All Time Greatest Hits

All Time Greatest Hits

Yes, Steppenwolf had massive songs, a few of which helped truly define a generation (how would middle America have delineated an entire class of bikers had “Born to be Wild” never happened?). Beyond the hits, Steppenwolf’s brand of dirty, organ-soaked blues and dusty, guitar-rattling rock ’n’ roll were unjustly overshadowed by the hits, as were the talents of frontman John Kay. He had the kind of voice that could scare kids; it was big and dark and sometimes sounded full of menace, even in his vulnerable moments (“Tenderness”) or while taking a then-unfashionable stance against drugs (“Snowblind Friend,” “The Pusher”) and the Vietnam War (“Monster”). In other words, Kay could deliver a rock ’n’ roll tune like no other. And you can’t say enough about guitarists Michael Monarch (who was still in high school when the band recorded “Magic Carpet Ride” and “The Pusher”) and Larry Byrom, both of whom balanced wild improvisation with structure and distilled lots of grit and soul. This set handily rounds up the band’s heyday, from 1968 to 1974, ending on their final Top 40 entry: the rocking R&B gem “Straight Shootin’ Woman.”

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