John Kay And Steppenwolf - Steppenwolf at 50

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Many longtime Steppenwolf fans who bought the band's early releases on vinyl may still have those vintage items around the house somewhere, and it's likely that those cherished pieces are going to remain right where they are. Steppenwolf came rocking across the airwaves at a difficult time for America, in 1967 when the Vietnam War was raging, and when for the first time, those back home could watch the horrors of war play out every day on the evening news. So when "Born to Be Wild" and "Magic Carpet Ride" came across the airwaves they offered a pleasant distraction from the real world, if only for a few minutes, as the songs were not just for listening. With irresistible hooks and easy to remember lyrics, both cuts had listeners singing along with gusto. And that's where it all started for most Steppenwolf fans. Now this 3-CD compilation brings together 41 cuts from throughout the band's career, giving fans a chance to rediscover cuts they haven't heard for a couple decades along with deep album tracks that they've maybe never heard. Lesser hits like "For Ladies Only," "Ride With Me," "Rock Me" and "Hey Lawdy Mama" are included, as are favorites like the bluesy "Screaming Night Hog," "Sookie Sookie," the anti-drug Hoyt Axton covers "Snowblind Friend" and "The Pusher" and even a funky version of "Magic Carpet Ride" where Steppenwolf lead singer John Kay collaborates with Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. Some surprising inclusions are covers of the Hank Williams chestnut "You Win Again," the Dobie Gray-associated "Drift Away," Argent's "Hold Your Head Up," a hopped-up take on Hank Snow's "I'm Moving On" and an interpretation of the Willie Dixon blues classic "I'm Your Hootchie Cootchie Man," all of which nicely demonstrate that this beloved band is adept at far more than biker rock. A few previously-unreleased cuts are scattered throughout the presentation; a cover of Gene McDaniels' "Compared to What" and band originals "Labor of Love," the super-funky and slightly naughty "Angel Drawers" and an alternate version of "From Here to There Eventually." An enclosed booklet features a brief and newly-penned essay from Kay.

Get it here.

John Kay And Steppenwolf - Steppenwolf at 50

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