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Fantastic Plastic [Digipak]
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  • Personnel: Chris Wilson, Cyril Jordan (vocals, guitar); Joel Jaffe (slide guitar, lap steel guitar); Victor Pealosa, Prairie Prince, Rob Stupka (drums).
  • Audio Mixer: Joel Jaffe.
  • Recording information: Severn Sound Studios; Studio D Recording Inc.
  • Like many of the great artists of the '50s and '60s that inspired them, the Flamin Groovies are a great band that have made plenty of memorable records, but producing consistent albums has never been their strong suit. This was especially true during their second incarnation, with Chris Wilson on lead vocals; this British Invasion-era-obsessed bandmember produced their greatest single, "Shake Some Action," and three enjoyable but uneven albums. Given their legacy, one would have good cause to be cautious of a new Flamin Groovies' release in 2017, 24 years after their last studio set and 37 after Wilson left the group. But Fantastic Plastic -- which features group founder and guitarist Cyril Jordan, longtime bassist George Alexander, and drummer Victor Penalosa, along with Wilson on guitar and vocals -- bucks the odds and manages to be a solid set that rocks convincingly and manages a higher overall batting average than most of their '70s efforts for Sire. Wilson's voice isn't quite what it was when he cut "Shake Some Action," but he's smart enough to know which notes he can hit and which he should dodge, and he sings with authority and effectiveness here. More importantly, Wilson and Jordan are still a compelling guitar team, and there's an abundance of Byrds-style jangle on these tunes, enough to satisfy just about any power pop obsessive or British Invasion fanatic. Alexander and Penalosa aren't exactly flashy on these sessions, but they hold down the rhythm with unobtrusive skill, and if there aren't any new masterpieces among the ten new songs, there's also little that sounds like filler. The cool psychedelia of "End of the World," the Stones-style raunch of "What the Hell's Goin' On," the rockabilly-accented "Crazy Macy," and the call to arms of "Let Me Rock" show the Groovies still have plenty of life left in them, and the two covers (the Beau Brummels' "Don't Talk to Strangers" and NRBQ's "I Want You Bad") are well chosen and executed with style. Fantastic Plastic isn't going to replace Shake Some Action in anyone's heart or record collection (or Teenage Head, for that matter), but for a first effort after a layoff of more than two decades, it's a truly pleasant surprise and a genuine good time. ~ Mark Deming
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