Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Pretty Things "S.F.Sorrow Live In London" EP, "’Honey, I Need’-Live at The 100 Club, December, 2010” b/w "’I Can Never Say’ (demo)”

[GUEST REVIEW BY GENTLEMAN JOHN BATTLES] (Fruits De Mer) "Everybody's Talkin' Bout Those Pretty Things. I say it's still Kosher, when Dickie plays and Philip sings!" The Pretty Things suffered a devastating blow, several years ago, when John Povey and Wally Waller's wives both fell severely ill (as did opener, Arthur Brown's, multi-Instrumentalist) and what would have been the U.S. tour of the year had to be cancelled, at great expense to all involved. This was not the end, however. There will always be England, and there will damn sure always be a Pretty Things to go with it. As James Porter put it, if a nuclear holocaust ever happened, the only things left would be cockroaches and English bands.  On this new EP, the band, once again, revisits their celebrated Psych masterpiece "S.F. Sorrow" but, in a manner not too far removed from their stripped-down R&B roots, in the intimate confines of the 100 Club. Without the entire lineup from their pre-"Tommy" rock opera intact (though I wouldn’t rule out anyone but Twink), key members, lead guitarist Dick Taylor, singer Phil May, and longtime guitarist Frank Holland, are more than ably joined by young guns, Jack Greenwood (not to be mistaken with Jack Green, one-time Pretties guitarist) on drums and George Perez on bass. Skeptics didn’t think this lineup could cut the mustard, but they cut through it, and anything else that gets in their way, like a fucking chainsaw. "S.F. Sorrow is Born" burns brightly, like the deceptive winter sunshine of Chicago. Musically tight, but not at the cost of losing their rough edge, “Sorrow,” and the follow-up "She Says Good Morning," display Phil May's tightrope act between the demure and the deranged. Taylor and Holland display the same twin guitar attack that the Pretties had perfected before Thin Lizzy could ever attempt such alchemy. Greenwood and Perez remain the same standard bearers of savage rhythm as Vivian Prince, when he beat the shit out of that tool box on "Unknown Blues" all those beers ago. The gorgeous, layered group vox the "S.F. Sorrow" lineup is known for is largely replaced by more immediat, two-part harmonies. Every color in the prism of human emotion is reaching for, and attaining, ultra-violent light. "She Says Good Morning" is accentuated by a long, nearly Eastern-flavored psychedelic guitar break. Dick Taylor ("Oh, he's so sweet! He's just like some CAKE!"- Miriam Linna) proves, once again, that Steam Punk never happened with his rare Jules Verne-as-Acid Chemist vocal on "Baron Saturday.” His aggressive Psych riffing (couldn’t we get them to do "Defecting Grey," live, once, if it were for charity) is matched a pummeling percussion that permeates the proceedings. As an added bonus, there's a live version of "Renaissance Faire" (no Steeleye Span action, here) from 1969, set to discordant keyboards and a swirling, broken radio bass leading the Descent into the Maelstrom. I could see the latter day band doing something interesting with this. Te second single was taken from the same show as above (which was billed as a performance of The Pretty Things' debut album in full, plus extras), which almost didn’t happen at all, as opening act, Sir Paul McCartney was taking forever to pack up his gear and leave the venue (read all about it in Mark St. John's liner notes to "SF Sorrow Live"). What can I tell you about "Honey, I Need"? Served up with all the vitriol and pure punkeroo of the original, it's a spiffy, splendid re-introduction to their fans, of The Pretty Things, live, raw and unrepentant. It's a treat, as is the flipside, a 1965 acetate demo of "I Can Never Say" from the eponymous first album. Taking on just a bit of a Country feel, this version brings Phil May's Blues Harp up to the fore, and, believe it or not, Viv Prince's drums rendered almost...subtle. But with a signature boom and crash. I doubt that there's more where IT came from, but a live album from the 100 Club show is in the works.

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