CD Review of Based on a True Story by The Del-Lords
The Del-Lords: Based on a True Story
Recommended if you like
The BoDeans, The Cruzados,
Brian Setzer
American Beat/re-release
The Del-Lords:
Based on a True Story

Reviewed by R. David Smola


his is more like it: American Beat has gone from bare-bones reissues of lost gems to creating must have re-packages. This version contains the original record, new liner notes from band founder and songwriter Scott Kempner, and five bonus tracks. Based was the Del-Lords’ third record and the second in a row to be produced by Neil Geraldo, the guitarist and husband of Pat Benatar. He allowed the band to express that jangly, edgy side, but added enough refinement to make it easier on the ear and buff out the noise. "Judas Kiss," their near hit, is as poppy as they got, and featured the background voices of Mrs. Geraldo and Syd Straw. It has the energy of Stray Cats rockabilly combined with the bluesy bar swagger of the Georgia Satellites.

"River of Justice" begins with a brief sermon from the good reverend Mojo Nixon (who also appears at the end of the track) before moving into a bluesy swing with a vampy lead vocal delivered by Kempner complete with a huge chorus led by Syd Straw. It’s plain old fun. "Cheyenne" features a different kind of singing from Kempner in which he delivers a straight ahead love song. Try to listen to this stuff without wanting to tap your toes or sing along – this track sounds as if it could have been released on a BoDeans record. "Poem of the River" is a song that Kempner claims to have cliffed from Alan Ginsberg, but it has a Springsteen-like feel in the emphasis on guitar and voice. Benatar steals the track with some terrific supplemental vocals and harmonies before it ends in a nice little chugging jam with keyboards and drums. "The Cool and the Crazy," which sounds just a bit like a sped-up "Gloria," features the album’s best guitar soloing and another set of memorable backing vocals turned in by Kim Shattuck and the late Karen Blankfield of the Pandoras.

Although this record is edgier in places, it is reminiscent of another ignored gem from around the same time, the Cruzados’ After Dark. Released one year apart (After Dark in 1987 and True Story in 1988) both records – and bands – should have been bigger, but changing tastes and trends conspired against these two terrific albums. Both contain excellent songwriting, wonderful production and great guest performances, but neither brought the bands the attention they deserved. Take a little of Springsteen’s earthiness, some of the Stray Cats’ energy, the charm of the BoDeans and the sleazy fun of the Georgia Satellites, and you have one hell of a record in Based on a True Story. Three cheers – and four and a half stars – to American Beat for giving this record a fabulous re-release.

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