CD REVIEW: STEPPENWOLF: THE ABC/DUNHILL SINGLES COLLECTION

After the Canadian hard rock and blues band Sparrow moved to Los Angeles to seek more gigs stateside, it was suggested that they change their name to Steppenwolf, inspired by the book by Herman Hesse, they began to churn out singles for the ABC/Dunhill label. Now, a new release two cd set celebrates all of A and B sides of the original Steppenwolf single mixes with the exception of the severely edited together version of “Monster” which lead singer and founder, John Kay, even calls a “Frankenstein” editing job. Many might be surprised to notice that the group’s most popular song, “Born To Wild” was actually the band’s third single, following their first single, “A Girl I Knew” and then “Sookie Sookie” which a number of Black radio stations began to play by mistake, thinking the song was a new Soul music song. John Kay was born in a part of Eastern Germany conquered by the Russian army during the war, where his father, who was a German soldier was killed in the war. John Kay had severe vision problems, where he was considered to be legally blind. Up in Canada, young Kay(a stage name, not his given German name), listened to American Soul radio stations, perfecting a soulful blues style of singing.

The huge success of the EASY RIDER movie helped to propel “Born To Be Wild” to #2 on the charts, and the sex farce movie, CANDY, helped to make “Magic Carpet Ride” #3,  and a later single,”Rock Me” to #10. Single sales slowed after this for the band, although their album sales always remained brisk as an established album oriented act. This two cd set highlights all of the 45rpm single versions of the this great hard rock and blues oriented act.

An interesting side note is that some of the lyrics in “Born To Be Wild”, “Heavy metal thunder”, helped to coin the new term, “Heavy Metal Music”, making “Born To Be Wild” the first heavy metal song ever. Steppenwolf was just this significant as an influential rock act. And, many of the songs in this excellent 2cd anthology of singles highlight the awesome songwriting skills of John Kay. For the first time ever on cd, the rare experimental instrumental, “For Madmen Only” is included, which at 8:46 seconds was perhaps the longest song ever released on a single at the time thanks to early 70’s microgroove technology following the epic Beatles song, “Hey Jude”.

Besides the songs of Steppenwolf, the solo career ABC/Dunhill singles of John Kay have also been included as well,  making such a great anthology of one of the most significant and influential rock acts ever. This is such a fine anthology here. **** Four Starssteppenwolf singles cd

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