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Speed Limit 35 (1970-1971)

Stephen "Carlos" Scott - bass, vocals
Bobby "LG" Walker - guitar, vocals
Paul "Pablo" Swenson - drums

In 1968, Stephen Scott, who had played in bands like Homer & The Don’ts and Ladies WC (see our review of the latter’s wonderful reissue) in his native Venezuela, relocated to South Carolina and joined Speed Limit 35, a band that had built up a loyal following at the nearby University of South Carolina. Having graduated from a local bar band playing Hendrix and Cream covers to the first acid rock band in S.C., they made it all the way to New York City before returning to Columbia, where, according to Scott’s liner notes, “they became more involved in acid and less in rock.” By 1969, the band, now a three piece including Paul Swenson on drums and Bobby Walker on guitar and influenced by Scott’s blues background, began playing at local clubs in the Carolinas. Opening for artists as diverse as Linda Ronstadt, Brownsville Station and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band! In April, 1970, the band scored the opening slot for Steppenwolf at the Columbia Coliseum and that performance is lovingly captured on side A of this reissue.

Opener “Song in ‘A’” has a good-time, Grateful Dead party feel to get the crowd on their feet and “Anthem” features a laidback, bluesy psych vibe. The jammy “Song in ‘E’” demonstrates the band’s considerable chops, eliciting favorable comparisons with mid-flight CSNY, and is liberally seasoned with Walker’s bluesy solos. The band’s sound may actually be closer in spirit to John Kay’s bluesier pre-Steppenwolf band, Sparrow, but nevertheless serves them well in their allotted task of pumping up the kids for the main course.

The success of the gig brought the band to New York where they recorded demos at Mercury Studios, selections of which are presented as the album’s B-side. The two-part, 111-minute “Shoeshine Man” is a heavy lidded headnodder. Part one combines laid-back acoustic jamming with bluesy guitar runs from Walker, while part two captures the band headed full steam into the stratosphere, highlighted by some wicked harp blowing and tasty guitar runs. “Break My Day” finds the boys in a more acoustic, reflective mood, with some unidentified sax work particularly effective and Scott’s mournful, bluesy wail hitting all the right emotional buttons.

In 1971, the author/director of an Off-Off-Broadway play, Alice (based on Alice in Wonderland) saw the band perform at USC’s Campus Club South and was impressed enough to invite them to write the score for his play. While Scott does not believe the play was ever produced, Swiss label owner Raymond Dumont (who is responsible for this reissue), also bought the rights to their score, so hopefully we’ll be hearing more from Speed Limit 35 before too long. Until then, sit back and enjoy these boogie boys bleed the blues and marvel at Walker’s screaming solos, which are particularly awe-inspiring. Fans of better-than-competently played bluesy rock (laced with the occasional acid flourish) in the styles of Paul Butterfield, Steve Miller, and Canned Heat as well as collectors of similarly sounding artifacts from the Rockadelic label have cause for celebration at the unearthing of this buried treasure and should place it at the top of their wish list.

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