Sam & Dave: Hold On, I’m Coming + Double Dynamite & Soul Men + I Thank You (CD, 2012)

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sam-dave-edsel-twoferLike I’m sure many people of my age, who were born after the soul duo Sam & Dave split, I was introduced to their music via the movie The Blues Brothers. In my mind, that scene where Elwood and Jake drive at night and listen to Sam & Dave is nothing short of iconic in a minor way. Long before I knew what soul was or who sang it, I loved the song based on that short excerpt.

Edsel Records released a two-volume set containing four albums from the duos’ heyday. Here are basically all of their hits and additional single-only bonus tracks and such. These are no budget releases, either, so included are thick booklets with plenty of photos and informative liner notes, both volumes containing separate 4000-word essays. In every way, these are companion releases that are meant to be enjoyed together.

The music is soul at its best; all right, I admit I’m no kind of expert on soul, but still, I’ve yet to encounter a soul artist I like better. Especially the classics, such as Soul ManHold On, I’m Coming and Soothe Me are essential, but there’s plenty of other awesome songs here, such as Soul Sister, Brown Sugar from the bonus tracks off the second volume.

I don’t think there’s much point in dissecting the music since everything that’s to be said about Sam & Dave has already been said by wiser people than me. All I’m going to say in conclusion is,  that as full-price anthologies go, these are definitely worth the money in every way.

And check those moves in the video below…

Rebel Meets Rebel: s/t (CD, 2006)

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REBEL MEETS REBEL stRecorded in the years before the unfortunate and premature death by shooting of Pantera guitar legend Dimebag Darrell, this collaboration between two legends in their own fields of music wasn’t released until a couple of years after Darrells’ death as a sort of tribute. One could be forgiven if they made the mistake of thinking this is a cheap cash-in on the demand for anything Darrell-related that was all the rage then. Even here in Finland, they had endless Dimebag Forever -tribute tours, sheesh. However, when Pantera (minus vocalist Phil Anselmo) and outlaw country badass David Allan Coe joined forces, the result wasn’t some kind of second rate throwaway crap. Not in the least.

For those not in the know, a collaboration between Pantera and David Allan Coe might seem unlikely. But it’s really not. For one, I am certain that as southerners, the boys in Pantera had been subjected to David Allan Coe’s brand of outlaw country since a young age, and those who know more than Coe’s few big hits know that he was one of the first country musicians to dabble in harder music. In fact, he has a handful of tracks that could be dubbed genuine country hard rock. So it sort of makes sense that these guys would get together in the studio and knock out some tunes.

Musically, this is heavy as fuck southern rocking metal with a lot of deadly groove and heavy, chugging riffing. Literally, Pantera putting on a deadly ZZ Top groove. David Allan Coe brings in country credibility to the album, his voice suiting the slightly country-tinted southern metal better than one might expect. All in all, what looks like an unlikely alliance and bad on paper turns out quite well in reality. There’s no real classic tracks here, and Rebel Meets Rebel is not an album destined for the annals of metal milestones (let alone country milestones), but I doubt anyone involved had that in mind. What Rebel Meets Rebel sounds like, and probably is, is a couple of musicians having fun in the studio, teaching each other tricks and just enjoying hammering out songs that aren’t quite at home in either artists’ own style.

Ten years after its release, Rebel Meets Rebel seems to have fallen into almost complete obscurity. Few Pantera fans I’ve talked to even know it exists. This is a shame, because it is a nice little footnote in the history of both Pantera and David Allan Coe.

Rainbow: Pot Of Gold (CD, 2002)

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RAINBOW pot of goldRainbow is one of those hard rock/heavy metal mammoths whose line-up read a bit like a who’s who of 70’s heavy rock music. The two most known members are of course band leader, lead guitar player and all-around heavy rock legend Ritchie Blackmore, and legendary vocalist Ronnie James Dio, but other members such as Roger Glover and Don Airey have CV’s that are no less impressive, including names such as Deep Purple, Ozzy Osbourne, Saxon and so on.

I know many will disagree with me here, but I think that in all honesty, Rainbow is much less than the sum of its parts. Considering the musicians involved and how talented they are, the contents of this compilation are frankly a bit underwhelming. Even Ronnie James Dio sounds somehow subdued, not at his best; he would reach his true pinnacle some years after his stint with Rainbow, when he released his two first albums with Black Sabbath and his first solo albums. And as for Blackmore; from a guitar player of his stature, one would expect more than the rather forgettable riffs presented on this compilation of tracks.

The liner notes say that Rainbow was, back in the day, perceived as something of a final home for hard rock has-beens, where mammoths go to die, and listening to Pot Of Gold, that doesn’t sound too far off. Decent hard rock by-the-numbers is not what you’d expect from musicians who’ve created the long list of classics in their discography.

Patti Smith: Land (1975-2002) (2CD, 2002)

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Nobody with their sanity intact would question the impact Patti Smith has had on rock music and her rightful status as an icon. Still, I’ve never really gotten into her music and as such I think I’m the kind of person who’d be satisfied with a thorough double disc cut-through of her career. Alas, Land is not the collection I am looking for.

Really, I wonder who is the target audience of this anthology. The first disc contains essential classics such as Dancing Barefoot and Rock N Roll Nigger: the kind of stuff us casual listeners want to have but devoted fans will already have on the original albums. The second disc, on the other hand, contains demo tracks and live recordings, or the kind of stuff a casual listener such as I won’t give a rats’ ass about, but long-time fans would be interested in. So it’s a case of something for everybody turning into not enough for anybody

As far as the music goes, the first disc has a lot of good content but the second disc is full of trivial and uninteresting stuff for me. Not worth the price of a double disc release in other words, unless you find it on heavy discount.

Pale Roses: The Rutted Road (CD, 2012)

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PALE ROSES rutted roadOf the many zen-like questions in the world, one of the more esoteric ones is “what is the sound of a slightly homosexual slipper singing?” Really, this is the stuff of advanced spiritual studies. Or of listening to French neofolk-act Pale Roses.

So, Pale Roses in a nutshell is rather appalling singing that sounds like a homosexual slipper over a backing of pointless acoustic meandering and lyrics that often border on the ludicrous. Even diehard fans of the genre have to admit that neofolk, as brilliant as it is when all things fall into place, often teeters on the brink of ludicrous self-parody. Pale Roses crosses that line well and truly, and probably completely unintentionally which makes it all the more appropriate. Truth be told, I’m a bit surprised anyone could bear listening through to 51 minutes of this stuff and then decide to pay good money to release it.

Overlord Industries: Pissingonanazi.com (CDr, 2004)

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I think this is the Swedish trios’ final release, or at least the last one I have. Finally the band have well and truly found their calling and venture into areas that can be called experimental, such as adding trombone to the mix. This is discordant, deliberately slightly out of tune, out of synch blackened death metal sludge that feels… well, wrong. Not in the sense that the band would have fucked up, but that they’ve managed to find a way to skew things just a bit out of balance.

It’s definitely not bad as demos go, and clearly the best output of the band. It’s a shame the band fizzled out just as they started to consolidate their own sound.

Overlord Industries: Superunderground Vehicle (2004, CDr)

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Where the Swedish trios’ second demo, Wissen, Kreativität Und Macht, was musically the low point of their career but saw the band discover their concept, the third demo sees them discover a working musical approach. Where the first demo was something of a chaotic and discordant mix of extreme metal styles, Superunderground Vehicle focuses the style into a mix of black, thrash and death metal that does not forsake the inhumanly industrialized (but not industrial!) feel of the second demo.

If the musical mix is a more conventional one than on the second demo, the bands’ approach to these styles is still not quite conventional. It’s neither progressive nor particularly experimental, it’s just personal. There’s a touch of sludge and discordant noisiness here that adds a little extra to the rather conventional guitarwork, and the drumming breaks the mould a bit. For the most part, the band also stick to a broken mid-pace approach, which works for Overlord Industries.

Somewhat twisted, decidedly un-human and rusty, Superunderground Vehicle is the first major step in a right direction for the Swedish trio. Sadly, the band would not stick around for much longer to evolve into their full potential.

Overlord Industries: Wissen, Kreativität Und Macht (CDr, 2004)

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For Swedish Overlord Industries, their second demo was both a defining moment and their lowest point if you ask me. The chaos that the first demo at times was becomes condensed into a budding musical vision, but at the same time, purely musically, it is their blandest and weakest output in their career spanning four demos.

The word here is mechanical. Not industrial, but mechanical. The overarching feel of the demo is one of cold metallic displacement, alienation from everything human and organic. Not a mean feat considering the band did not use electronics or a drum machine!

Musically, there’s less of the black and death metal that was present on the first demo, instead there’s tendency towards clinical sludge with occasional discordant noise rock overtones and slowed-down thrash. The result is, sadly, much less appealing than the first demo was during its best moments. So, ultimately, the second demo was simultaneously a step forward and a step back for the Swedish trio.

Overlord Industries: Die Konspiracy Of The Midi Drum Translator (CDr, 2003)

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Overlord Industries from Sweden were another band I became familiar with through the webzine I ran at the time. I think I received all of their demos for review, and was at one time in sporadic contact with one of the members, Patrik, who even ended up drawing the cover artwork for the second issue of the occult ambient/metal ‘zine I did two issues of (or maybe I used something he drew earlier? Can’t remember). I also remember I did two interviews with the band, one for the webzine and a second one for the aforementioned paper ‘zine.

One would be forgiven if he thought Overlord Industries were (are?) a joke band based on the title of this demo, but they weren’t. But I think it is safe to say they had an odd sense of humour. However, oddities and joking aside, from the start Overlord Industries were a rather ambitious band who refused to fit into any convenient niché. This demo is a combination of many different styles packaged into an overarching style that can only be described by the loose term of extreme metal: there’s death metal,  grindcore, some sludge-elements, and discordant tone that’s not too far from noise rock.

Let down by a flat production, this demo presents a band determined to tread their own path, but still not even nearly mature enough to do that and write memorable music.

Out Of Luck: Greetings From Outbackville (CD, 2011)

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outofluck-greetingsfromoutbackville_1There’s really not much to say about Out Of Luck. Basically, they’re a German three-piece playing the most generic, uninventive, unoriginal, uninteresting and mediocre psychobilly around. They’re too generic to even be bad, and in this case, that’s a bad thing because Out Of Luck are too nondescript to leave even the smallest memory imprint. All you remember is listening to run-of-the-mill psychobilly boiled down and condensed only to the worst clichés of the genre; a bit of rockabilly guitar with a harder edge, a prominent slapping bass… the whole lot.

Certainly one of the most pointless albums in my collection. Luckily I got this as a promo so I didn’t have to pay a single penny for it.