Stalwart NRBQ fans have been clamoring for this record’s return for some time. Other entries in the legendary rock band’s robust oeuvre have been available in various formats across the decades but stumbling upon this 1969 eponymously titled release in a dusty secondhand shop or picking up a copy of spurious origins were your only choice until now. The ink was barely dry on a two-album deal with Columbia when the New Rhythm and Blues Quintet (later, Quartet) tracked this collection. With Eddie Kramer at the board (he’s credited with recording but not producing the effort), the fearsome five played each of the tunes just once, giving the listener a one-of-a-kind experience. As Terry Adams has said, a few nights later and listeners would have been privy to an entirely different album.
A lifelong appreciation for Sun Ra reveals itself in an ace rendition of “Rocket #9,” Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody” positively shines. The original material isn’t half bad, either. Though Al Anderson, who’d pen some of the Q’s most beloved songs, wasn’t yet in the picture, it’s apparent from the start that there was rarely a short supply of topnotch compositions as long as Adams and bassist Joey Spampinato were in the room. Moreover, that good singin’ and good playin’ approach that fans have consistently remarked on across half a century were present right from the start.
Adams, in particular, shines, moving between the avant-garde, jazz, blues and boogie-woogie maneuvers, sometimes in the same tune (“Kentucky Slop Song”), a player who retains his voice from track-to-track while, alternately, completely disappearing into the song. Though he’s certainly played his share of excellent passages since this December, 1968 evening, he’s rarely sounded as vulnerable as he does on the closing “Stay With Me.” There are moments where it sounds as though he’s going to go off the rails, as though he’s playing just at the edge of his abilities and in those moments we hear some of the most inspired playing on the entire record.
The coming decade would have its share of piano men but Terry Adams would remain one of the finest American music’s ever known.