Every decade produces many great acts that are overlooked, or known only in certain places. One of those bands in the 70s was Moxy, a hard rock band popular in its native Ontario as well as the midwest, but especially in Texas. Out in Seattle, they were pretty much unknown, so much so that I never heard of them until the 90s. Once my friends on the Uriah Heep email list introduced me, however, I quickly picked up all four of their albums.
The first three with lead singer Buzz Sherman are the essential Moxy albums (he was replaced on the fourth album with Mike Reno, who would shortly discover fame and fortune with Loverboy). Ridin’ High, their third album, is often considered their masterpiece, but it was their self-titled first album from 1975 that was my introduction, and I find it nearly as good.
The opener, Fantasy, opens in big, bold dramatic fashion (gongs, even!) before settling into a slow-building anthem of lost love that climaxes with its guitar solo. Sail On Sail Away follows a similar pattern but starts quiet with just acoustic guitars before morphing into some very heavy boogie rock not unlike Status Quo or Foghat at their best.
The third track, Can’t You See I’m a Star, was a big regional hit (quite unfortunately, it never received any airplay in Seattle) and features a ripping guest guitar solo from the legendary Tommy Bolin, who’d just left James Gang and was about to join Deep Purple. The bludgeoning riff would’ve fit right in on a Soundgarden or Disturbed album. Like most of the remaining songs, it’s a much faster pace than the first two songs. In hindsight, one of these faster tracks might have better served the band as an opener.
The next several tracks are uptempo, riff-laden boogie rockers, many of which feature solos from Tommy Bolin. It’s no wonder AC/DC was chosen as their opening act when Moxy headlined their first tour! Moonrider, Time to Move On, and Still I Wonder all move the album at a blistering pace before the slow blues burner, Train, allows Sherman and lead guitarist Earl Johnson to show off their chops. The album’s closer, Out of the Darkness (Into the Fire) returns to the pace of the opener, with a sledgehammer riff that reminds me more of the doom metal of Black Sabbath’s first three albums.
Buzz was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 1983 after rejoining Moxy, and the band fell apart. The reunited around 1999, eventually recording their excellent fifth album “V” around 2000 and a the live album “Raw” in 2002. Earl Johnson still has the band together with all-new members who released “Still Riding High” (re-recordings) and a live album in 2015. For more information, check out their website at moxyofficial.