CD Review of Johnny Comes Marching Home by The Del-Lords
The Del-Lords: Johnny Comes Marching Home
Recommended if you like
The Pogues, Black 47,
Bruce Springsteen
American Beat Records
The Del-Lords:
Johnny Comes
Marching Home

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

lthough the Del-Lords were decidedly of their era, they also retained the brashness and urgency associated from the punk movement that had sprung up in the decade before. However, by the time the band’s second album, Johnny Comes Marching Home, arrived, they had tempered that approach somewhat, thanks in large part to the production assistance of Pat Benatar’s husband and musical colleague Neil Geraldo, who imbued the band with a glossier sheen. Regardless, as the title indicated, the band were still in fighting form and while the sound seemed more commercially palatable, it resonated with the authoritative stance and resounding implosion that distinguished their militant approach from the beginning.

Listening to it now, Johnny Comes Marching Home comes across as feisty as ever, with a rousing sound and anthemic songs that comfortably call to mind Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band. Much of the album parlays the same tone, and when it comes to such songs as "Heaven," "Love Lies Dying," "Soldier’s Home," "Ever Lovin’" and "Against My Will," the defiance can scarcely be suppressed. If there is any variation in the material, it’s minor at best, coming in the form of a rare but driving instrumental, "Drug Deal," and the double-time shuffle, "Dream Come True." Still, in its original incarnation, the album boasted the type of street-savvy, full on intensity that marked their initial album, Frontier Days.

The fact that the band remained so consistent, even early on, comes as something of a surprise, in fact, owing not only to Geraldo’s involvement, but also to the fact that the band’s relationship with their label, EMI, was in flux at the time. According to new notes penned by the band’s leader, ex-Dictators guitarist Scott Kempner, the group was initially dropped by the company, only to be reinstated after a plea deal. Even so, while the album attracted initial interest, the group was destined to remain on the fringes of broader success. Two more albums, a live EP and a best-of package, completed their catalogue. Kempner and fellow guitarist Eric "Roscoe" Ambel went on to moderately successful solo careers and the band eventually folded in 1991.

If nothing else, then, the reissue of Johnny Comes Marching Home serves as a suitable requiem, and boosted by bonus tracks there’s that much more incentive to revisit it now. Three of the extras are something of a surprise – "Some Summer," "Obsessed with Marry" and "Mickey Paid For What Mickey Done" in particular – each boasting a sound that has more in common with the Beach Boys than these Brooklyn boys. Alternate takes of two album tracks, "St. Jake" and "True Love," vary only slightly from the original versions, but provide good reason to give a second listen. The same could be said of the album as a whole.

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