Swamp Dogg was once described by Dave Marsh as "Soul music's chief eccentric." It is a title he more than lives up to on his third full-length release Gag A Maggot (1973), which has just been reissued by the Alive Records label. With Swamp Dogg, the entire LP package was important, and he seems to have had a particular interest in creating the worst album covers ever. In the reissue's liner notes, he even laments the fact that the artwork for Gag A Maggot (with him in a trashcan) did not get as many votes for "worst album cover ever" as his previous Rat On! did. Well, the giant rat was kind of special I guess, but as far as the music goes, Gag A Maggot is every bit is memorable as Rat On! was.
The album opens with one of Dogg's funniest tunes, "Wife Sitter." As is the case on many of the tracks, the horns of The Swamp Dogg Band add an outstanding element to the classic R&B sound. "Please Let Me Kiss You Goodbye" is another excellent example of his powerhouse horn section. One of the more surprising ingredients in such a funky setting is the flute, which is used to great effect on "Mighty Mighty Dollar Bill."
One constant throughout Gag A Maggot, and throughout the music of Swamp Dogg in general is the piano. This is what he plays, and its presence brings a strong roadhouse feel to songs like "T T," and the closing "Plastered to the Wall (Higher than the Ceiling)." The most unusual cut on the original LP has to be his cover version of "In the Midnight Hour." The song was a hit for Wilson Pickett, who co-wrote it with Steve Cropper back in 1965. I have to say that this version is basically unrecognizable, as it has been "Swamped" by the group. That is to say that this version has very little to do with what we have come to know, save the lyrics, and everything to do with Swamp Dogg. I think he does much better when he uses his own material however.
This new release also includes two bonus tracks, "Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe," and "Honky Tonk Woman." Both were recorded live for a 1972 broadcast on San Francisco's KSAN radio station. "Mama's Baby" was co-written by Swamp (Jerry Williams Jr.) and Gary U.S. Bonds and appeared on the 1970 album Total Destruction to Your Mind. "Honky Tonk Woman" is the Stones classic, and is pretty strong. Both are very stripped down, especially compared to the album tracks. I imagine this is because of the radio broadcast situation.
All in all, this reissue of Gag A Maggot is another great example of some of the finest funk and R&B going in the early '70s, and should not be missed.