21 September 2009

Mars Bonfire - 1968 - Faster Than the Speed of Life

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5

Mars Bonfire is not the name of the band, but rather the pseudonym of Dennis Edmonton, who played with an embryonic version of Steppenwolf. As soon as you take a glance at the track listing, you'll note the presence of "Born to Be Wild." The version here is in fact the original. As with the rest of Mars Bonfire's album, the hard edge rock is blunted, for a slightly more wacked-out, psychedelic rock vibe. Obviously the connection to Steppenwolf is going to stand out, and the music here doesn't have the thick crunch of that band, but opts for a thinner, yet phased and sometimes sleeker sound. There is a little more instrumentation present here as well, but like the more famous band, rock organ remains in its position of primacy. Really, I prefer the Mars Bonfire vibe and find the version of "Born to Be Wild" here to be superior. It helps that Mars Bonfire is generally a fine songwriter.

As such, there are some other standout songs here as well. The first three tracks really would fit right into your acid rockin' AM playlist. Sure, Mars Bonfire's voice is a little ragged and spazzy, but it gives the impression that he's really trying. I think "Sad Eyes" is a particular winner, splitting the difference between hard rock and AM sunshine pop. As the album moves on, that smaltzy AM pop sound does work its way in. "How Much Older We Will Grow" encroaches on Procol Harum's territory and "Sad" and "Tenderness" sound like something you'd program in to follow the Grass Roots. Still, you get "So Alive With Love" and "The Night Time's For You," which are both basically the same song but at least share the same groovy beat.

If you have any interest in Steppenwolf, it's a no-brainer that this deserves your attention. For the rest of us, there is some enjoyable, single-like material to wrap our ears around. This album may be chock-full of filler, but the highlights really are highlights and nothing here is so bad that I feel compelled to move on to the next track.


Anonymous said...


display said...

Good one. Thanks Doc.

Konrad Useo said...

Mars Bonfire is the reason I'm a dj nowadays.
I heard him do some sets on fm & he totally turned me on to the late 60's.
Thanks for this.

ge said...

Faster Than the Speed of Light?
no, Faster Than the Speed of LIFE!
give the speed-obsessed poet his due :)
i covered TENDERNESS from this album

Dr. Schluss said...

Ook! Thanks, ge! I guess that's what happens when you drink and read Carl Sagan while you're simultaneously writing record reviews.

Contecanto said...

he file has been removed

Anonymous said...

Found this link:

Anonymous said...

This is a fine album. Well worth downloading, imho. Never heard it before.
Like some of the originals here better than the Steppenwolf covers.

Thanks DR!

Anonymous said...

I can't take anyone who thinks the Mars Bonfire version of Born To Be Wild is superior to Steppenwolf's seriously. Even M.B. himself has said that the Steppenwolf version is far superior.

Anonymous said...

Mars Bonfire..aka Dennis Edmonton strong suit is songwriting. He wrote a lot of songs Steppenwolf recorded not just Born to be Wild. Ride with me from For Ladies Only is a classic