Writing about a band like The Good Rats is always a labor of love. Especially when its for a vinyl Record Store Day reissue which came out in 2018 in very limited numbers. Who are The Good Rats? They were a fantastic band from the 1970s which should have been enormous but for whatever reason — fashion, marketing, management — they never broke out of the East Coast for the most part.
That is not to say they weren’t big there: the band played all the big halls including Madison Square Garden and opened for many of the greats of the day. By the late 70s I remember hearing key album tracks by the band regularly on stations like WNEW-FM in New York (and the occasional live broadcast as well!). Heck, Kiss apparently opened for them early on and they shared stages with everyone from Rush to Aerosmith to Ozzy Osborne.
What did The Good Rats sound like? Well, first and foremost they were a fun and a super tight hard rock band which could switch from jazzy smooth to metallic-punk raunch in a heartbeat. Singer Peppi Marcello (RIP) had a rich crooning voice that could hit those stratospheric notes like Journey’s Steve Perry yet has a bluesy rasp this side of Faces-era Rod Stewart.
Oh yeah, The Good Rats could nail a power ballad as well and one of their great late period tracks, “You’re Still Doin’ It” got played on radio a bunch in the late 1970s and the song still sends a chill down my spine, tapping into some of that glam rock greatness ; at points it feels like what might have happened had Bowie written a love song instead of the call to action that became “All The Young Dudes.”
The Good Rats were a really fun band that could write some great songs and had a way with a rock riff and searing leads and sometimes even multi-part harmonies.
Their 1974 album for Warner Brothers — Tasty — is perhaps their most fondly remembered as it contains the semi-comic, faux-jazzy rock ode to the plight of being a musician, the title track, “Tasty.” And it is this Tasty album that was reissued last year for Record Store Day.
Why am I reviewing it now, you ask? Well, to be honest I couldn’t find a copy here in San Francisco and a friend in LA picked one up for me. And due to busy schedules and circumstance, we never got around to mailing it in anticipation of my visiting LA which only happened just recently. Thus I finally got my album! Better late than never!
Anyhow, this fun new reissue of Tasty is pressed on nice clear yellow vinyl that is well centered and quiet. The sound is a little different than the original pressings on Warner Brothers as the band remixed it when they started their own label in the mid-70s (Ratcity Records). I’m pretty sure this new edition is the remix. It sounds fine.
Curiously the album comes with one bonus track, a demo from the period called “Melting Pot Cookbook.” More curious still is that the included MP3 download also only includes the one bonus track while the Tidal stream offers a second “I Won’t Stop.” Go figure. You can click here to jump to that CD-quality stream.
At the end of the day, whatever version of Tasty you go for, the album is a fun romp, opening with classic-rock of “Back to My Music.” Many of the songs on Tasty were staples of the band’s live set for years to come including “Klash-Ka-Bob,” “Fireball Express” and “Fred Upstairs”
Happily, the reissue of Tasty comes with lyrics and fun one-line commentary for each song. So for “Injun Joe” they describe it as: “politically correct before it was politically correct to be politically correct.” So remember that it was 1974 and don’t be thrown by the title or the intentionally cliche tom tom beats as it is ultimately intended to be a pro Native American rock anthem.
My favorite song on the album however is the original album closer “Songwriter.” This song brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it because it probably underscores The Good Rats’ plight and it has an absolutely killer signature guitar hook:
“They won’t play my music so I’m never comin’ back
I made too many boasts along the way
And its a cold, long lonely day
“The songwriter can make you laugh or cry
He’s pumping gas, yet manages to survive
And all he asks is for you to sing his song
And put his name in lights where it belongs”
I’d love to hear Bruce Springsteen play this song.
Comparing this version of Tasty to the original Warner Brothers version I can hear why they remixed it. The original is cool but the remix is punchier with clearer definition on the drums and orchestral strings. The new vinyl is also mixed a bit more quietly so you’ll need to turn things up a bit.
You should listen to The Good Rats. Tasty is a great place to start.