MAMMOTH is a grabber right out of the gate, every step they take is unleashed with deadly economical precision. They may flash on Lynyrd Skynyrd and other vintage southern rock traditions but the brilliant way the vocals are recorded and the to-the-point interlocking guitar moves will fire up anybody into any sort of hard rock. They can rip it up with hot leads, probably jammed out on these songs at live shows but lucky us, they laid them down for all times here with the sort of thought out unified force and construction that screams hit radio. Loads of personality, accessible, produced and mixed with the clarity of classic rock that never loses it’s perfectly deployed impact. The uncluttered arrangements leave plenty of space, crafted with the kind of balanced mojo in the mix where every detail adds to the whole. Down and dirty but also achieving a universal pop-friendly appeal!
The Mammoth LP was recorded in 1981 at Relayer Studios in DeLand, Florida with the two guitars, bass and drums quartet line-up sounding like it could have been a decade earlier. Buzz Fetters on lead guitar, Bill Abell on rhythm guitar, Joey Costa on bass and Ron Herman on drums… with everybody contributing to the vocals. Rather than having a strong up front emotive singer the lead vocals here are multi-tracked and integrated into the songs with plenty of attitude but also a genre-transcending presence… you can imagine the vocal ambience working in punk, glam, even psychedelic contexts. Mammoth have a sound informed by roots music but it is really in the rear-view mirror the way they roll.
The songwriting here is terrific, they have a way of saying things that comes off as sincere but not too serious. You get plenty of in-your-face hard rock action but also several melodic tracks that have a more reflective charm to round out the trip. AND… when you hear their brilliant ode to southern rock titled “Southern Sounds” I challenge you to find any song about the subject more delightful. These guys keep it real, whether they’re being bad ass or vulnerable they express themselves with 100% genuine feeling as contagious and life affirming as it gets!
CHANGE THE RUN leaps out of the speakers with a savage chord pattern, spitfire leads and a vocal attitude that instantly lets you know this ride will be intense. Rather than the usual bellyaching about bad luck the singer simply changes gears and blows it right out of his life forever. The way the lead guitar hovers above with sustained feedback in the intro before dive-bombing into action is stellar. The phrasing on the vocal is genius. Check your pulse if this doesn’t get you off! Add this to the short list for best use of cowbell, too.
PUT DOWN BLUES is the closest the band gets to a traditional rock and roll boogie feel with some Stonesy rhythm guitar and walking bass action. The dual guitar break is killer with one axe wailing on one note while the other flies all over the place. The singer is feeling put down by life, asks the doctor for a cure and the prescription is “you need yourself a pretty girl to chase away those put down blues”. Problem solved and the way the singer puts it across borders on the outrageous.
SOUTHERN SOUNDS kicks in with a snaky groove, and a slinky guitar riff to die for topped off by the coolest vocal imaginable celebrating southern rock. “Can’t you feel that southern sound, can’t you feel your head spinning ’round… there’s a whole lot of sound coming down”. As always with these guys the lead vocal phrasing is one non-stop hook in the way it rides the chord changes. Not only does the singer nail it conveying his love for southern sound, he also realizes it has serious chick scoring qualities. This song just slays me! When the tempo doubles for the ride out and the guitars cut loose I’m a goner.
THINKIN’ ABOUT YOU shifts gears at the perfect moment into a dreamy blend of acoustic rhythm with spacious resonant electric guitar and a wide open melodic country feel. Reflective vocal stance has a bittersweet relaxed vibe, evoking memories of time spent with a girl who is gone. The warmth of this song shows a sensitive and vulnerable side and enriches the overall trip immensely.
ALL BE GONE is in the tradition of late ’60s psychedelic era ‘live for today’ songs thematically, entering with jangly mystic folkrock moves and navel gazing nature imagery for a moment, then the hard rock kicks in with chord changes reminiscent of Led Zep’s “Over The Hills And Far Away” and some scorching lead guitar energy hitting a climax before reverting to the initial psychy folkrock ambience like a bookend. Lyrically, the key line “remember, we’ll all be gone” pulls the past and future together revealing the only time is now, don’t waste it. That IS psychedelic. Nice one, guys!
OUTLAW has a wry sense of humor in the way the words unfold as the band pulls some ZZ Top stylin’ out of their bag of tricks. Gibbons level articulate leads unwind over some seriously dynamic chord changes. The lyrics are a hoot, “I’ve been running so long I don’t know right from wrong… what are you gonna do when they find you, what are you gonna tell your ma… now that they’re calling, now that they’re calling, now that they’re calling you outlaw” and “there’s talk in the air, the sheriff says to beware, he’s calling you an outlaw”… the way the lead and rhythm guitar work together here flashes on Roky Erickson and Bleib Alien, too!
TELL YOU is about spotting a yummy girl across the room, locking eyes and looking for the green light to make your move. Tuff chord changes, rumbling bass, hot nasty leads and a freaky little synth-like dive bomb effect at the start of each verse to spice it up.
TAKE THIS TIME is an airy straight up love song with gorgeous jangle and lyrical country inflected lead guitar. Simple and elegant motion that’s matter of fact reassuring without getting mushy. Just letting you know I’m here if you need me, keep it in mind, just taking this time to say it… the music mirrors the calming effect of the message.
R.R.A.N. means Rock & Roll All Night and the cowbell returns to signify that this is party time. “We’re going to rock and roll all night, until we get it right, we’re gonna hug and kiss and do some of this… well you know that I’ll chase you honey but please don’t you take no offense, if I ever catch up with you I’m sure you’re gonna give me a kiss”. There’s a certain bit of bonehead confidence to the lyrics here that is uplifting and you KNOW these guys were working that Southern Sound just right to charm the ladies back to the motel after every gig!