Saturday, August 05, 2006

WOUNDED BIRD: Successfully catering to middle-aged fan of also-ran & third tier hard rock bands

Wounded Bird is a budget reissue label that has been working the dregs of American and British hard rock, 70-80's style. They specialize in cheaply priced back catalog material too marginal to keep the interest of the mega-conglomerate labels that minted it. They provide just what was enough to make you buy the originals -- the bare recording and minimal album art.

Wounded Bird doesn't inflate their reissues with 'bonus cuts' that were originally left in the studio. They know the records such as this were meant to be under forty five minutes. That's the way I bought 'em and that's the way I want to listen to 'em. I don't want the Who's Live at Leeds ruined with another sixty minutes that subtracts from its original brief and brutal power. Imagine it inflated from two sides to an indigestible six, which is exactly what was done for the CD 'deluxe' version.

I assume the company makes the runs profitable on the undersellers by not having to pay much, if anything, in the way of royalties to the bands, acts which probably signed away all their publishing rights decades ago.

Dick Destiny had vinyl for a lot of the acts Wounded Bird resurrects but lost almost all of them in the great purge of 2000. I had stored my vinyl collection at the old homestead in Pennsylvania and when I made a call to make arrangements to retrieve it to California, my mother, who was well into brain atrophy caused by dementia, informed me she had thrown them out.

Dementia brings out the worst in people and it did so in my mother. It boiled her down to the inner kernel that was her being. She imagined (and imagines) things that never happened and as the disease dissolved her, the only thing left was an inexplicable and corrosive rage, one that had accompanied her through life, and which my brother and I learned to endure as "normal."

With the rage went a desire to get even with people. And since the only people left in her life to get even with were family . . .

So, at some point, she imagined I had told her to throw away all my records. It was insane. But she had always hated my love of rock 'n' roll and, by extension, the record collection. Her mind furnished the delusion and she had someone come to the house and dispose of several thousand records.

That makes me just the right demographic for Wounded Bird.

And, conveniently, they've made reissues of a number of CDs in the past few years which coincide with favorites that were liquidated without profit by my mother.

I've written on some of these.

Loudness: Circumsized, down & dirty is on a Japanese metal band. And I would be distraught without The bad texas bees, Point Blank, an odious but supremely entertaining Texas boogie band that advocated the Republican values of eating pills, less taxes and being mean to women.

Not reviewed but appreciated was the early Brownsville Station catalog. The best of the bunch is Yeah with the hit, "Smokin' In the Boys Room." No B.S., their debut, featuring crazy man drummer T.J. Cronley, who was claimed to be the template for Ted Nugent's arena-busting stage persona in the 70's, is also fun-with-a-capital-F hard rock record.

If you're like me then you don't need to be told this stuff. I'm betting if this is the case, you already have a copy Foghat's Boogie Motel, issued a couple weeks ago on Wounded Bird.

Boogie Motel was the last good Foghat record. At the time ,they were being chipped away at by the label to come up with something more marketable with disco, New Wave and punk rock. Most hard rock bands weren't up to the challenge.

The challenge was not to change style, but to stick to your guns and get laid off rather than make records that alienated your core constituency.

Boogie Motel was the last Foghat record for fanatics.

Also in release this year were More's two albums, Warhead and Blood & Thunder. More were British and were loved even less in their homeland than here. For Warhead, in America they were coupled with Brownsville Station's management and production team. It ensured the album would have a souped-up hard rock sound that almost fit commercially. You can plunk it on before or after late period Brownsville Station records, or mid-period Blackfoot (which also had the same production team) and the sonics merge. All of these records came out of Al Nalli's Subterranean recording studio in Michigan and they had what can be called the "Nalli sound."

The "Nalli sound" was thick guitars, hard rock drumming, and vibrant blues-shout singers, all glued together in a warmly compressed mix that meant pretty good value for dollar to the guys, like me, who went enthusiastically for second and third tier bands.

Warhead had its title cut, about a nuclear tipped missile. "Soldier" was timeless. "Merciless . . . KILLER!" wailed singer Paul Day. Mute the TV and play it loud while watching the evening news. Imagine it as inspirational music in the cockpits of bombers on their final runs on the objective.

Although Day was gone by Blood & Thunder, he gave it his all for Warhead, capping the performance with the philosophical, "I Have No Answers." Warhead is something of a theme record 'though I'm not sure the band meant for it to be so single-minded in its blue collar nihilism.

The Gooze was also a fan of More. Indeed, it was he who originally tipped Dick Destiny on the band. You can read his enthusiasm for More and others here.


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