Can't Revive What You Never Lost
BluesDuke | Las Vegas, Nevada | 03/21/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Fleshtones had too many parallel passions---and knew exactly what to do with every last one of them---to be dismissable as mere garage rock revivalists. In the middle of what they used to call New Wave, the Fleshtones must have confused a few too many people. Their rhythm section belonged as much to 1960s soul (and as much to the Rascals as Stax) as it did the classic garage bands to whom they were (and still are) usually aligned. Lead singer Peter Zaremba sounded as though he spent at least as much time learning from the Yardbirds' Keith Relf as from the Seeds' snarling Sky Saxon (he was probably the most elementary harmonica blower since Relf, too), while his keyboard sounds may have exhumed the vintage cheeseball Farfisa/Vox but rarely burred their way too far afront the backbeat. Lead guitarist Keith Streng sounded as though he owed as much to Steve Cropper as he did to any fuzz-box-bending punk down the block or sneaking into an Electric Prunes session. And the whole thing had a patina that hinted without reaching all the way to power pop. (They were simply too energetic and unapologetic for that.) The Fleshtones, in short, plopped all those ingredients into a rock and roll Mixmaster and didn't seem to object that not every speed was the high speed for driving attachments.
It made (and still does) for incandescent rock and roll and should have made for incandescent commercial success. Except that the Fleshtones were (and remain) too far short of the smugger-than-thou implosiveness of punk (and, later, grunge) and too far divorced from dance music's early 1980s descent into faceless automatonism. Their music was (and remains) too steeped in the idea that rock and roll has a history to be enhanced, not nostalgised. You can't revive what you never let go of in the first place. And they still crank it out today, sounding (not to mention writing and covering) like anything except a bunch of aging wretches living on the past.
But if you want to get your hands and ears on what made their name in the first place, this is going to have to do until their entire IRS catalog (which has been out of print for years) is unearthed and remastered. Come to think of it, you're almost there with this set, anyway---everything from "Roman Gods" is here except for "Chinese Kitchen," and that's a loss. (Dare yourself to think of anyone else who could imagine the Yardbirds as surf music, which is exactly the way "Chinese Kitchen" sounds.) On the other hand, you get most of their best early music ("Fleshtone '77," "R-I-G-H-T-S," "Roman Gods," "The World Has Changed," "Hope Come Back") and the single best soul cover of their time, their rip-snorting remake of Lee Dorsey's "Ride Your Pony" (written by Aaron Neville, a minor hit amidst Dorsey's ongoing inability to nail anything as popular as "Ya-Ya"), on which they achieve what only a very few (including the Beatles' "Twist and Shout," incidentally) have managed: they bury the original beneath the ocean floor. Add to that the six best songs from "Hexbreaker" and a couple of more delicious odds and ends, and this should hold you very nicely until that IRS catalog is resurrected.
"It's Super-Rock Time!" has the virtue of living up to its self-congratulatory title. Their fans have been saying that on the threshold of Fleshtones shows for years. Maybe the rest of rock and roll will catch on at last."
Because of Roman Gods
Christina Young | Philadelphia, PA USA | 05/20/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't think I can even adequately express how much I love the Fleshtones' Roman Gods record. I bought it when it came out on vinyl on the back of a favorable review in one of the music magazines I was reading at the time, played it relentlessly and then bought it on cassette tape to play in my car. Several years ago I found what purported to be a European release of the album on CD for sale on one of the rare CD sites for $100 and yes, I bought it. This is a really great collection but when you are used to hearing songs in a certain order because you have been listening to an album for over 25 years, you can't help wanting it to be just like that album. So, I would have preferred if it were in the order of Roman Gods followed by the other tracks which are also great. But I absolutely give it five stars because of the quality of the art. It is first cabin."
We've been waiting! Not dead yet!
BP | New York | 04/02/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've been waiting, anyway, for more than 20 years, for a CD release of Fleshtones' favorite and first IRS records, the LP Roman Gods and the EP Up-Front. Still a few tracks from those missing (as well as the original covers and playing order) but it will have to do, since it seems that everybody who saw them in early on will have to die first before those records are reissued. This CD also mixes in music from Hexbreaker and beyond. But really, we had to wait for and be thankful to an Australian label, nearly 30 years later, to release this great American rock and roll. Fleshtones rule!"