NRBQ has been one of America’s national treasures for more than 30 years, performing anywhere with a stage, and playing anything with a melody (they know about 600 songs and have never used a set list). So why aren’t they the household names that justice rightfully demands? Well, since a typical evening with the Q can range from children’s songs to Thelonious Monk to “Howard Johnson’s Got His Ho-Jo Working,” perhaps they are too much of a good thing.
Nah. People are just stupid.
But they can be taught, in some limited fashion, and the re-release of this excellent album is a good first step. The third album from the band, it marked the first appearance of “Big” Al Anderson, guitarist extraordinaire, who joined the band only days before the recording was to begin. He fits in like he’s been playing with them for years, and his contributions to the record, such as “Hymn #9,” lay the groundwork for his soon to be legendary status. NRBQ’s sound, built around the undiluted cheese (and we must admit, heavy funk) of Terry Adams’ clavinet and bassist Joey Spampinato’s wicked lines, makes the transition from the sheer goofiness of “Who Put the Garlic in the Glue” to the adoring rendering of “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” seem as natural as any in music. Then, of course, is “Magnet,” one of the saddest songs you’ll hear — “I’m like a magnet/You’re like a piece of wood” — delivered in a happy little bounce style that belies the resignation of the protagonist.
NRBQ will most likely continue to roll across this planet, backing the van up to a local bar and giving 110% for a few hours, and then travel off, ready to do it again as long as they have a breath in their bodies. Since they’ve been doing it for so long, and so well, people tend to take them for granted, in the same way they take Mt. Rushmore for granted. Yeah, it’s a damn big picture on a rock. But it’s THE damn big picture on a rock. And for 30 years, NRBQ has just been a rock and roll band. And at certain moments, such as this sterling example, they are THE rock and roll band.