My reviews will not be just dedicated to established acts in the world of rock, but I also enjoy delving deep into the world of long-forgotten, obscure works of rock and roll. Not only is it a breath of fresh air for me as a devout listener of the genre, but also it allows you to become exposed to a wider range of music that the radio will not go anywhere near. Enjoy.
In the early 1970’s, Japan was enamored by a guitarist named Shinki Chen. As a solo artist, he was extremely popular for his prowess on the electric guitar. Such virtuosity earned him such praise within his home country that he was likened to the great Jimi Hendrix. Shinki collaborated with many other artists, including the short-lived rock supergroup Food Brain, which released a sole studio album in 1970. While in Food Brain, Shinki met veteran bassist Masayoshi Kabe, and after the supergroup’s dissolution, the two planned to form a new band. Lacking a drummer and a vocalist, Shinki was able to recruit Joey Smith (a man who could play both roles) while the latter was performing at a department store in Tokyo.
Thanks to Shinki’s fame in Japan, the power trio were able to get signed to the Japanese division of Atlantic Records, and in 1971 released their debut studio album under the name Speed, Glue, and Shinki. Unfortunately, the album was a commercial failure, and after a few live performances, Kabe deserted the band. With Shinki devastated by the group’s lack of success, Smith essentially took over creative control of the group, bringing in his friend Mike Hanopol to play the bass guitar. Before Speed, Glue, and Shinki folded altogether, the band was able to release a final double LP which encompassed all of the band’s projects at the time. The material is largely garbled and lacks direction, but the album’s variety of music, ranging from blues rock to psychedelic rock, is intriguing to say the least.
SONG #1 – “Sniffin and Snortin Pt.1 (Vitamin C)” Immediately it is obvious that drugs are a central theme in the band’s music. Heck, the group name drew from Smith’s amphetamine use and Kabe’s affinity for sniffing Pro-Bond glue. Anyway, our first impression of the band is that they are a slow-paced, garage rock styled band with a hard rock edge seen in contemporaries such as Sir Lord Baltimore or Cactus. The lack of production is a crutch in the uniqueness of the group; from the shredding riffs of Shinki to the unrefined vocal style of Smith.
SONG #2 – “Run and Hide” Now that the band has finished warming up with the album opener, all three members come out swinging for this track. Once again, we have a slow-paced, bluesy hard rock song with obvious influence from the American scene. Hanopol makes the difference here with his heavily-amplified bass in the background supporting the crude vocals. Shinki delivers two identical guitar solos, emerging perfectly and tearing through the song very well.
SONG #3 – “Bad Woman” Hanopol’s first contribution to the band’s music, we get even heavier. Smith’s voice is even deeper here; a yell which is reminiscent of Louis Armstrong but is largely drowned out by the presence of a keyboard. The influence of Mountain on Hanopol’s compositions is indisputable, from the organs, to the break out Leslie West-style guitar solo by Shinki.
SONG #4 – “Red Doll” At this point, the band’s tempo has slowed down to the point where it can be considered as a predecessor to sludge metal and stoner rock. Nevertheless, it is more blues than either of those future sub-genres despite its prodding tempo. The drumming is heavy, and the slow bluesy vocals of Smith are supplemented by an equally slow guitar solo, concluding the first side of this four side album.
SONG #5 – “Flat Fret Swing” The second side introduces us to some extremely heavy drum fills which open up into another jam. Smith’s voice is back to the raspiness of “Bad Woman”, although the lyrics are about hard to discern out of the prevalent sound of the drums and bass.
SONG #6 – “Sniffin and Snortin Pt.2 (Vitamin C)” The “sequel” to the album opener, the tempo quickens and the lyrics go back to the drug influences which are almost ubiquitous on the group’s debut LP Eve. Otherwise, it shares the characteristics of part one, all the way down to the added sounds of the band discussing drugs, etc.
SONG #7 – “Don’t Say No” Shinki’s only musical contribution to the entire album comes in the form of this instrumental piece. After a string of hard/blues rock pieces, the listener is caught off guard by the inclusion of a psychedelic piece, fit with, organ, flute, and a guitar tone which sounds eerily like female chanting. This lack of concurrency will eventually hamper the album later on, but in this instance, we are met with the best piece on the album. Its ethereal tone fit with its melodies that waft over a smooth bass line, makes this one worth listening to.
SONG #8 – “Calm Down” Back to the hard rock stuff with this one. Smith brings out the rough, more profound vocals while Shinki goes off in the background with more solos and wah-wah. While the majority of the song is similar to most of the material we have heard thus far, the track (and first LP) is concluded by a lengthy drum solo by Smith.
SONG #9 – “Doodle Song” On to the second LP. This short minute and a half piece begins in a similar fashion to how the first LP started, with some raw background lines from Smith. The entirety of the track is Smith bringing back out his holler with lyricism straight out of the “Snortin and Sniffin” series of songs in preparation for the next track.
SONG #10 – “Search for Love” At almost nine minutes, this track is the longest one we have been faced with yet. Opening up normally with the slow blues sound, the vocal style by Hanopol instantly reminded me of some of Hendrix’s work – and I was pleasantly surprised to have an extended guitar solo dominate the middle section of the piece. Eventually the solo leads to a return to the original motif, and the track as a whole is concluded by Shinki launching a shredding second guitar solo amidst the sounds of thunder – a pretty cool effect I must say.
SONG #11 – “Chuppy” Out of nowhere, we are greeted by a short and completely random harpsichord instrumental brought to us by guest keyboardist Shigeki Watanabe. Here’s the first instance where the lack of consistency becomes evident; this piece is unlike anything else heard on the album, and while it is a quaint piece, it just does not gel like “Don’t Say No” did so eloquently.
SONG #12 – “Wanna Take You Home” Concluding the third side is the heaviest and slowest piece of the entire album. A cover by an obscure San Francisco-based psychedelic rock band known as The Fields, the prodding nature of this track supersedes “Red Doll.” In fact, this track fits in perfectly with any other contemporary heavy metal songs of the time. When Smith and Hanopol returned to the Philippines after Speed, Glue, and Shinki folded, they joined a rock group known as the Juan dela Cruz band, bringing this song with them to be redone on that group’s 1973 album Himig Natin. Both Smith and Hanopol would eventually become legends in the Philippines, helping found the pinoy rock movement in the country.
SONG #13 – “Sun/Planets/Life/Moon” Onto the fourth side, and here is where the album gets weird. Just as spontaneously as “Chuppy” appeared, the rest of the album is one long 17-minute space rock suite where Smith essentially plays with a Moog synthesizer. It is technically “progressive as all hell”, but in the end it comes off as utter noise. It lacks the enticing nature of Hawkwind or early Pink Floyd, but is rather just a garbled collection of intergalactic noise which I would assume is great to listen to while on hallucinogenic substances. I have been rather content with the material on the album thus far, but the fourth side lacks any sort of cohesion or listenability.
SONG #14 – “Song for an Angel” In the same vein as the previous track, this is another synthesizer-dominated piece. Rather than being a bit less ambient than the suite, it still lacks the interest, and closes the album on an underwhelming note.
While having some good moments, I find Speed, Glue, and Shinki to be a largely disjointed album. Being more of a compilation than a well-planned and full-fledged studio work, different styles appear out of nowhere – you will be listening to early heavy metal, but the next track may be something completely different. This lack of cohesion is the second biggest drawback behind the fourth side. From my perspective, it seemed that the band suffered from the issue of having too much music for one LP, but not enough for two. Enter the space rock suite; I find it extremely hard to listen to. However, any fan of Mountain or Deep Purple will enjoy 3/4 sides of this album; if you are from the Philippines and are into pinoy rock, then this album is historically significant. So while there are reasons to give this album a try, do not expect an immersive listening experience.
OVERALL: 76% – C
Must-listens: “Don’t Say No”, “Wanna Take You Home”
Worth a try: “Red Doll”, “Search For Love”, “Run and Hide”, “Bad Woman”
Not Worth it: “Sun/Planets/Moon/Life”, “Song for an Angel”