Revolutionary Action – Scott Morgan (Easy Action)
In which the complete recorded works of the 1980s and ‘90s are compiled on one double CD set, spanning 38 tracks.
You have to give it to Easy Action. They know how to package a legacy. And Scott Morgan, of course, has had lots of legacy to restore.
Michigan’s Best Kept Musical Secret had been around the metaphorical block a few times by the time the ‘80s rolled around, but up until that point his bands hadn’t produced many recordings. If he hadn’t invented blue-eyed soul, Morgan played a big part in its arrival in the '60s when front-man for Ann Arbor’s Rationals who took a detour into soulful, pastoral-flecked psych before running out of steam.
He went on to be an integral part of Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, the ultimate star-crossed “one that got away“ act in the ‘70s. When that aggregation petered out, Scott stepped out at the front of Lightnin’ and Guardian Angel, for a time, marrying rock to soul in emphatic style.
Then, the SRB engine room of Gary Rasmussen and Scott “Rock Action” Asheton signed on as the bedrock for his next phase, in which Morgan played guitar and vocalised for bands variously known as Scots Pirates (minimalist spelling works well on posters) and the Scott Morgan Band.
Cue “Revolutionary Action” and you get three albums (“Rock Action”, “Scots Pirates” and “Revolutionary Means”) for your hard-earned. The running order has been tweaked and the songs have been given an EQ polish that improves on their homespun studio origins.
(No surprise there. This was a time of small budgets and local/obscure record labels for the likes of Morgan and ‘most anyone else who wasn’t sanitised radio-friendly pap or stadium-focused bombast.)
Our mate Ken Shimamoto makes the very valid point in the liners that there was a mainstream home to be found for this stuff - Springsteen or Mellencamp, anyone? While a song like “Heartland” rings true, there are plenty of rockers, like the searing “88”, “Fuck the Violence” and “Heaven and Earth” (reprised from SRB days), that would have sent the accountants and A & R men packing. Presuming they’d been able to find Ann Arbor on a map.
“Rock Action” and “Revolutionary Means” were ace LPs, “Scots Pirates” less so with great vocal moments but some weaker songs. Packaged as a 2-CD set, however, they make for a killer collection. Morgan’s peerless vocals and considerable guitar talents are matched with sterling six-string collaborators (Michael Katon, Brian DeLaney, Michael Hawker and Bobby East) while Scott’s then-girlfriend Kathy Deschaine chips in with vocals to play up the more soulful angles.
While straight-up songs like “88” reflect most people’s view of Morgan’s hard rock/Motor City origins there are diversions down less travelled roads (most notably, the jazzy "The Wind Blows the Name of Tazmamert” and the languid “Marijuana Wine”) There’s a bona fide shoulda-been-a-hit in “16 With a Bullet” and a wonderful “all-things-Detroit” musical travelogue in “Detroit”.
Morgan’s always had a great command of covers, starting with the Rationals’ pre-Aretha take on “Respect”, and “Hijackin' Love” and Chicago bluesman Jimmy Johnson’s “I Need Some Easy Money” bear that out here. There’s also a live take on Jimi’s “Can You See Me?” that smokes the life out of much anything else that was around in 1984.
Bits and pieces of these albums made it to Easy Action's box set but you need "Revolutionary Action" for the full picture. And the Hydromatics back catalogue is still to come.
I bought the LP version of “Rock Action” when it came out on French label Revenge and remember the original liner notes by onetime Creem and later Rolling Stone writer Dave Marsh. He wrote that it was at a soiree hosted by ex-MC5 singer Rob Tyner when the point was made that many had tried to combine the best of soul music and its rock and roll cousin. Tyner concurred but added that Scott Morgan was one of the few who’d pulled it off.
Cock an ear to "Revolutionary Action" and tell us if Marsh and Tyner were wrong.