Popeil, would say, “wait… there’s more”.  There are also nine tracks of previously unreleased material from 1972 through 1974, a re-mastered version of the original version of “Jim Dandy”, and a thirty page booklet of classic band photos, concert posters, and promotional ads included to boot.  One of my favorite photos is from a concert poster showing the ‘Boss’, Bruce Springsteen opening for Black Oak Arkansas at the KSU Student Center Ballroom.   The ticket price was $4.00 in advance, and $4.50 at the door. 

Coming out guns blazing, BOA hits us with “Plugged in and Wired”.  Bolin rolls us into the song with a catchy drum beat before the band breaks out into this heavy rock anthem.  This one gets the adrenalin flowing.  Immediately following is, “Sweet Delta Water”, an ode to the mighty Mississippi. With a much slower tempo, it takes a 180° turn from the preceding song.  I find myself reminiscing about older, simpler and more carefree times every time I hear it.  

I love it when BOA gets a little philosophical and cosmic. “15 Million Light Years Away” taps into that philosophical well as Dandy ponders when, exactly, man will finally pull himself together.  In this crazy world, ‘lunatics run the asylum and animals run the zoo’.  But when we do all get ourselves together, he sings, ‘It may be tomorrow, it could be today, or 15 million light years away.’  I’m putting my money on 15 million light years away.  I also have to say kudos on the Reynolds penned track, “I Ain’t Poor”.  This country/rock boogie has a damn catchy rhythm and lyrics that make me smile.  

The nine previously unreleased tracks are pure gold.  Produced by the legendary Tom Dowd, these were recorded with drummer Tommy Aldridge, guitarist Harvey Jett, and the late great Stanley Knight.  My favorite dusted-off original, “Legal I.D” is cool little country jam, complete with piano.  Preaching the message of checking gals’ ages before making any sort of advances, I can only guess R. Kelly never heard this one. The Tommy Aldridge drum solo on the trippy “Up Up Up”, is simply amazing.  The studio version of “Hot Rod” still smokes.  Duel guitars with Dandy’s raspy vocals which reach thresholds which would leave most people mute, make this a ribald psychedelic treat. 

Hearing BOA cover the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, shot chills up and down my spine. Dandy pours a train car full of soul into his vocals on this one, and the band is tight as a tick. Turn up the volume on this one to fully enjoy. 

This album is a fascinating simultaneous look into both the past and the present of Black Oak Arkansas.  When listening to the album, it does not feel like it is coming from two different sources in two different eras.  The weaving together of the vaulted tracks with the reunion tracks is, to say the least, organic and natural. I truly am surprised the unreleased tracks never made it onto vinyl back in the day.  They are superb and withstand the test of time.  And as far as the reunion material goes, it too puts a big ole grin on my face when I listen to it. 

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