Poobah, Let Me In: Riding the Upside Down Highway to Rock City

Long relegated to giving the occasional discerning collector a very expensive boner, Poobah’s 1972 lost wonder Let Me In sees new life in a reissue by Ripple Music and a remastering job by none other than Stone Axe’s T. Dallas Reed. Boasting the original six-track, 31-minute LP and an additional 12 bonus cuts (just to point out the math: there’s literally twice as much bonus material as album tracks), Ripple’s version of Let Me In is a 75-minute monster, and while it’s true some of the bonus cuts are just the band screwing around — I’m looking at you, “Aww, Not Now” — there’s also a slew of killer non-album songs, live rehearsals and alternate versions, so if you’ve ever wanted to hear Poobah, this is probably the best way out there to go about it. Certainly the most bang for your buck.

The material the Youngstown, Ohio, trio of guitarist/vocalist Jim Gustafson, bassist/vocalist Phil Jones and drummer Glenn Wiseman (Nick Gligor and Steve Schwelling also show up for drums on the bonus tracks) brought to the Let Me In album itself is top notch American ‘70s heavy rock. Distinguished by Gustafson’s blazing leads and the occasional psychedelic freakout, tracks like “Bowleen” and opener “Mr. Destroyer” may sound completely of their day, but if you’re hunting down a band like Poobah, that’s exactly what you want. Special mention should be made of the obvious attention to detail and love Reed put into his remastering job, bringing Jones’ bass up for the playful runs on the closing title track (closing out the original album, not the full disc here) makes that song even more of a highlight, and it seems that each song on the record has something special that stands it out, among its tracklist compatriots, yes, but also among the early ‘70s heavy scene, which lacked neither quantity of bands or quality of output. Even the softer, more progressive “Enjoy What You Have” and the ultra-bluesy “Live to Work” — the latter especially — hold their ground against any band to whom you’d have them compared, and the more you hear Let Me In, the more that will ring true.

And then there’s the 12 bonus tracks. Ranging in the method in which they were recorded across a professional studio and two separate living rooms, cuts like “Blooey Gooey” and disc-highlight “Going to Rock City” might sound awkward going one to the next, but the way Ripple’s Let Me In is arranged, you’re not really expecting an album flow. More than that, I’d suggest approaching the bonus material with the understanding that you’re tracing the band’s history, fulfilling the curiosity that the six album tracks may have raised and answering the question, “Gee, I wonder what else these guys have got?” My personal favorite is the live rehearsal tape of “Mr. Destroyer” that shows up as track 14. The vocals are a bit farther back than on the official studio release and the song has a more psychedelic air that separates it from some of Poobah’s other material. The subtle differences between Wiseman and Steve Schwelling’s drums as well, which adds intrigue on another level.

Their atmospheres ran from ominous to the raucous, and Poobah definitely played it fast and loose in the grand tradition of its decade’s recklessness, but the outcome is that Let Me In is an album deserving of any status this reissue can give it, be it “classic” or otherwise. I’d recommend it to any fan of the heavy ‘70s and note especially how well it goes with a boozy evening amongst friends with good taste. We may never find another Master of Reality, but Poobah’s Let Me In shows there’s plenty of killer material out there to be discovered in the search. Hail the obscure. This is stoner rock at the very beginning stages of its existence.

Poobah/Jim Gustafson on MySpace

Ripple Music

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