Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes - Marriage on the Rocks - Rock Bottom

Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes
Marriage on the Rocks - Rock Bottom

Released 1970 on Polydor
Reviewed by Dog 3000, 22/04/2003ce

Side A
1. Marriage 9:03
Part 1: Man
Part 2: Woman
Part 3: Music
2. Breast-Fed Gator 2:52
3. Get-Yer Guns 4:21
4. Non-Conformist Wildebeest Man 1:28
5. Today's Lesson (Ladies & Gentlemen) 5:32

Side B
1. Children Of The Woods 8:34
2. Brain Games Of Yesteryear 3:40
3. The Inexhaustible Quest For The Cosmic Cabbage 10:02
Part 1 & Part 2, including excerpt from Bartok's 2nd
string quartet

Another interesting transitional LP released in 1970, the 4th Amboy Dukes record and first to be credited "Ted Nugent and the", "Marriage" is a unique entry in the Nugeography. The Amboy Dukes had peaked commercially with "Journey to the Centre of the Mind" from their 2nd LP, a US Top 10 single in 1967 and a stone classic with rippin guitars and a rockin beat -- "trippy" yet still 100% deeetroit rocknroll. Shortly after scoring the big hit they replaced singer John Drake with Rusty Day and recorded a hit-free 3rd LP "Migration" (1969) then dropped singer Day as well as the rhythm guitarist/"other singer" Steve Farmer, leaving Nuge as the only original Amboy Duke still in the band.

So perhaps the Dukes themselves are the "Marriage on the Rocks" commemorated in the album title, because this is no longer the same band that did "Journey to the Centre." This is a much leaner group: one guitarist, one keyboardist, bass & drums. The downside is that keyboardist Andy Solomon is the only vocalist left and he's pretty nondescript (Nuge had yet to take the mic himself.) The upside is that the eviscerated lineup fills out their sound with an orgy of overdubbing, tape editing, and general high-concept artless overarrangement that gives the whole record a crazy head-music vibe unlike anything the group (or Nuge) had attempted before or since.

The secret weapon was surely super-duper-producer Edwin H. "Eddie" Kramer, who got his start working for Jimi friggin Hendrix, and whose next production would be Sir Lord Baltimore's masterpiece "Kingdom Come" (a veryfine LP in large part because of the editing and mixing -- see Mr. Cope's SLB review here at Unsung.) Later, he would produce most of the best KISS records (ahem!)

Song by song:

The first 3-part suite "Marriage" is an all-over-the-place nothing-ever-repeats melange of riffs and sounds that has a distinctly Zappaesque feel, no doubt due to being constructed by editing various tapes together in FZ's 60's style. Wacky changes in tempo and dynamics, crazy stereo effects, textures ranging from asian clinking and wind chimes, pseudo-classical piano runs, faux-spanish guitars and pink floyd organ surges, to surf music and lots o' supersustain distorto-guitar blasts add up to a sound that is definitely "psychedelic" but without giving off the warm fuzzy body-groove of drug-inspired "jam" music. In other words, prog rock -- Nuge style!

Track 2 "Breast-Fed Gator" is melodically and rhythmically over-complicated, but not all that different from the sound of early Amboy Dukes recordings.

Track 3 "Get-Yer Guns" is a more interesting specimen, with it's distinctly non-hippy lyrical sentiments such as "there's enough for everyone, especially you and I" and equating gun ownership with having "pride in the human race"(!) Musically it's a good uptempo guitar boogie with a kewl psychedelic bridge that climaxes in a single feedback-drenched guitar note sustained for at least 30 seconds that melts into an "eastern" jam complete with castanets and gypsy guitars, followed by a nonsensical tempo change which sounds like it was accomplished by speeding up the tape (more shades of Zappa and his obsession with varispeeding.)

Track 4 "Non-Conformist Wildebeest Man" is a brief blitzkrieg of hot blues lickology that includes a searing unaccompanied guitar solo but basically serves as an intro for the final track on side one. . .

The side one finale, "Today's Lesson" is another odd suitelike song that sounds a bit like the raga-rock of 1968 Jefferson Airplane, only played at a hyper Venison-fueled tempo as opposed to the ambling Fillmore-isms of the Frisco stoner set. Keith Emerson-style organ wankoffs up the prog quotient, but the highlight is a "scat freakout" section with the singer & guitarist trading vocal shouts and guitar licks and sounding like Page & Plant on the first Zep album but after a few months of electroshock therapy.

Side two begins with another bizarro prog rocker, "Children of the Woods" which kicks off with an interesting section where it sounds like the guitar, drums and piano are playing in three different meters, then it sorta subliminally congeals into a groove. There is also a ferocious wah guitar jam that makes the case that at the cusp of the 70's T. Nuge may have been the 2nd-best wah-wah master around (a distant 2nd to J. Hendrix of course.) Sometimes his guitar tones even begin to sound like brass and woodwinds (which yet again makes me think of Zappa.) And at the climax of the song Nuge unleashes a huge, chiming vortex of AXE that will pin your ears and ass to the wall. The lyrics and "song" elements of this piece are actually quite awful, something about "won't you help me free the children of the woods?" but then who ever put on a Nuge record looking for heavy concepts?

Track 2, side two is "Braingames of Yesteryear" which begins with a suitably psyche freakout of guitar wank and Vanilla Fudge leslied organ thunder. Then it kicks into a FAST off-kilter beat with an unusual and dynamic power-prog riff. At the climax the song gets into some crazy descending chromatic riffs that would sound a lot like Slayer if you lost the piano player and gave the drummer a second bass pedal. I'm not sure if it actually "rocks" but it is certainly "hard" music as in the phrase "hard rock." Call it "hard prog" I guess.

Final track on the album is the only non-Nuge composition, written mainly by the keyboardist/singer Andy Soloman. With a hilarious overkill trippy title like "The Inexhaustible Quest for the Cosmic Cabbage" you can pretty much guess what's in store: a faux-jazz head stew created by lots of shock-juxtapose editing; shifting po-mo surfaces including sax-led "trad jazz", Beach Boys vocal harmonizing, a motormouth "black preacher sermon" about peace (faked by one of the whiteboys in the band); which of course is followed by everybody singing a few bars of "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" before reprising the opening riffage, dumping the whole thing into an ocean of feedback, then proceeding onto a "soul music" jam accompanied by a rant about Cabbages and other foods; and according to the liner notes there's also a Bartok excerpt in there somewhere.

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