From the Vault...


"At Your Birthday Party"

© MCA Records

Year of Release: 1969

track listing
  • Don't Cry
  • Chicken Wolf
  • Lovely Meter
  • Round And Down
  • It's Never Too Late
  • Sleeping Dreaming
  • Jupiter Child
  • She'll Be Better
  • Cat Killer
  • Rock Me
  • God Fearing Man
  • Mango Juice
  • Happy Birthday

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    "At Your Birthday Party"

    For many years, trying to find original albums on CDs by Steppenwolf have been virtually impossible. Their 1969 release, At Your Birthday Party does not contain any huge hits by John Kay and crew, (well, "Rock Me" may be the most popular...) yet listening to any original release by this classic biker band has always been enjoyable. However, this release may not be as "rockin" as other releases, as I'll explain this at the end of this review...

    "Don't Cry" has a more British 1960s sound, where "Chicken Wolf" has the more typical Steppenwolf style and sound. Different is best to describe "Lovely Meter." It's a soft accoustic guitar ballad, and this style of music is unheard of in Steppenwolf's music; as you hear this song, you wouldn't think it was by Steppenwolf.

    "Round And Round" is a mix of country (its intro guitar) and rock. "It's Never Too Late" is laid back, yet you can easily tell that it is a song by Steppenwolf, as you recognize lead singer John Kay's voice. "Sleeping Dreaming" is "short, strange, psychedelic, and jibberish," as if we were actually sleeping and dreaming... "Jupiter Child" has the classic Steppenwolf sound, as heard in many of their famous and non-famous classic rock tunes.

    "She'll Be Better" is another ballad, and like "Lovely Meter," it's the "I can't believe this is a Steppenwolf song..." due to the fact that the vocals are handled otherwise by John Kay (???), and if it isn't, it sure doesn't sound like him. Yet the music itself does resemble Steppenwolf in a way, as this kind of song could of been easily recorded by future 1970s group like Bad Company ("Shooting Star"), or even 80s-90s group The Black Crowes.

    "Cat Killer" is an instrumental. It's a mix of 3-chord boogie-woogie and jazz. Instrumentals such as these has been featured in other Steppenwolf releases, as these instrumental gems are truly unique and entertaining, as it takes a different approach to the "standard" music of Steppenwolf. Which brings us to "Rock Me" -- which may be the only recognizable popular tune from this album. It's classic Steppenwolf rock.

    Another laid back tune (easy to recognize it's Steppenwolf, though) is "God Fearing Man." It's a medium-tempo ballad, yet it's Steppenwolf. Another instrumental is "Mango Juice," a low-volume mystery tune, having some slight touches of psychedelia, and african rhythms. And "Happy Birthday", the album's closure, is another mellow, laid back tune, and no, it's not their rendition of the standard "Happy Birthday To You."

    At Your Birthday Party may not as "rock" as other Steppenwolf releases, yet it's Steppenwolf, and not to be negative, but it's easily seen why this release is hard-to-find. This album is enjoyable, yet for the die-hard rockin' Steppenwolf fan, there are less than a handful of tunes on this release that can be compared to their classics, such as "Magic Carpet Ride," "Born To Be Wild" and "Sookie Sookie" (to name a few). At Your Birthday Party is more mellow, so to speak, and still, this album was a part of the Steppenwolf repretoire -- for the curious Steppenwolf fan, learning their history, and their original releases, we can easily see and hear that this release would not be recognized as a "must have". Yet its always interesting in hearing all of a group or artist's original albums, and in Steppenwolf's case, there were far better albums than At Your Birthday Party, before and after this album was released.

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    Previous Review: #727
    Velvet Underground--The Velvet Underground
    Next Review: #729
    Barry McGuire--Anthology