John Bassman Group
Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1964-)
- Peter Blom -- vocals, harmonica
- Diana Leemhuis -- vocals
- John Snyders -- drums, percussion
- John Theunissen
-- guitar, banjo
- Pussycat (John Theunissen and Theo Wetzels)
Rating: 4 stars ****
Title: Filthy Sky
Country/State: Landgraaf, Holland
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: original Dutch pressing
Catalog ID: 242
So if you look at the band line up, you'll quickly realize that there were two Johns in the band line-up, but no John Bassman ... I'm not sure why (the back panel seemingly provided a bunch of information on the band, but it was in Dutch), but the name was somehow inspired by bass player Theo Wetzels. Whiich raises the interesting question why weren't they named the Theo Bassman Group ?
Showcasing singers Peter Blom and Diana Leemhuis, drummer John Snyders , guitarist John Theunissen, and Wetzels, reference materials tell you the five members met in 1964 while attending school in Landgraaf, Holland. Interestingly, the didn't released their debut album until 1970 ...
When it finally came, the band's 1970 debut "Filthy Sky" was released by the small German A.S.P. label and given it's limited availability, I've always wondered if it was a band-financed vanity project. Add to that the Dutch liner notes indicated some of the proceeds would support local charities, including one geared to handicapped citizens - not something you'd normally associate with a for-profit commercial venture. No matter, the album certainly didn't get a great deal of attention when released. Though the writing credits weren't clear, the album had a tough, blues-rock orientation. At the same time, to my ears the collection's always had a mild resemblance to Mariska Veres and Shocking Blue. That was underscored by lead singer Leemhuis who had a gruff, heavily accented, take-no-prisoners voice that sounded like a tougher version of Veres. In fact, judging by songs like 'His Name Was Tom' and 'Two RIngs', Leemhius probably owned the better voice (though Veres won in the looks department). While blues-rock was their preferred genre, the band showed they were capable of handling other things - 'Susy' had a Byrds-styled folk-rock edge, 'Teddy Boy's Blues' had a country-tinge, while 'Dutch' was a strange, pop-oriented instrumental.
So this is a perfect example of an album being more than the sum of it's individual songs. On their own all of the tracks were okay - decent blues-rock without anything to really break them apart from the competition, but when you put all ten tracks together, for some inexplicable reason, you came up with a real gem. One last comment about the LP - I don't have "golden ears", but from a technical standpoint the LP sounds great. Kudos to producers Franz Geilkens, Helmut Prosch and Hans Jurgen Ernst.
Sky" track listing:
1.) Filthy Sky. rating: *** stars
As mentioned, Diana Leemhuis' heavily accented vocals have always reminded me a bit of Shocking Blues' Mariska Veres (check out the endearing way she sings the word 'that' as 'dat'). Musically the song was an okay, mid-tempo rocker with a stridently pro-environmental lyric. It may sound a bit dated in this day and age, but kudos to the band for being socially aware at such a young age. My only real complaint with this one was the weird 'newsflash' that disrupted the song. Call it a gimmick that simply didn't work ..
2.) His Name Was Tom rating: **** stars
Hum, the Focus styled flute introduction didn't do a great deal for me, but when Leemhuis' bluesy voice and Theunissen's blistering fuzz and wah wah guitar effects kicked in, 'His Name Was Tom' actually got pretty intense. Not sure what to make about the 'Mormon boy ... Alaskan storm' lyrics (wonder if they had any idea where Utah was), but this one definitely rocked out. Later in the song Theunissen's turned in a great wah-wah solo and kudos to bassist Wetzels who simply tore the song up.
3.) Susy rating: **** stars
The first track to feature Blom on lead vocals, 'Susy' featured a cool folk-rock sound ... Complete with 12 string jangle rock guitars and one of the band's best melodies, the track had a very 1967 Byrds feel. I'm a total pushover for this kind of stuff.
4.) Coming Home rating: **** stars
It was strange to recall these guys were from a small Dutch city when you heard . Kicked along by Blom's harmonica and some melodic bass from Wetzels, the song had a distinctive West Coast psych feel ... One of those "floating down a lazy river" vibes ... Great tune.
5.) Dutch rating: **** stars
Theunissen opening guitar always left me expecting armageddeon, but then the instrumental 'Dutch' morphed into a surprisingly lightweight pop tune, complete with some of the goofiest synthesizer sounds you've ever heard - imagine a fire alarm that's gone completely nuts. Shame the song wasn't longer. Perhaps because it was more commercial than the band's harder rocking efforts, or just strange, it was tapped as a Dutch single.
- 1970's 'Dutch' b/w 'Woodstock Generation (A.S.P. catalog number 13 006)
1.) Woodstock Generation rating: **** stars
'Woodstock Generation' was a breezy, folk-rock number with some great lyrics ... yeah, they haven't aged all that well, but give the band credit for trying some different from the usual moon-in-June and my-baby-did-me-wrong narratives. Once again Theunissen turned in some impressive guitar moves.
2.) Two Rings rating: **** stars
A great track to listen to on quality headphones, the smoldering blues-rocker 'Two Rings' was the kind of rock song Robbie van Leevwen always wanted to write for Shocking Blue. The band's surprisingly good rhythm section (particularly drummer Snyders) really showed their stuff on this one.
3.) Teddy Boy's Blues. rating: *** stars
With Blom back on lead vocals (he was quite good), 'Teddy Boy's Blues' had a rollicking country-tinge and some really nice harmonica. Normally I'd hate a track like this one, but this was an exception to the rule.
4.) Sing A Song At My Grave. rating: *** stars
You probably weren't going to shake your music maker on this one ... Powered by Wetzels bass 'Sing A Song At My Grave' was a dark, morose ballad. The song actually had a pretty melody and was notable for Leemhius restrained vocal. When she throttled back, you finally got to see what a great voice the lady had. In fact, she was good enough to overlook the clumsy lyrics which included a reference to Dylan and managed to rhyme 'casket' and 'I ask it'
5.) Can You Dig It rating: **** stars
The album's most '60s sounding track, complete with treated vocals, hyperactive guitars, and summer-of-love lyrics, 'Can You Dig It' sounded positively lysergic. I certainly dug it.
As mentioned, the album spun off a single:
A couple of years later Theunissen and Wetzels reappeared as members of the Dutch pop band Pussycat (geez am I really old enough the remember their hit 'Mississippi'?).
Original copies are pretty hard to locate and costly, but in 2010 the Greek Missing Vinyl label released an authorized and remastered 180 gram reissue package (Missing Vinyl catalog MV 19).
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