July 20, 1994
Pretenders, Last of the Independents (Sire 1994) -- Last of the Independents finds Pretenders founding members Chrissie Hynde (vocals and guitar) and Martin Chambers (drums) reunited for the first time in nearly a decade. The product from this straight-ahead foursome (completed by ex-Katydids guitarist Adam Seymour and ex-Primitives bassist Andy Hobson) is vintage Pretenders; classic rock themes, catchy melodies, and solid guitar work.
On Last of the Independents, lead singer Chrissie Hynde, a 38 year-old London native and mother of two, continues her reign as the best female rock vocalist in the business. When Chrissie gets in front of a band with a strong guitarist, no one can stop her [as also shown by her fabulous work with Mood Swings and at Bob Fest (the Bob Dylan 1992 tribute concert in New York City)]. Chrissie's pithy advice to other women rockers includes the following: "Shave your legs...Try not to have a sexual relationship within the band...Don't think that sticking your boobs out and trying to look fuckable will help. Remember, you're in a rock 'n roll band; it's not 'fuck me,' it's 'fuck you'!"
By way of history, the Pretenders burst onto the scene with their self-titled debut album (1979), which contained the hit single, "Brass in Pocket." While the band's third album, Learning to Crawl (1982) contained their biggest hits ("Back on the Chain Gang" and "2,000 Miles"), the band began to disintegrate when founding members Pete Farndon and ace guitarist James Honeyman Scott died of drug overdoses in the early 80s.
Although Chrissie struggled to hold the group together while wrestling with her own feelings about these deaths, the group soon lost its spark. By the time I saw the Pretenders live (while in law school), they sucked. Chrissie was still cool, but her band had no zip.
Fortunately, the new line-up restores vitality to the group. From the hard rocking "I'm a Mother" to the radio friendly "Night in My Veins," Last of the Independents shows Chrissie in top form; singing songs about love, relationships, and rebellion in front of a classic four-piece rock band. Chrissie's an expert at her trade, and she'll always keep you rocking. Fuel up your engines and take a spin with Last of the Independents.
Subdudes, Annunciation (High Street Records 1994) -- High Street Records, a division of Windham Hill, has finally encouraged the Subdudes to complete their long-delayed third album, Annunciation. The album, which was recorded in London (with assistance from the renowned producer Glyn Johns) and New Orleans is a distinctive slice of Americana; the group's synthesis of blues, rock, gospel and New Orleans R&B defies easy comparison.
The Subdudes were originally formed in the Crescent City under the name "Continental Drifters". Featuring a sound that the band now calls "loud and a little obnoxious," the group decided to play an acoustic set one night in 1987, and the rest is subdued (cool pun, huh?) history. Despite critical acclaim for their first two releases (the second of which was recorded in Daniel Lanois' New Orleans mansion), the band lacked fan support, and decided to relocate to Colorado.
In Colorado, the quartet has found a welcome reception, and has steadily increased its following. The band, consisting of Tommy Malone on guitar and vocals, John Magnie on accordion, keyboards and vocals, Johnny Ray Allen on bass, and Steve Amedde on tambourine, occasional percussion, and vocals, does not employ a regular drummer; instead, their distinctive acoustic gospel/R&B sound is built around the group's strong harmonies and the sterling slide guitar work of Malone.
As is fitting for High Street Records, the songs on Annunciation are long on adult themes and short on hormonal overdrive; tracks like "Cold Nights" and "It's So Hard" show that the group has experienced life and is ready to discuss it. Despite the religious connotations of the title, Annunciation is not overbearing in its message; rather, the band prefers to allow its rich harmonies and gentle songs to win you over bit by bit.
The best track on the album is "Message Man," in which the band admits that "I'm just the message man/It ain't me cuz there's no news at hand/I'm not the one that's come to set them free/It ain't me, I'm just the message man." The Subdudes' pride in group work is rare (all of the songwriting credits are given collectively to the band), as is their humble humanity. There's something very likeable in Annunciation (particularly the accordion-driven "Message Man," which deserves radio airplay); let's hope the Tower Theater books them for a future gig.
C.C. Adcock, C.C. Adcock, (Island 1994) -- C.C. Adcock, a 22 year-old guitar whiz from Lafayette, Louisiana smokes through his 34-minute self-titled debut disc. With his mix of 50s bop, zydeco, and surf rock, Adcock serves up a potent brew he calls "swamp rock."
Though Adcock is still young, he has toured and/or played with such battle-tested veterans as Buckwheat Zydeco, Bo Didley, King Cotton, and Tommy McLain (Cotton and McLain also make guest appearances on the album). As a result of his rich musical background, Adcock makes a slippery target. The songs on C.C. Adcock range from straightforward doo-wop ballads (such as Art Neville's "I'm Just a Fool to Care") to Bayou-influenced reels ("Kissin' Couzans") with vocals distorted through a fuzz-box.
However, the highlights of the album are "Beaux's Bounce," an instrumental number which sounds like the second coming of Dick Dale, and "Done Most Everything," an almost-perfect bar rocker complete with horn section. With its tribal beat and screaming surf Telecaster guitar, "Beaux's Bounce" is a real kick in the pants; drop down the sunroof and crank it up.
Adcock's recent in-town appearance was abruptly cancelled, denying us the opportunity to savor a live sample of his Louisiana boogie. Nonetheless, if you want a fun summertime party album, find C.C. Adcock.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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