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Groundhogs - Crosscut Saw CD (album) cover




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3.15 | 14 ratings

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4 stars Crosscut Saw is the 9th album by the Groundhogs, it was released in February 1976, and marked quite a big change from their early 70's stuff in style but especially in production. Long time band mates Pete Cruikshank on bass and drummers Ken Pustelnik and Clive Brooks are not here anymore, they are replaced by Martin kent and Mick Cook respectively. I'm not sure why Tony Mcphee felt the need to recruite another guitarist but Dave Wellbelove is here to accompany Mcphee, although I'm not sure what's his contribution. Unfortunately just when it seemed the band were onto a new road with a fresh new sound and approach, Mcphee decided to put the band on hold in the end of the year after Black Diamond was released, that will last for almost a decade until their next release in 1985.

This is the least blues influenced album they've released in the 70's, it is much more rock oriented than before. Of course the blues is always there under the surface throughout the album and in 2 or 3 songs is much more evident, but clearly reduced to a minimum on a Groundhogs scale. Another big change is the production, this album (and its follow up) sounds very different than previous albums, out goes that dry, rough, muddy sound of Split and Who Will Save The World? not that it was bad in any way but now it's clearly improved, the album sounds brighter and fresh and everything is well balanced. Being a more produced album Tony uses more layers of guitars than before, his guitar tone is different now, taking in all kinds of varied and other colorful sounds, I especially love that furious high voltage sound that he brought.

Although for some reason I've seen both those 1976 albums especially Crosscut Saw are considered to be inferior to other works, I don't agree with that at all. The songwriting is really good, inspired and sometimes very adventurous, for example take the main piece here which is Groundhogs most progressive song Fulfilment and you'll know what I mean. Starting nicely with a phased acoustic guitar strumming it then aligns to a steady rhythm with vocals and electric guitar on top, beautiful. It gets more intense later when drums join in and you kinda get the feeling you're walking on top of a volcano and it's true, the band goes into a long intense crescendo when Tony unleashes one of his most ferocious solos ever. Synth is added to help and create this climax while Tony's guitar seem to be caught fighting an inner demon, it gradually gets more intense as it goes along with a relentless synth lead and an anguished guitar sounding like a cat choking on a fur ball, it fades out slowly when the demon has got the upper hand, outstanding! The band's blues attempts are also good, Boogie Withus is a nice rocker, Mean Mistreater shows Mcphee's love for those old acoustic delta blues songs and Promiscuity is another strong highlight, love that merge of acoustic and ripping electric guitar sounds. Three Way Split is another interesting track when it changes half way to this cool instrumental where Tony is exploring the art of noise and sound effects.

This is another undeniably good album by the band, I don't see Mcphee having a hard time coming up with original new material in spite of being surrounded with all new musicians. This will of course change later in the 70's when Tony struggled to come up with sufficient good material. But here even the less attractive songs on the album all enjoy Mcphee's fiery and energized guitar playing. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Sagichim | 4/5 |


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