The 1960s garage legends went soft on their major-label debut, but the bonus tracks on this reissue help redeem it.
Though seldom accorded the recognition he deserves, Don Gallucci is a bona fide rock 'n' roll legend whose accomplishments outstrip probably half of the past five years' inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not only did he play the signature keyboard lick on the Kingsmen's definitive 1963 version of "Louie Louie", but he also produced the Stooges' landmark Fun House album -- two developments that have preserved rock 'n' roll as much as anything over the past 40 or so years. Gallucci was also a progressive rock pioneer with Touch, which evolved from his previous outfit, Don and the Goodtimes.
Formed after Gallucci's exit from the Kingsmen in early 1964, Don and the Goodtimes more than held their own with the many great bands on the 1960s Northwest scene. Though overshadowed by the Sonics, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Wailers, the Goodtimes were one of the most adventurous bands in the region, not only rearranging familiar standards like "Little Latin Lupe Lu" and (of course) "Louie Louie", but also penning first-rate originals like "Little Sally Tease", "You Did It Before", and "You Were Just a Child", a 1966 masterpiece blending rave-ups with melodic choruses and a lustful lyric. They were perhaps the only band to cover "The Witch" in a manner that did justice to the Sonics' original.
With that rocking heritage in mind, it's perhaps no wonder that So Good, the poppy 1967 album they made after migrating to Los Angeles, is so often maligned by their most ardent fans as syrupy and overproduced. While it's not up to the standard of their best stuff -- not to mention a dramatic departure from their old direction -- if assessed on its own merits even its sternest critics (including this writer, who used to hate it) will have to acknowledge that it has its moments.
One of them is certainly the Goodtimes' only national hit, "I Could Be So Good to You", a buoyant pop ditty bolstered by the presence of A-list session players and a Beach Boys-style harmony vocal line in the background. There are two more in that vein: a ballad called "If You Love Her, Cherish Her and Such" and "And It's So Good", but the rest of the album includes pedestrian covers of "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "With a Girl Like You" and a few originals penned by bassist Ron Overman with a tad too much sugar-coating.
The same over-sweetening plagues some of the bonus tracks, but there is a great cover of the Toys' "May My Heart Be Cast into Stone", plus a fine Overman original called "Happy and Me" that nicked the Top 100 at #98 in 1967. Overman also penned both sides of two singles included among the bonus cuts: 1966's "You Were Just a Child" b/w "I Hate to Hate You" and "You Did It Before" b/w "Colors of Life". While not part of the band's tenure on Epic, all four sides are part of their evolution -- with the melodic "You Did It Before" (unreleased until 1968) and the folk-rocking "I Hate to Hate You" recorded in L.A. in 1966 shortly before the band permanently moved there, and the absolute killer "You Were Just a Child" recorded around the same time.
Steve Stanley's liners don't quite tell you the story of those two singles, but otherwise they're a detailed, interesting read about the band's often-ignored L.A. period. (Because the notes are well-researched, we'll pardon the rather embarrassing error of calling Fun House the Stooges' "debut" album.)
While it probably takes the bonus cuts to make this reissue worthwhile, So Good is nevertheless a better effort than many (including me) gave it credit for, if also not nearly as good as its supporters claim. Even under major-label pressure, Don and the Goodtimes proved that they could still make solid music. And they would continue to excel when they became Touch in 1968, and even when three former members regrouped again in 1974 for an excellent hard rock album with Stepson (with, predictably, a guest slot by Gallucci).