Rat On! - Swamp Dogg (Alive Naturalsound)
You wouldn’t know it from the cover but “Rat On!” (1971) is a more polished production effort than Swamp Dogg’s debut from a year earlier, “Total Destruction To Your Mind”. Recorded at legendary studio Muscle Shoals, that’s where the conformity ends. “Rat On!” finds Swamp right in the pocket with a muscular rhythm section and a subversive feel.
Hard to believe that heavy hitting Elektra originally issued this album, if only for the fact that they saw fit to censor the content (“God Bless America For What” lost its “For What”) and put it out with its infamous and odd cover art intact. The guess is that the label totally missed the joke in the title, which comes across as somebody applying good ole boy Southern linguistics to the term “right on”.
Unconventional is a fair tag to hang on “Rat On!” if straight-up Stax label music (or positively saccharine Motown) is more to your listening taste. Some of the swampiness that lapped through “Total Destruction” has dissipated and the lyrical content isn’t as overtly angry, but it’s dark and seep soul that deserves to be heard.
Aussies will sense familiarity in the irony-free but worthy cover of the Bee Gees’ “Got To Get A Message To You” that’s played straight rather than for laughs, but some of the material meanders and drags in contrast to what’s gone before.
You’d think “Rat On!” was the soundtrack to the Second Coming from the write-ups in some quarters with journalistic shorthand terms like “psychedelic soul” being tossed out like empty beer cans. This is more like Swamp Dogg’s slightly toned-down shot at the big time. Like so many it wasn’t to be. It’s a worthy listen but not the Holy Grail.