Shocking Blue – California Here I Come

• “California Here I Come” set to Shocking Blue pics and video footage. Thanks to katerynHV.

8.6 “Excellent Folk Rock / Americana from the Netherlands”

From their 2nd LP “At Home” (Pink Elephant ‎888.001) released in 1969.

Nederbeat from the Hague seems to translate as a meaty brand of pop rock – if Shocking Blue’s “At Home” is anything to go by, it’s a good sound. Fate intervened for this group when previous vocalist, Fred de Wilde, who, as far as my cursory skip through on You Tube can tell, was exceptionally bland and boring on their dull debut of 1968, was called up for National Service. Group leader and songwriter, Robbie van Leeuwen, wasted no time in replacing he with a she; namely Mariska Veres, a 21 year-old painted doll with a teutonic presence that dared you to mess, and seemed to infuse the whole group with a confident, sexy dynamism. In van Leeuwen’s eyes, she would be the Grace Slick to his Jefferson Airplane. The new quartet lined up: Mariska Veres (lead vocals); Robbie van Leeuwen (guitar, sitar, backing vocals); Klaasje van der Wal (bass) and Cor van der Beek (drums). For all the excitement of the new lead singer, it’s an instrumental which grabs the attention on side 1 – “Acka Raga”, which also happens to be the only cover on the LP. The piece, a version of the 1967 BBC1 quiz show theme, “Ask the Family”, is framed by a groovy sitar that makes like “Ticket To Ride”’s long-lost cousin from Mumbai. It’s entertaining, if not entirely thrilling. The two powerhouse tracks lie on the second side. Wonderfully oblivious to current trends, “California Here I Come”, seems to want to join the nuggets party which peaked at least 2 years earlier. But who cares about fashion? Excellence is excellence – and the riffage on this one is just glorious. They don’t force it, they just let it coolly wander over to you in its own time, with engaging little troughs and peaks all over the place. Equally excellent is “Love Buzz”, which similarly comes packed with inventive sonics, loads of sitar abuse and a super-cool vocal. Its nagging riffs are insanely addictive and continue to swirl around the membrane long after they’re gone. “The Butterfly and I” closes side 2 – it’s Schlagertastic and makes me laugh. The Shocking Blue experience is not a high-brow affair but that shouldn’t put you off one bit. This is a personality-packed treat and delivers some great highs.

You can check out the rest of my album reviews for the year here.

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