THE KICKSTANDS – Black Boots & Bikes [1964]

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”The Kickstands were one of writer and producer Gary Usher’s studio amalgams that made use of veteran L.A. session players in the early to mid-’60s to produce album after album of hot rod and surf tunes. With players from the so-called Wrecking Crew, including Jerry Cole, Hal Blaine, Steve Douglas, Earl Palmer, Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, and with Chuck Girard handling most of the vocals, the Kickstands officially released one album, Black Boots & Bikes, on Capitol Records. The album had a somewhat darker hue than most of Usher’s sunshine and surf productions, and tracks like “Death Valley Run” and “Slow Ride South” are definitely worth seeking out for fans of Usher and the hot rod/surf genre.” ~ Steve Leggett

 

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”Right from the start, it’s obvious the Black Boots and Bikes is different from the slew of other Usher projects. The mixes favor the growly saxes, the vocals have a harder edge some extra timpani and xylophones (?) add to the heaviness of the overall sound. Released at the peak of the Honda/Bike craze, all that’s missing from the album is an obligatory cover of “Little Honda” as the 12th track; though it’s absence may simply have been due simply to time restrictions as these albums were usually rushed out in a day. A gritty ‘Death Valley Run’ opens up the record and is noticeably than the Hondells original. Mike Curbs’ instrumental ‘Hill Climb’ follows very much along the same path chalk full of saxes and steady drums. ‘Mean Streak’ actually sounds pretty good here considering the album’s darker themes. The bouncy ‘Side Car’ features some excellent playing – presumably by Jerry Cole an ‘Two Wheel Show Stopper’ has some instresting dissonance from the background vocals which works well alongside the pounding drums a baritone saxes. ‘Haulin’ Honda’ is another instrumental and could be considered filler if it were’nt so dogone catchy. ‘Devil On Wheels’ features some castanets and, like ‘Mean Streak’, is compliented by the hard-rocking execution. ‘Ridin’ Trails’ also works well here before the album slows down on the Mexican ‘Slow Ride South.’ Collector’s may search out this album for the inclusion of the the original ‘Johnny Take Care’ which never reappeared on any Usher. Admittedly, it’s not hard to see why…. The fuzzed up ‘Scrambler’ closes the album.

 An oddity in the Usher canon, Black Boots and Bikes shows us the other side of the biker culture. Challenging the clean cut Beach Boys’ take on the sport, the Kickstands’ rendition is the more accurate, showing the dangers and the risks of the gang experience. That said, for surf/hot rod enthusiasts it warrents some attention only if you enjoy the wild hard-hitting sounds of other similar creations such as Mr. Gasser and the Weirdos or Dick Dale. For those on the Beach Boys, Terry Melcher side, better to pass this one up.” – J. T. [surfroute101]

 

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