Remember that line about always wearing clean underwear in case you get hit by a car? Well, that old saw also applies to unfinished and unreleased recordings left behind by deceased musical artists. Hence The Genuine Texas Groover, the set that reissues two of Doug Sahm's more notable albums along with 19 outtakes and leftovers, is a mixed bag.
In the plus column, big time, is the return of 1973's Doug Sahm and Band, his most fully realized album. It crosses many of the genres Sahm mastered, mixes his Sir Douglas Quintet past with hints of the future (fellow Texas Tornado Flaco Jimenez guests), and features heavy hitters on the order of Bob Dylan, Dr. John, David Bromberg and David "Fathead" Newman, none of whom overshadow Sahm's lead role. Plus it grooves in the finest Sahm fashion from note one to final fade. The set also includes the album that followed, Texas Tornado, which drew from the monumental New York City sessions for the previous release and later recordings waxed in San Francisco. The result was a worthy long player that still wasn't quite as good as And Band. The original packaging for both discs has been reproduced for the set, and the booklet, which includes liner notes, a 1975 Austin Sun interview by Bill Bentley, and some cool photos and artifacts, is a treasure trove for Sahm fanatics. (It's for them that the set seems tailor-made: The CD was pressed in a 5,000-copy limited edition and is available exclusively from rhinohandmade.com.)
And now for the rest of the four-CD set -- the more questionable tally of outtakes. Sahm's undershorts may not be streaked by skid marks, but they were a little ragged here and there -- as might be expected since Texas Tornado had already drawn from the well of the NYC Atlantic Studios tapes. Sahm isn't around for us to ask him, but one wonders whether he would have wanted people to hear the loosey-goosey, unfinished basic three-piece tracks from Frisco included here. Or, for that matter, the shaky New York take on the Huey Meaux/Jimmy Donley classic "Please, Mr. Sandman" that this writer heard him nail directly on the head in live shows years later playing with the Last Real Texas Blues Band. Some of the outtakes are gems, like "Blue Horizons," with its seductive cocktail jazz sound, and "The Chicken and the Bop," though he did that song even better elsewhere. A few others, including "Hey Good Looking" and "Columbus Stockade," are at least interesting, and the full-length versions of "Your Friends" and "Papa Ain't Salty" shine. But a number of the extra tracks leave a lingering "unfinished business" vibe.
In the end, it's no big deal. There's enough essential Sahm here to make this collection a must-have for fans, and it's also a superb primer for the uninitiated. Still, there could well have been a reason some of the stuff here never saw the light of day until now, and their issue may have slightly stained the rep of someone who can neither prevent their release nor defend himself.
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