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CD Reviews: Review of Return the Gift by Gang of Four
Thompson Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Entertainment Web Guide

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Gang of Four: Return the Gift (V2 2005)

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Gang of Four is supposedly, well, was supposedly an influential band back in their heyday. Every band has a heyday, however, and success therefore must be measured by something else other than album sales or getting mentioned in “Rolling Stone” for all the kids who weren’t originally there. Ho hum. A new measuring stick is most unlikely this late in the game. The public is comfortable with bite sized histories that are alternately available to read and also be downloaded as a ringtone. Perhaps ringtones are the new stick itself. It’s something to ponder.

Gang of Four went through some different lineups. So many bands do this. No one wants Aerosmith sans Joe Perry. To a (much) lesser degree, no one wants the “P” in ELP to be Cozy Powell. Apparently, Gang of Four suffered in quality when these lineup changes took place. Having not heard these recordings, I will just have to take every other critic’s - as well as the infallible All Music Guide’s – word for it. Anyway, the original band got back together and recorded this, Return the Gift, an album of re-recordings of some of their first albums’ songs in a sort of repair job, as the band was not happy with the sonics of those original recordings.

This idea seems like a waste of time. You cannot recapture any past glories after aging and changing. It is as disposable as a live album. Very few live albums have ever been worth acquiring, and re-recorded old faves are even more of a rip-off in theory. Did anyone even ask Gang of Four’s fans if they wanted this album? Perhaps they do want this album, but they are going to be disappointed. Return the Gift sounds exactly like what it is. That is, some old guys recording some music and lyrics that sound like they couldn’t possibly be coming out of the present. If this were a new band, this album would be written off even more. But we must bow down to influence and history.

Well, sell this pony to someone else, mister, because I’m not impressed. It was all I could do to not fall asleep to the three-track opening that is “To Hell with Poverty,” “Damaged Goods,” and “Natural’s Not In It.” Point blank, if ya want it, this is the first time I’ve even bothered with Gang of Four. Undoubtedly it will be the last. But hey, these things come in the mail, and it’s the duty of this writer to relate the opinions. There will be some hate mail perhaps, accusatory ramblings informing yours truly that he should be reviewing kiddie pop or that he’s bitter, etc. Fans are a funny lot and, more often than not, should be subjected to a touch of the cattle prod and a splash of cold water.

That said, at least Gang of Four should be happy with the production of their new waste of time. It sounds crystal clear and upfront. Thick guitars and vocals loud enough that you won’t miss any of the inane lyrics. Frankly, I don’t need to be taken back in time when a song like “Anthrax” or “We Live as We Dream, Alone” was ever considered remotely entertaining. But the performances, for what they are, do not stumble, so some credit must be given for that. However, that is all the credit this pointless release shall receive. These words must stand as nothing but a wakeup call to the old guard and its tendency to fart one out for the old fans/new generation. Thank Jesus the Rolling Stones never saw fit to go back and re-record their early glories.  

~Jason Thompson 


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