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    The Illinois Speed Press/Duet

    Illinois Speed Press - The Illinois Speed Press/Duet

    2004

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    All Music Guide Review

    This is a very fine if somewhat odd reissue, of a pair of albums -- one classic and one nearly so -- by one of the better second-tier acts on Columbia Records during the late 1960s. The Illinois Speed Press came out of Chicago in the second half of the '60s, generating a sound that was built on double-lead-guitar pyrotechnics and (mostly) R&B-style vocals, courtesy of guitarist/singer Kal David. But their other lead guitarist/singer, Paul Cotton, had more of a country bent to his playing, singing, and songwriting, and together with their band they generated some intense (and sometimes intensely lyrical) sides. Their two-guitar attack and R&B base gives the band a psychedelic edge, akin to what the Buckinghams might've sounded like trying to impersonate the Cream of Disraeli Gears or the studio sides of Wheels of Fire. The first CD in this set contains the group's self-titled debut album from Columbia Records, augmented with some early sides done for Roulette Records, apparently when the group was still known as the Rovin' Kind -- they're not a perfect fit, the Roulette material being a little lighter in texture and somewhat more pop-oriented than the self-consciously heavy material from the album, but it holds together as a listening experience, and it's all worth hearing (and where else is the Roulette stuff going to turn up?). The group's debut album never sounded better than it does here, with the details of the playing exposed (to their advantage) and David and Cotton's voices getting the best showcase they ever had in this setting. The second disc contains the Duet album, with its lighter, more country-oriented sounds and the contributions of a lot of studio musicians, which makes it a little less interesting or relevant as a document of the group's work -- but it's worth owning as a representative of Paul Cotton's side of the group's sound (which is also well captured on the first disc in "Here Today"). Indeed, at times, sounds like a lost early Poco album, and that's not a bad thing to sound like. That disc is also an "enhanced CD," containing a CD-R program, which is where all of the annotation has pretty much gone in this package, and what makes this reissue so odd. Those simply finding this double-CD set in a store are expected to know who the Illinois Speed Press were, which is a fairly tall order 30-some years after the fact -- and even finding an open copy won't help you much, as there's virtually no annotation or information in the packaging or insert booklet. The CD-R function and its extensive text reminiscences and historical time-line -- which are extremely easy to use -- make this a fantastic acquisition for the dedicated fan; but the shunting of that text and other bonus materials onto the CD-R and the absence of any information or attractive art work on the packaging virtually ensures that those who are not dedicated fans will pass this CD set by in any store where it is displayed. And that's a double shame, as the group's sound not only holds up well, but the producers have done an exceptional job of remastering it, with impressive results, particularly on the first album. There has been some tampering with the song order, and one track off of one of the albums has supposedly been shunted over to the CD-R playback, though if it is there, this reviewer couldn't find it -- and what is here, on the straight CD playback, sounds great and then some, and considerably better than any of the copies of the Columbia LPs. Indeed, one irony of this reissue is that if it were heard by a wider public -- which is singularly unlikely, given its packaging -- it might even earn the Illinois Speed Press some of the respect and recognition that they deserved at the time. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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