CD Reviews: Review of Red Rocker's Redeemables #1- The Smithereens, The Animals, Various Artists: Songs of Warren Zevon

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Click here to buy yourself a copy from Buy your copy from The Smithereens Anthology:
From Jersey it Came!
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And finally, it did come! Twenty years after breaking onto the south Jersey scene, one of the great black and bruised bands of the day tenders their career-spanning compilation, a tremendous two-disc set of hits, live recordings and rare demos. From the unmistakable opening bass line of "Blood and Roses" to the raucous live cut "White Castle Blues" to Springsteen's "Downbound Train," The Smithereens pour it out here, the only way they've ever known. As one of the very few significant bands to remain in tact, all four members, from the beginning, these guys never came close to garnering the recognition they deserved. Pat DiNizio's songwriting borrows from The Beatles, Beach Boys and The Kinks, and ultimately infected the likes of Marshall Crenshaw, Hoodoo Gurus and Gin Blossoms.

The Beatles abound on tracks like "Strangers When We Meet" and "Time and Time Again," but The Smithereens never stay in one space for very long. Instead, they shift from Rockabilly to Soul to over-the-top classic rock, ala Van Halen, as on the Top-40 smash "A Girl Like You." A superb and yet tragically ignored career is all here. For the younger fan who appreciates British Invasion-fused alternative rock, the kind that early R.E.M. aspired to, consider opening your collection to this anthology. Warning: Categorically describing The Smithereens to your friends might be a bitch!

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In the mid-1960s, Eric Burdon and The Animals blazed their British path across the Atlantic, erecting the stadium of gritty, invigorating rock n' roll for Jim Morrison to eventually burn down. Sporting lovable mop-tops like another well-known foursome from the same 'hood and banging out contagious, big-beat anthems like "It's My Life" and "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," these foolhardy lads came and went before they even had time to leave a piss stain. Alan Price's cross organ, not to be mistaken for Ray Manzarek, filled their signature "House of the Rising Sun" with life and stamped The Animals forever in the history books.

Truth be known, however, much of The Animals' popular catalog was not original Eric Burdon writings. Some of their best-known songs (John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" and Nina Simone's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood") were borrowed works, a practice quite common to that era. Nonetheless, Burdon applied that awe-inspiring blues wail with Hilton Valentine's guitar hooks and Price's keyboard to cement a sound that defied the band's brief tenure and transcended time. In the end, they provided modern-day troubadours like Billy Corgan with a calling.

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Enjoy Every Sandwich- Songs of Warren Zevon
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Once the great Warren Zevon passed on last year from lung cancer, one could say it was a foregone conclusion that we would see this kind of tribute. After all, the guy had more friends in this business than anyone. Longtime cohort and fellow songwriter Waddy Wachtel posts here and, although the working title (Enjoy Every Sandwich) is possibly the goofiest ever, he helps to merge the past with the present. Highlights include a capricious take on "Reconsider Me" by Steve Earle, a beautiful run through "Splendid Isolation" from Pete Yorn, and Jackson Browne flat nailing "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" with the oh-so-proficient Bonnie Raitt.

For as natural a fit as "Lawyers, Guns and Money" is for Jakob Dylan and his Wallflowers, I have to believe the pitch-drunk Billy Bob Thornton ("The Wind") is only enlisted here as a gesture of friendship. Who honestly holds this guy in serious musical regard? Bob Dylan offers up a very worthy version of "Mutineer" and Bruce Springsteen makes good on "My Ride's Here," both tracks performed live in concert. So, as you can see, the gang's all here! Zevon's pals are dully assembled for a timely and fitting eulogy to a man who fell too early but left one hell of a legacy.

~Red Rocker