The Best Of The Frost

The Frost

Vanguard Records, 2003

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Frost

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/27/2004

Quick history lesson: The Frost was a hard-rocking garage band based in Detroit that released three studio albums in a very brief career that only lasted from 1968 to 1970. Led by ace guitarist and lead vocalist Dick Wagner, the band achieved minor success in the northwest region with their brand of abrasive hard rock that recalled the similar sounds of their peers and rivals the MC5, the Stooges, the Amboy Dukes, and Alice Cooper. However, after not being able to achieve a wider range of success, the Frost split up, with Dick Wagner going on to become a highly demanded session musician who eventually lent his brilliant guitar playing and considerable songwriting abilities to such superstars as Lou Reed, Alice Coope, and Peter Gabriel throughout the 1970s.

This brings us to this alleged compilation CD, a false advertisement if I ever saw one. These aren't a bunch of tracks culled from the band's three albums, but rather the entire CD is a live performance from the Grande Ballroom in Detroit in 1969 -- yet nowhere on the front or back of the disc does it mention anything about a live recording. Only once you flip open the liner notes does the truth become clear. Maybe I'm just overly sensitive, but this bothers me more than it perhaps should. I'm personally not a big fan of live recordings, so obviously a live album being passed off as a best-of compilation does not sit well with me at all.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sure enough, the sound quality throughout is rather weak. The muffled, sloppy production is quite distracting and prevents the songs from realizing their full potential. I'm sure a lot of this material sounds better in studio form, whereas here I'm left with a less than stellar impression, which is a shame considering that it's my first exposure to this band.

To be fair, the renditions are energetic, and Dick Wagner's guitar playing is surprisingly diverse, running the gamut from countryish leads to blues riffs to eastern flavored melodies to distinctive solos effortlessly. Wagner's vocals have a soft, almost folky quality that were unique when compared with the similar bands of the genre that I mentioned in my opening paragraph.

But too much of the material is standard late '60s hard rock fare that unfortunately isn't particularly memorable, at least not in this live form. Stuff like "Donny's Blues" is about as generic as it gets. The "Take My Hand / Mystery Man" medley however is fantastic -- a unique display of quirky songwriting that foreshadows the theatrical and bizarre style of the early Alice Cooper records to come along shortly. The album-closing frenetic workout of "We Got To Get Out Of This Place" is a ferocious, seventeen-minute psychedelic stomper that provides the ultimate showcase for Wagner's astonishing guitar chops, leaving no doubt in the listener's mind as to why he became such a highly sought-after session musician in the immediate post-Frost years (though I could easily do without the seemingly endless drum solo).

Obviously, with slightly less than half of the album featuring music truly worth listening to, and the fact that the erroneously titled The Best Of The Frost is in actuality a live album, I cannot really recommend the album as a starting point. Of course, if you're already a Frost aficionado familiar with the studio albums and seek a live account of the band in their prime, then naturally this disc is worth having. Personally, I have a hunch that the individual studio albums are a far more impressive listening experience, and I plan to seek them out and see if I'm correct in that assumption. Now, if only someone would put out a real "best of" for these guys.

Rating: C+

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© 2004 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Vanguard Records, and is used for informational purposes only.