Strange Things are Happening - the complete singles 1965 - 1969
The Outsiders were without a doubt the most prolific and exciting band from a non-English speaking country to come out of the 1960s. It's great to see that this Dutch band are finally getting their due with this much needed compilation which collects every single (A + B sides both) they recorded between 1965 and 1969.
The key to the incredible sound of the Outsiders is thanks to lead singer Wally Tax who certainly doesn't sound like he (as were the others in the band) was from Holland in that all of their songs were sung in perfect English. Couple his unique songwriting and vocal skills with that of the amazing music - especially the off kilter-ness that the early sides have in the rhythm section - where the bass and drums are often played against the rhythm of the song to an amazing affect.
The end result is a quite original sound which shows the hints of their musical influences, great ones from the time including the Pretty Things in their Bo Diddley-inspired moments - and the Byrds and Arthur Lee and Love filtered through their unique sound. Somehow they are able to combine the Bo Diddley rhythms with the more pensive sounds of folk rock for one of the most interesting combinations of sounds.
Just about every song on this collection is worthy of being a favorite - there's not a bum track here - but special mention should go to the following tracks.
Track 1 - You Mistreat Me starts out the cd with the incredible scratchy guitar, heavy bass and propulsively spastic drums of their early sound and is just about as perfect as you can get.
They really get an amazing folk rock buzz going on Track 5 - Lying All the Time which has a good portrait of their more somber perspective (and is indeed part of why the Outsiders weren't bigger than they were - because of their songs which are wracked with downers).
Track 9 - Touch has a great Pretty Things inspired riff and harmonica along with some incredible angst-ridden lead vocals and drum patterns.
Track 10 - Ballad of John B (one of my all time favorites on the disc) is a longer folk rock ballad at 6 minutes which brings to mind the best of Bob Dylan. We would surely be hearing this one more today if the Outsiders weren't so criminally over-looked in their day.
Track 13 - Summer Is Here is a nice change of pace thanks to the twee folk rock sound and the plucking of the balalaika - it might as well be a lost Donovan song.
Track 14 - Teach Me to Forget sounds like it could've come out of the mid- west of the USA and not from a Dutch rock band - thanks to it's multi-sectioned harmonies and extended melody of longing.
You can hear the Outsiders begin to fall apart in wonderful but ultimately failed sides like Don't You Worry About Me - Track 17. They were simply at odds with the times: combining rocked out drumming with Pink Floyd styled vocals and flute solos was sadly not the way to get a hit in 1967. I think the Outsiders sensed this, and attempted a change in sound with the last of their singles with interesting but again failed chart results.
From the over-arranged strings (which I like but certainly seem out of place) on Track 19 - Cup of Hot Coffee and Track 20 - Strange Things Are Happening which were added after the band even recorded the songs - to the return to form of Track 21 - I Don't Care which could be a lost Zombies melody and Track 22 - You Remind Me which is straight out of the Arthur Lee and Love song book of inspiration right down to the guitar riff.
There was one last gasp single-wise for the Outsiders before calling it quits with Track 23 - Do You Feel Allright which is an inspired rocker with an amazing pounding sound but alas the Outsiders were done.
Thanks to this cd reissue, the Outsiders great music no longer need languish in the vaults - the people at RPM have seen to that with this tremendous and eye-opening compilation of one of the great lost treasures of the 1960s. These singles plus the albums the Outsiders recorded are what define them as one of the great over-looked bands from the 1960s.
Note - do not confuse this Outsiders (from Amsterdam, Holland) with the Cleveland top ten act who hit in 1966 with Time Won't Let Me.