First I have to do my old–brain sketch of the state “oldies/teenage rock ‘n’ roll” in the late ’60s/early ’70s before American Graffiti turned the timeline around forever.
I’ve hated Sha Na Na from day one because they “honored” pre-Beatles rock and doo-wop by turning it all into a campy joke — which is another way of calling it “junk” like the stuffy Establishment. There were better offerings out there — a Montana State U performance by Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids was a scorcher and did more to inflame my curiosity about early rock and than anything I’d heard on the freakin’ radio.
But it was still — you know — kinda like Grease before Grease. Flattop and funny outfits and something stuck back in time more or less.
Any slice you take — rock and doo-wop before 1964 was a highly eccentric choice of repertoire in the late ’60 for a young rock and roll outfit.
Frut were motor-oil hippies who played a lot of oldies as though the tunes were utterly a part of a rock and roll continuum and that should be celebrated. And they had exquisite taste in oldies: “Bristol Stomp,” “Donna,” “Come Go With Me,” “Buzz Buzz-A-Diddle It,” “Ruby Baby,” “You Can’t Sit Down,” “Sea of Love,” “Peggy Sue.”
That list suggests a teen-sigh bias, but the beats were harder with Frut and there wasn’t any hearts ‘n’ flowers so common in that era. Instead they were undeniably kinda … punky.
This is encapsulated by the cover of the 2nd and last Westbound LP:
The is an ultimate victory for no-budget. You take a snapshot of the guys gettin tanked in some snork living room. But it conveys to the tracks in a good way.
Okay, three final negs:
The original tunes are mixed at best. For every “You Just Gotta Have What It Takes” (to rock and roll — which deserves a cover or two), there’s a “Take Your Clothes Off and I’ll Love You!” (Uh, guys, sexual negotiations were way past that phase even when that ditty was new. )
Westbound was notorious for bad sound on bad vinyl pressings and no more so than with Frut. My supercharged turntable reveals that the vocals were a lot stronger than I realized, but that does point to the one lapse on the otherwise superior Spoiled Rotten:
They cover “Save the Last Dance for Me.” You can challenge Freddy Cannon and even Dion, sure … but Ben E. King? Not so much.