Found! The Mourning Reign: Satisfaction Guaranteed

Mourning Reign-wordpressThere are plenty of one-hit wonders from the late 1960s, but the Mourning Reign didn’t even get that far, at least as far as I know. Never heard of them until a few years ago, when the single Satisfaction Guaranteed appeared on a CD compilation … There’s usually a reason why one hit wonder bands never do anything further…the rest of their songs are ordinary. As I listen to the Satisfaction Guaranteed LP (Reissued by Sundazed as BeatRocket BR 102, A-side in mono and the B-side in stereo) it strikes me that the music should have taken this band much further than obscurity. They deserve to be better known. I bought this LP brand new. I’m not sure there was ever a full-on LP, just a few singles released as 45s back in the day.

The Reign are a garage band, and I say that with utmost appreciation. I can hear what sounds like pieces of the Beatles, Chad and Jeremy/Peter and Gordon, the Beau Brummels, the Ventures and the Sir Douglas Quintet.

Just about every band of this period covered other songs, and the Reign is no exception. Evil Hearted You was released by the Yardbirds in 1965; the Reign formed in ’65 or ’66, depending on the website you read. Eric Clapton’s Tales of Brave Ulysses and Pete Townshend’s Run Run Run are also here, and are unusual choices. Did any other band cover these songs back then, or now?

(I should know, I played in a band in the late 60s, too, and our set list included Louie Louie and Moon River. Louie was a staple, but c’mon. Moon River? I still wonder what the ninth-graders at Sierra Junior High thought about that one!)

Man, their songs are short. Only Signed D.C. is longer than three minutes. Not unusual for the time, however. You can’t get bored with these guys, they don’t give you a chance, especially since they knew how to write a melody.  The group comes across like they were pretty practiced. The songs are tight. Beau Maggi’s lead vocals are plenty strong. There’s an occasional raggedness in his voice that is appealing.

I mentioned earlier that the song Satisfaction Guaranteed also appears on a great CD compilation set, Love Is The Song We Sing: SF Nuggets, so let’s consider that the band’s hit song. Why is the Beatles’ Day Tripper so memorable? It’s the guitar riff that opens the song. While I can’t put the Reign in that category, the guitar hook in Satisfaction is pretty cool, and keeps your head bopping. There’s more tasty guitar in Get Out Of My Life, Woman (which briefly has a Sir Douglas Quintet vibe). Our Fate opens up in a Venture’s like surf mood, with crashing waves of guitar. Yea, lotta guitar, lotta riffs and hooks.

Stylistically, the band is all over the place, and you could say they don’t quite have their own sound, but don’t get me wrong. I liked nearly every song on this LP. I don’t care that they don’t have a signature sound. The Reign is pretty inventive. They don’t sound like a one-trick pony garage band, they tried different things to make different songs and succeeded. Even when they sound like someone else, their songwriting and youthful approach are worthy. You get the sense that the slightly psychedelic ending to Light Switch (two versions, in mono and stereo) was influenced by the Beatles, or other bands doing similarly strange things on tape.

By the way, you like fuzz toned guitar? Some of the most ragged-jagged overdriven guitar tones I’ve ever heard briefly graces the middle section of Evil Hearted You. Almost sounds like the amp speaker was blown out. Love it. The song is also a good example of the band’s songwriting chops. Lots of early rock bands didn’t know a bridge from the river, but there’s an imaginative bridge that really takes a rhythmic left turn in the middle of the song. And then comes the aforementioned fuzzy guitar!

Wish I’d kept my 1969 fuzzbox. It went into the trash, I think.

The thick vinyl is clean as can be. Very few pops and clicks. I suspect Sundazed did their best with the audio quality. The tunes in mono (side A) come across as compressed and midrangey, lacking much bass…reminiscent of the 45rpm records of the era. If you’re looking for audiophile quality, it isn’t here. But the garage comes through nicely and I’d say it’s cool that way. The B side tunes are in stereo, and sound better than the songs in mono. The stereo mixes are a little smoother and wider in frequency response. Charlie Gardin’s bass pops outta the right side speaker on Run Run Run, for example and has more bottom end, something I don’t usually expect from a late 60’s recording.

No one is buried in the mix. Hard to imagine the band paid a lot for the studio time, so hats off to whoever was the engineer. Maybe they engineered it themselves. The liner notes don’t say. Don’t know who remastered it, either.

If you’re wondering how the SF Nuggets CD version of the song Satisfaction Guaranteed sounds, versus the Sundazed vinyl, I’d say it’s pretty darn close. The CD version is slightly brighter and does possess an edge in clarity, too. The vinyl is a bit more laid back, a little more analog sounding. I could be very happy with either version.

If you enjoy this time in American pop music making history, the Reign should be on your vinyl list. It’s a cool thing that they existed when they did. The technology of the day, or lack thereof, contributed greatly to the timeless nature of the songs and production. Got 46 seconds? Check out a mashed-up medley of four songs from the LP!