Monday, December 11, 2006

When Electricity Came FROM Arkansas!

Time to praise one of my favorite underrated bands of all-time, Black Oak Arkansas. Whenever you had a band that Rolling Stone magazine’s so-called "music critics" hated (Kiss, Grand Funk Railroad, Styx, Rush, et al), chances are pretty good that I liked them, and Black Oak Arkansas is a prime example. One such critic derisively summed up BOA’s career by saying, "Black Oak’s distinguishing characteristic is that the band has three guitarists who collectively don’t even add up to one good one." This is precisely why I rarely listen to music critics! And neither does the paying public either, because BOA sold a boatload of records in the early ‘70s and they were a major concert attraction as well. Okay, I’ll readily admit that musicianship-wise BOA wasn’t a great band—a good band, but not great—but being technically proficient isn’t always as important as being entertaining. Emerson Lake & Palmer were technically very good musicians—but live in concert were about as exciting as watching paint dry!

Black Oak Arkansas was a fun band, and I’ve found it’s damn near impossible to be in a bad mood while listening to them. I wish I could have seen them live during their heyday, which is highlighted on their 30th anniversary DVD on Rhino. Although the production value is a bit lacking on the DVD (there’s a graphic on it saying they played at London’s "Royal Alberts Hall"!), the old footage of the band in concert is excellent. BOA went through more personnel changes than Sprint after a layoff, but the one constant was lead singer Jim "Dandy" Mangrum (whose stage presence David Lee Roth practically stole from him), and he’s a colorful dude, to say the least. "Jim Dandy" was a minor Top 40 hit in 1974, and "Hot And Nasty" still gets a spin or two on Classic Rock stations, but there was so much more to this band, and it’s unfortunate that they get overlooked so much. So while the boys at Rolling Stone spend all their waking hours dissecting those Pink Floyd and King Crimson records note-for-note, I’ll continue to boogie to Jim and the boys. Jim Dandy to the rescue, indeed!

MY TOP 5 BLACK OAK ARKANSAS SONGS1. When Electricity Came To Arkansas
2. Rebel
3. Race With The Devil
4. Hot Rod
5. Cryin' Shame