Critics might dis­agree but Your Humble Reviewer believes the 1970’s was the prime time for hard rock.  Not only did you have all the prime acts — Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Deep Purple, UFO, Van Halen, etc. — writ­ing the rules of the gen­re, you also had a string of lesser known acts knock­ing out their own clas­sics on a more inti­mate scale.  Sometimes they’d only put out one or two albums but they’d always leave behind at least one wor­thy mile­stone before burn­ing out.

A prime exam­ple of this sec­ond cat­e­go­ry of clas­sic hard-rock­ers is the Godz, a bik­er-band who opened for count­less major acts dur­ing the 1970’s and built up enough of a name to head­line shows before they ever got a record con­tract.  Their orig­i­nal line­up released two albums via Millenium, a sub­la­bel of Casablanca that snapped them up as a tough-guy answer to Kiss.  The clas­sic of the pair is the self-titled debut, a killer of an album that today’s hard-rock schol­ars dis­cuss in hushed tones of rev­er­ence.

A word of warn­ing before we get start­ed: don’t expect Judas Priest-style fret-siz­zling fire­works from The Godz.  This was a band that was raised on tra­di­tion­al rock and roll and devel­oped their own loud, mutat­ed and delight­ful­ly sleazed-up vari­a­tion on the form.  The end result has toothy gui­tars and boom­ing drums yet also places an empha­sis on sing-along cho­rus­es and oth­er catchy hooks.  Indeed, “Baby I Love You” sounds like AM hit-era Grand Funk on a hard-rock ben­der (coin­ci­den­tal­ly, ex-Grand Funk drum­mer Don Brewer pro­duced this album) and cuts like “Go Away” and “Relentless” could pass for south­ern rock, albeit with heav­ier gui­tars.

However, those ear­ly cuts mere­ly set the lis­ten­er up for the kill.  Pretty soon, the album is dish­ing up killers like “Under The Table,” which starts as a fran­tic rock­er and gives way to an unex­pect­ed­ly grace­ful dual-gui­tar instru­men­tal sec­ond half that soars like Wishbone Ash recon­fig­ured for a bik­er-bar audi­ence.  “Cross Country” is anoth­er win­ner in this vein, a moody midtempo ode to the joy of cross-coun­try trav­el that boasts a for­mi­da­ble gui­tar-solo mid­sec­tion.  This song is to the Godz what “Ride On” is to Bön Scott-era AC/DC.

The band also per­forms a killer cov­er of the Golden Earring clas­sic “Candy’s Going Bad” for their final cut.  It strips out the funky ele­ments and sub­tleties to rebuild it as an are­na stormtroop­er.  The first half blud­geons the vocal part of the song into sub­mis­sion, rework­ing it into a high-octane gui­tar stom­per.  This sets you up for the instru­men­tal sec­ond half, which bypass­es the down­tem­po mel­low­ness of the orig­i­nal ver­sion in favor an insane, intense noise-rock jam that would put the wildest Krautrock band to shame.

However, the defin­i­tive moment of The Godz is the sec­ond-side closer, “Gotta Keep A-Runnin.”  This riff­tas­tic mini-epic starts off as an inde­pen­dence vow/kiss-off to a chick anthem for lead singer/group mas­ter­mind Eric Moore but trans­forms some­thing unfor­get­table when it reach­es its mid­sec­tion.  At this point, the band begins to vamp as Moore takes cen­ter stage and deliv­ers a mono­logue about how soci­ety fears the Godz for what they rep­re­sent and pre­dicts that they are des­tined to crash and burn liv­ing the rocker’s lifestyle… but they’ll have the last laugh because they and their fans are “rock & roll machi­nes” des­tined to take over the world.   It all cul­mi­nates in a tri­umphant growl-chant of “The Godz are rock and roll machi­nes!” The end result is absurd­ly car­toon­ish and total­ly heart­felt all at once — and that’s the dual­i­ty that defines clas­sic schlock.

As fate would have it, Moore cor­rect­ly pre­dict­ed the end of his own sto­ry.  The group fiz­zled out their sec­ond album, the clas­sic line­up of the band broke up and Moore drift­ed on with addi­tion­al ver­sions of the band that stayed on the road but nev­er recap­tured the glo­ry of their ini­tial wax­ing.  However, The Godz remains a potent doc­u­ment of how rock & roll machi­nes ruled the are­nas of the 1970’s.  If you rev­el in obscure 1970’s hard rock, it’s a must.

CD Notes: after years of from-vinyl bootlegs, this album has final­ly got­ten a qual­i­ty CD reis­sue from Rock Candy Records.  The remas­ter­ing does jus­tice to Brewer’s mus­cu­lar pro­duc­tion and it also includes a nice, full-col­or book­let.  Martin Popoff sup­plies a re-edit­ed ver­sion of his essay/interview piece on the album from his Ye Old Metal 1978 book: it’s a fan­tas­tic read that includes sto­ries like how the band’s stage show was inspired by the work of Albert Speer and how the band would relieve their stress dur­ing the record­ing of the album by going out­side to shoot off guns between takes!