After all of the advance hoopla regarding this late-seventies vintage New York band (thanks to Russell Desmond of CAN'T BUY A THRILL fame), you can bet that I was hoping Flamingo Road's reunion disque would turn out to be a classic GREAT AMERIGAN ROCK 'N ROLL ALBUM worthy of the Sidewinders and Hackamore Brick (two aggregates mentioned in Desmond's review of Flamingo Road's CBGB audition way back '77 way), or at least something relatively akin to a hot late-sixties punk rev with just the right touch of metallic electricity to give it that all-important propulsion. Well, after some careful thought and a number of heated spins, all I gotta say is that THIS CHANGING TOWN is just as hotcha a platter that I was hoping for, and who knows, with perhaps a few more plays I might just rank it up there with the aforementioned classics as well as a few eighties brave attempts by the Droogs and scant others whom you might read about in these pages in the near future, but don't exactly hold your breath ($$$ concerns, y'know).
With hefty roots in mid-sixties English Invasion, Flamingo Road take their influences and pound 'em into a sound that comes off strikingly seventies without 'em lookin' like imitators or even emulators...imagine the Zombies, Nashville Teens, Gary and the Pacemakers or even Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas transposed to late-seventies New York City and maybe you'll get at least a li'l drift. Moments of pop brilliance abound (Flamingo Road do sound pretty New Jersey proto-power pop at times) and perhaps the Sidewinders/Brick comparisons do transpire on tracks like "Forgery", a slow and burning-ly intense number that has various elements originally spotted in such bona fide hits as "Moonshine" (Sidewinders) and "Peace Has Come" (Brick). Thankfully the guys in Flamingo Road didn't bother to pay attention to a load of the then-current trends overtaking the music scene which is why this 'un does hold up strikingly well long after rock 'n roll had ceased to be that International Youth Language Jymn Parrett was telling us it was back in the days of his DENIM DELINQUENT in the mid-seventies.
Too short (clocks in at 25 minutes), but I really don't care even with the occasional shortcomings (including a song titled after the band which is a glaring remake of "Tobacco Road"!) because THIS CHANGING TOWN's a definite go-gettum and (dare I say?) even a highlight of a year that I thought had little goin' for it in the first place!
Andy West with Rama-RAMA 1 CD (Magna Carta)
No, I never was whatcha'd call a fan of the Dixie Dregs nor the new progressive metal nor any of the former Dregs/Winger/Zappa/Malmsteen alumni who appear on what I've been told is more or less a solo outing from this ex-Dregs bassist issued back '02 way. However, since I'm always looking for hooks to reel me in to listening to a certain music, and I recall how West/Rama actually did a gig promoting this platter at the long-gone CB's 313 Gallery (a strange place for such a loud, electronic act to perform), and how I clung to what was goin' on at the three CBGB spaces up until their closing because I believed (and still do!) that CB's was one of if not the last connection we all had to a seventies kultur manifesting itself so late in the game well... Let's just say that I'm still curious as to what was transpiring at the club on that fateful night in 2002 when this act made its way to a stage that seemed more attuned to singer/songwriters, toned down amerindie mewls and perhaps a free jazz attack or two, but at least this platter helps.
Not-so-surprisingly, this mostly-instrumental outing's way more engaging than the various Dregs et. al. musings I've heard ever since those guys began getting hefty press in the pages of the same pubs that were pumping Travolta travails until even that became too embarrassing to do. At least to my clogged ears RAMA 1's a dark and intense moderne hard rock romp, kinda like the instrumental MX-80 tracks heard since the eighties only with synths added to give the proceedings a particulary cyborg tone that does appeal. Nothing offensive here, in fact it's all pretty much hard 'n gnarly with perhaps some jazz cliches tossed in to commercialize this album as if it was ever gonna sell like hotcakes in the first place. But despite that RAMA 1 is about as androidal as anything in the post-Chrome/Industrial music genre that one could want these days. Heck, at times this even reminds me of Japanese bass/drums duo Ruins who themselves have been taking the heavy metal/industrial trip to heights that even give me the creeps at times.
Nice li'l surprise ya got here, West! And really, if Capricorn had plunged their dollars into an act like this 'stead of that cornpone Jimmy Carter back in '76 then maybe we wouldn't've hadda endure alla that sissified Southern Rock crap that they were permeating the seventies with, eh? (OK Eddie Flowers...calm down!!! Don't take it so seriously!!!).
Funny what things you'll find when cleaning your closet out, though as far as being "funny" goes this particular platter is far from high-larious. Sent to me eons back by a certain fan and follower of BTC (no names, but I will hint around by saying that this fellow left the safe confines of Ameriga quite awhile back for the wild frontiers of New Zealand), this was recommended due to an alleged Nico feeling circa CHELSEA GIRL that I guess was supposed to ooze straight outta the platter...that I cannot deny, but frankly what made that particular longplayer such a dandy wasn't exactly the glop strings and lilting flute, but Nico's natural decadent charms that (at the time) could only come out of a late-sixties New York Warhol frame of mind 'stead of an England that still longed for the moral guidance and vision of a Queen Victoria.
SONGS FOR THE GENTLE MAN has none of that, and in fact sounds more like typical early-seventies mellow wallow that really keyed into the ever-buddin' sense of introspective lurch that was affecting youth at the time. Maybe if it had more of a bite to it I could feign appreciation, but otherwise forgive me if I, to use another phrase of those days, just don't want to get involved.
Gotta admit that I was having trouble looking for a fourth disque to round this post out, and in fact I had even spun a certain bootleg of worth about half way through before I remembered that I already wrote the thing up way back in 2004! Well, it was a good platter but anyway, after that debacle I decided it was the Rock-A-Teens or bust because I just knew that I hadn't mentioned this '59 wowzer to just about ANYONE for at least a good fifteen years.
And this 1995 reissue on the Sparkletone label is a must have, not only for this mid-South act's smasheroo hit "Woo Hoo" but for the entire knotty pine basement fun of it all. Yes, one spin of this classic will show all of those fifties-haters (read: hippoids who loathe the post-World War II/pre-radical era because it was so stable, secure and fun---if you weren't a jerkoff pinko that is!) the high quality of post-rockabilly garageisms being made during the late-Eisenhower era, and if you so dare do disagree I'm sure that Morris Levy coulda sent a few guys over to your house to, uh, make you change your mind. Or at least make you an offer you couldn't refuse, to use a much-loved cliche from my grade school days.
There ain't a duff track on this spinner...even the slow schmoozers like "I'm Not Afraid" as well as the purposefully clunk-laden "Untrue" soar so high, but that may only be because the drek we've been forced to listen to these past four decades would even make King Crimson sound like the Stooges in comparison. But it all goes down smooth-like, from the twangy darkness of "Pagan" to "Oh My Nerves" not to mention the Gene Vincent cover "Dance to the Bop" which has them lyrics about "pickin' 'em up and layin' 'em down" which I'm surprised never did get any of 'em banned in Boston.
Not only that, but you get those studio track outtakes that originally popped up on another mid-South sampler whose name escapes me (and I even have it in my vast colleciton somewhere...drat!) as well as a mono take of the exact same album if you're that much of a comparative shopper! And as far as the rest of the package goes...well, it's pretty nice though considering this release's importance it shoulda had a little more care put into it, with a nice booklet just bursting with pictures and posters and all sortsa whimsy we've come to appreciate from these well-researched endeavors. You might also notice that the liner notes look mighty familiar and they should, since they originally appeared in a long-gone issue of KICKS which only goes to show you the budget conscious nature of the folks at Sparkletone! Sheesh, I know we all have to cut corners and make best with what he have within our grasps, but even I gotta say this is ridiculous!