Best of The Frost Album reviews.
Release Date: 03.11.03
Record label: Vanguard Records
Best Kept Frozen
by: steven jacobetz
Detroit was a very rough place in which to live in the late ‘60s. Just like many cities around the U.S., there were race riots and fires and general social unrest. Rock fans attending concerts had to be escorted by police and security guards from the parking lots, and the music they heard naturally reflected all the turbulence around them.
A power rock sound emerged, somewhere between the sweet melodic pop of The Beatles, and the louder noises of 70s hard rock and punk. The early work of Grand Funk Railroad best represented the Detroit scene to the national audience, but there were other lesser-known bands that gained followings only in the region. The Frost was one of those bands.
The Frost, led by singer/guitarist Dick Wagner, released three albums between 1968 and 1970, and never caught on outside the Midwest. This release is a remix of a live recording of the band at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in 1969. The band had the idea of releasing the show as their second album, but as was the common practice of the day, only portions of it were released at the time, and that with a great amount of polishing in the studio. Now nearly 35 years later, the release of those tapes in purer form has been realized.
The question remains though, why? Did The Frost really have to be thawed out from ancient rock history? I don’t think so. The bottom line is the band wasn’t that good, and it’s not hard to hear why it was never appreciated outside of its hometown area. The music has raw garage rock power and intensity, but no standout characteristics. Everything The Frost did was done better by others before and since.
The music is full of clichés and trite, banal lyrics. The volume of the band overwhelms the recording equipment and it just doesn’t come through well. The lead track, “Rock and Roll Music” features repetition of the title phrase which grows annoying while the band chugs away. It is nothing special, even if it did sell big as a single in France, as the liner notes point out.
“Donny’s Blues”, sung by rhythm guitarist Donny Hartmann, is nearly eight minutes of cliché blues oversold vocally by Hartmann. The “Take My Hand/Mystery Man” 10-minute medley sounds like a cross between Iron Butterfly and The Beatles. “Mystery Man” features inferior Beatlesque vocal harmonies (Notice the title similarities to “Magical Mystery Tour.”) “Black Train” is introduced as a country rock song, but it has the same driving, pounding sound of the other songs. Maybe the presence of a train in the lyrics is supposed to make it “country.”
The big finish is a nearly 17-minute cover of “We Got To Get Out Of This Place,” best known as done by The Animals. It features a lot of trademark Beatlesque shouts of “Woo!” and manufactured excitement by the band. Drummer Bob Rigg takes a solo which goes on far too long with too much use of a double bass drum and bashing on crash cymbals. There’s not much talent on display here.
By far, The Frost’s best feature is Dick Wagner’s lead guitar work. He clearly has the lion’s share of ability in the band. Wagner went on to work with major names such as Lou Reed. Alice Cooper, and Peter Gabriel. It was just a matter of time before he left his less talented friends behind.
The Frost is really just a prehistoric ancestor of better artists, a footnote in rock history, and this CD should be viewed as a rock equivalent of an archeological dig. It’s interesting as a historical curiosity, but not worth much in itself. 17-Sep-2003 8:20 AM