CD Reissue Review: Swamp Dogg – Gag a Maggott (Stone Dogg/Alive, 1973/2013)
After his innovative 1970 debut, Total Destruction to Your Mind, Swamp Dogg (born Jerry Williams, Jr.) continued to cut fine soul albums, despite a lack of big label distribution, chart action or major sales. His deep industry experience provided the background to create commercial hits, but Williams chose a more purely artistic route, chasing a muse that was equal parts southern soul and idiosyncratic outspokenness. Using funky bass lines, sharp horn charts and a voice that suggested the keening sound of General Norman Johnson, Williams’ records offer a surface of commercial soul, but topped with lyrics of social observation and absurdist humor. His fourth album isn’t as radical as his debut, but the grooves are deep and more uniformly funky, and while there’s nothing as politically provocative as 1971’s “God Bless America for What?,” Williams’ wit remains sharp on “Mighty Mighty Dollar Bill” and “I Couldn’t Pay for What I Got Last Night.” There’s New Orleans flavors heard in a few tracks and the original album’s cover of Wilson Pickett’s “Midnight Hour” is joined on this reissue by a funky bonus track of “Honky Tonk Woman.” Also added as a bonus is a seven-minute live take of “Mama’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe” recorded in the studio of San Francisco’s legendary KSAN-FM. Alive’s digipack reissue includes Williams’ irreverent original liner notes and a six-page insert that includes Williams’ equally irreverent new liner notes.