Biography : One of the truly unsung groups of the ‘60’s Sunset Strip era, Smokestack Lightnin’ was something of a house band at the Whiskey A-Go-Go (as well as at the Cheetah), recorded several strong singles (four of their six singles, 67-70, are not on this album; the first two were issued on White Whale), worked with Bones Howe, recorded an LP and made a film appearance.
The fact this quartet’s sole album, 1969's “Off the Wall”, was released by Bell Records, combined with the fact it offered up a collection of R&B influenced material led us to the conclusion these guys were from Memphis. Lead singer Ronnie Darling’s gruff voice (baring more than a passing resemblance to blue-eyed soul god Alex Chilton), left us with the impression Bell Records was simply trying to use the band to tap into the blue-eyed soul craze with what amounted to a Box Tops clone. Wrong, wrong, wrong !!! Apparently from San Francisco, the group (Darling, rounded out by guitarist Ric Eiserling, drummer Art Guy and bassist Kelly Green) started their recording careers with a series of little heard, mid-’60s singles for White Whale Records. Bouncing between blue-eyed soul, R&B and lite psychedelia, 1967's “Nadine” b/w “Crossroads Blues” (White Whale catalog number WW 243) and “Look What You’ve Done” b/w “Got a Good Love” (White Whale catalog WW 256) did little in terms of sales, but captured the attention of Bell Records, which promptly picked them up. Produced by Bones Howe, “Off the Wall” was surprisingly good. While there seemed to be some truth behind our earlier comments regarding wanting to find a Box Tops clone (check out the leadoff rocker “Watch Your Step”), Darling and company proved surprisingly accomplished performers, effortlessly stomping their way through a mix of blues (“Three Hundred Pounds of Heavenly Joy”), soul (“Something’s Got a Hold On Me”) and harder-rock oriented numbers (“Light In My Window”).
Even more impressive to our ears, the band was at their best when handling the handful of original pieces, including “Well Tuesday”. Among the few missteps, the 12 + minute title track wouldn’t have lost anything had it been shaved in half. The LP even managed to chart – just barely. It peaked at #200.
One of the nicer surprises we’ve heard this year and worth the cost of admission. Their style, at the time of this album, was blues rock with a touch of garagey psych. However, they are rarely mentioned along with the Doors, Seeds, Love, or Byrds when the top bands of the Strip are listed. Guest musician Sandy Zevon is actually Warren Zevon.
01.Watch Your Step 2:57
02.Long Stemmed Eyes 6:16
03.Three Hundred Pounds Of Heavenly Joy 3:30
04.Somethings Got A Hold On Me 4:31
05.Light In My Window 3:33
06.I Idolize You 4:42
07.Who's Been Talkin' 2:29
08.Well Tuesday 3:51
09.Smokestack Lightnin' 12:57
Ric Eiserling - guitar
Kelly Green - bass
Ronnie Darling - percussion, vocals
Art Guy - drums
Hal Blaine - percussion, drums
Mike Deasey - guitar
Larry Knechtel - keyboards
Warren Zevon - guitar, keyboards
The Blossoms - backing vocals