Various: Michigan Brand Nuggets 12” (Belvedere Records)
I picked up this double LP compilation a few weeks ago, and it’s been in constant rotation ever since. Having discovered Bob Seger’s early work a few months ago, one big thing that drew me to this record was the note on the cover that says “fortified with 7 very rare Bob Seger songs.” While I tracked down a copy of the Bob Seger System’s Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man album, I was still lacking many of his killer early singles on vinyl and Michigan Brand Nuggets fills several gaps. I’m stoked to have tracks like “East Side Story” and “Heavy Music Part 2” on vinyl, but this record offers way more than that.
Besides Bob Seger, Michigan Nuggets also features rare tracks by the MC5, Question Mark and the Mysterians, and the Amboy Dukes (but not the Stooges, despite Iggy being on the cover). What you get here are the tracks you’d be most interested in if you’re a fan of Nuggets style garage rock, and every track is a scorcher. The biggest revelation to me was the rare single versions of tracks by the MC5. This version of “Looking at You” from their 1968 single on A-Square Records is the rawest, most blown-out recording on this entire record, and it just shreds. The guitars are cascading sheets of noise, reminding me of the very best Les Rallizes Denudes recordings I’ve heard. The MC5’s debut single, “I Can Only Give You Everything,” also appears here, and it’s a song most anyone into 60s music will know, but the MC5 imbue it with their raw power here. Hearing these tracks has also led me to spend time with the MC5’s Babes in Arms record (originally released on ROIR), which showcases this side of the band much better than any of their actual albums.
As befitting a record with the Nuggets brand name, this double LP is full of obscure tracks from groups I’ve never heard. Detroit’s rock scene is legendary so it’s unsurprising there are so many killer deep cuts, but one thing that sticks out to me as a common thread is the influence of Motown on these rock bands. Great bass lines and raw, soulful vocals are all over this record, and it makes plain how integral the whole Motown scene was to the emerging heavy rock scene that would ultimately birth punk.
While the collection peters out at the end of side four with a couple of Bob Seger’s novelty records that aren’t my cup of tea, on the whole it plays like a killer mix tape. Further, the detailed liner notes offer context and anecdotes about every single track. If you’re itching to pick this one up, it looks like there are many copies available on Discogs for prices that aren’t terrible. Or if, like me, you happen across it in a used bin, it’s worth grabbing as it’s a cut well above your bog-standard comp of 60s obscurities.