Grapefruit, a Cherry Red Records label, have released a new 2-CD set devoted to the career of rock band Crabby Appleton. The set, Go Back, is the definitive Crabby Appleton release as it features both of the band’s albums. As to be expected with Cherry Red releases, you get your fix of bonus tracks and in depth liner notes, making this another strong release from the label.
A Little History
Crabby Appleton were formed in 1970 in Los Angeles, CA. From the booklet and other sources, it was when guitarist/singer Michael Fennelly and drummer Phil Jones met each other at the Sunset Strip club Thee Experience. Fennelly was a member of the Millennium while Jones was in a band called Stonehenge. With some encouragement from producer David Anderle, Fennelly was recruited to join Stonehenge, which would later change its name to Crabby Appleton, taking the name from the villain in the cartoon show Tom Terrific. Along with Fennelly and Jones, the band consisted of bassist Hank Harvey, keyboardist Casey Foutz and percussionist Felix “Flaco” Falcon.
Signed to Elektra Records, Crabby Appleton would release two albums. Given that this technically a box set, I will review each album below.
Crabby Appleton (1970)
Released in 1970, the self-titled debut album from Crabby Appleton made an impression on the people who heard it. Music critics such as Lester Bangs were praising the band and album. Listening to it more than five decades later, the band’s debut album is still a solid rock album. While some have used the term “power pop” to describe Crabby Appleton, this isn’t the power pop in the vein of a Badfinger or Big Star: it has the characteristics of psychedelic rock. Most of the songs are pleasantly psychedelic trips while others feature hard driving guitar riffs. There’s even a pop tune or two and they don’t feel out of place as they fit perfectly with the psychedelic vibes. From the strong harmonies to the top notch production of Don Gallucci, Crabby Appleton’s debut is a solid album.
Highlights: Go Back, Peace by Peace, Try, To All My Friends
Rotten to the Core (1971)
Despite the poor sales of the debut, Crabby Appleton were able to make a sophomore effort. Producing the album, however, was Robert W Zachry Jr. While not a bad producer at all, Zachry’s previous work for Elektra Records was in the the country and folk genre. With that, some of the songs on Rotten to the Core have a hint of Southern sounds. Even then, Rotten to the Core isn’t rotten at all. The album has its share of rockers: some of them are psychedelic while others are a little more boogie-tinged. While not as good as the debut, Crabby Appleton’s sophomore effort isn’t quite a slump.
Highlights: Smokin’ in the Morning, It’s So Hard, Lucy, Lookin’ for Love
Post Band History
With two albums released, Crabby Appleton never really took off. Phil Jones would leave as the band sooner or later. After finishing a tour, the band ceased to be. Michael Fennelly would release two solo albums in the mid 1970s before leaving the music business while Phil Jones would go on to drum for many other rock artists such as Tom Petty. The other members of Crabby Appleton would continue to work in music. Of the five members in the band, three of them are still alive (Fennelly, Jones and Casey Foutz). Both Felix Falcon and Hank Harvey have passed away, supposedly from substance abuse.
Go Back is another impressive release from Cherry Red. With both albums remastered and the insightful liner notes (with new interviews with Fennelly and Jones), it’s the ultimate Crabby Appleton release. If you know next to nothing about the band, consider this your entry point.
Overall Rating: 8/10
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.