Review by Mitch Meyers
For the last few years San Francisco’s Mushroom have gone retro with a unique synthesis of instrumental prog-rock and spacey soul jazz-fusion. Fortunately, their tendency to jam off into infinity (like their Bay Area ancestors) is offset by good humor and studio mastery. For Mad Dogs & San Franciscans, on the Black Beauty label, Mushroom and guest singer Gary Floyd transform into a surrealistic rock’n’soul outfit stirring a strange brew of vintage songs that evoke a bygone era when singers like Joe Cocker and Roger Daltrey ruled the stage. The title is based on Cocker’s boisterous 1970 live double-album, Mad Dogs & Englishmen.
Psychedelic-rockers turned session men, Mushroom tighten up, echoing instrumental backing bands like Booker T & The MG’s. Equally essential is Floyd, a powerful punk-blues vocalist cut from the same cloth as Wilson Pickett. Floyd’s husky wail is perfect for the vintage-era rock tunes featured on the disc. Performing songs associated with Cocker ("Delta Lady," "Space Captain") and Curtis Mayfield, ("Pusherman," "Superfly"), Mushroom’s affinity for ’70s music is on full display.
An aching interpretation of Clarence Carter’s "Slip Away" is almost perfect and on the shrewd cover of Steppenwolf’s "The Pusher," Mushroom match the hard-rock fury of the original. While the 11-person band sounds more contained on lesser-known numbers like The Who’s "Water," this is still Mushroom’s finest CD to date.