"Everything You Always Wanted To Know about The Rubinoos" Box Set

"Everything You Always Wanted To Know about The Rubinoos" Box Set

BY redtunictroll (Cliente de


The Berkeley, California bred Rubinoos produced sweet, hook-filled and harmony-laden pop in an era (the mid-70s) that rock was loud, heavy and taking itself quite seriously. At the time their records didn't achieve the level of acclaim they deserved, but retrospect has brought the missing accolades. The DIY movement at the end of the '70s opened the door, and subsequent power-pop revivals reframed the Rubinoos as a seminal inspiration, alongside their own influences, such as The Beatles and Raspberries. Irregular regroupings to play live and record new CDs have shown their inspiration deepening and their talent expanding.

Their first run found a flash of fame in their second single, a cover of Tommy James "I Think We're Alone Now." Television appearances and teen magazine spreads sustained the enthusiasm for their terrific debut album, but their indie label struggled to keep pace with the momentum. A spellbindingly hook-filled follow-up single ("I Want to Be Your Boyfriend") and a fine second LP put them on the cusp of larger success, but a lack of financing and an untimely distributor problem sabotaged their chances. The band eventually split, with vocalist Jon Rubin and guitarist/songwriter Tommy Dunbar decamping for Los Angeles. A one-off EP produced by Todd Rundgren ("Party of Two") and a movie title theme ("Revenge of the Nerds") led the group to virtual status. Subsequent regroupings have produced occasional reunion shows, a tour of Japan, and a pair of latter-day CDs.

For those late to the party, getting your ears on the band's classic sides has been a frustrating experience. Their eponymous debut was reissued on CD in the late '90s (apparently remastered a quarter-step flat!), and quickly fell from print and into collectordom. Their second LP, "Back to the Drawing Board," was even tougher to find, and their third release, the EP "Party of Two," nearly impossible to catch after its original release. Additional Rubinoos sides that had been scattered on various Berserkley compilations also went MIA. The situation improved when the UK-based Castle Music acquired the Beserkley catalog and issued a 16-track Rubinoos anthology in 2000. And this year the floodgates have broken open with individual reissues of all three original releases (each with bonus tracks), and this extensive 3-CD set.

Unless you plan to pick up everything the Rubinoos have out on CD, this box is what you need. Disc one includes the group's debut single ("Gorilla," a DeFranco Family cover), the first two albums in their entirety (remastered at the correct speed!), and a trio of rarities that include covers of The Strangeloves "Rhythm of Love" and The Paley Brothers "Rendezvous." The original albums retain all the sweetness and light that was so out of place at the time of their recording. Rubin's high-tenor soars on songs of love (often the puppy variety), the harmonies are crisp and bright, and the guitar solos and punchy rhythm are a pop radio dream. "Rendezvous" was remixed from the original multitrack tape and its Wall of Sound is liberated from the cassette mix previously issued on the rarities CD, "Garage Sale."

Disc two adds additional rarities from "Garage Sale" (including a great cover of The Raspberries "Cruisin' Music") and tracks that were demoed for a never-completed third group album. These latter tracks, including "Hurts Too Much" and "Hit the Nerve," are a truer continuation of the earlier albums than the Rundgren-produced "Party of Two" (which was credited as a Rubinoos release, but only included Rubin and Dunbar). Also on the second disc are selections from the group's more recent releases, "Paleophonic," "Crimes Against Music," and "Twist Pop Sin." The all-covers "Crimes" offers up moving versions of The Eurythmics "Thorn in My Side" and Todd Rundgren's "There Goes My Inspiration," and a superb Four Seasons styled take on the obscure Lou Christie tune, "If My Car Could Only Talk."

Disc three features an entire vintage concert, recorded in 1978 at London's Hammersmith Odeon. In addition to Rubinoos originals (including the otherwise unavailable "Hey Royse"), the band reaches back to their roots as a cover band, singing a cappella on "Rockin' in the Jungle," and jamming on bubblegum's national anthem, "Sugar Sugar." The latter even manages to quote "Smoke on the Water" and "Downtown" before invoking an audience sing-along! The show closes with a 6-minute cover of The Seeds "Pushin' Too Hard," and the disc ends with a a cover of "96 Tears." As tightly controlled as the Rubinoos were on disc, they were equally exhilarating on stage, able to reproduce their harmonies in concert and summon up great rock 'n' roll energy.

As a career retrospective, this box set delivers everything you always wanted to know about the Rubinoos. The first two albums are gold, the proposed tracks for the third album in the same league, and the odds 'n' sods better than most bands' finished tracks. The missing Rundgren produced tracks of "Party of Two" never really fit the band's profile, and the additional rarities of "Garage Sale" and "Basement Tapes" are for fans that've fully digested the core catalog. This set is an essential for anyone who loves pure pop music. [©2007 redtunictroll at hotmail dot com]

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