The Boots – Beat! The Complete Telefunken Years (RPM)

The Boots were a Berlin band whose place in garage rock history was cemented when two of their songs (“Gaby” and “But You Never Do It Babe”) were featured on Rhino’s Nuggets II compilation. They’re excellent songs, but the full Boots story is best told told by this double-disc compilation of their mid-’60s output. Disc one is dominated by their 1965 debut album, Here Are The Boots, wherein the sharply-suited quartet go covers crazy. An album leaning so heavily on oft-covered chestnuts like “Gloria,” “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” and “Got Love If You Want It” won’t win any points for originality, but it’s not boring either, as the band attack the standard material with high-energy, typified by the Phil May-like vocals of Werner Krabbe and their Yardbirds-style instrumental rave ups. This isn’t mind-blowing stuff, but if you like the tough UK r&b style of Them, The Pretty Things, The Animals, and the like, then The Boots should do the trick.

The Boots, sensing the winds of change around them, knew they had to do more than beat covers or else they’d get left behind in the wake of progress. Unfortunately the choices they and their label made from this point on were uniformly misguided, and the results of these bad choices are heard all over the second disc. Their first mistake was adopting a cheesy pop-soul affectation, which drove singer Krabbe from the band. He was replaced by Jacques Eckhard, an odd choice to sing for a German band considering he was previously the drummer in a Dutch band! For their next mistake, The Boots let their label talk them into recording songs from a writer on their roster named Sanford Alexander. In itself this wasn’t such a bad thing – especially considering that the band was lacking in original material –  except that their next album, 1967’s Beat With The Boots, was credited to The Boots and The Sanford Alexander Beat, even though Alexander only played on one track and wrote just four others. The band members weren’t happy with the material being forced upon them, nor did they like the resulting album, with guitarist Jorg Schulte-Eckel sitting out the sessions in protest. Listening to it now, they were absolutely right to be mad. The Sanford Alexander material was weak, but The Boots are also completely out of their league covering Wilson Pickett, Booker T. & The MGs, and James Brown. They never recovered from the Beat With The Boots debacle and, after a few unsuccessful attempts at “re-Boot-ing”, called it a day in 1970.

In addition to the two albums, Beat! features non-album singles, four live tracks recorded in 1965, sharply remastered sound and informative, if sometimes grammatically challenged, liner notes.