The Second Disc

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Reviews: Three From Real Gone – Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, Jerry Reed and Durocs

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Real Gone Music has become known for its wide-ranging and eclectic releases, and today we’re looking at three of the most recent, from the countrypolitan stylings of Jerry Reed to the rock animals of Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo and the pure pop of The Dūrocs!

Dūrocs, Dūrocs (Real Gone Music RGM-0058, 2012)

Are you ready to hear one of the best albums you’ve never heard?  Then head straight to the pig pen for the first-ever CD release of Dūrocs.  Primarily written and produced by the team of Ron Nagle and Scott Mathews, fun is the order of the day on this 1979 pure pop gem.  Co-produced by Neil Young associate Elliot Mazer, Dūrocs blends tongue-in-cheek humor with a flair for melodic pop songcraft that will appeal to any fan of The Beach Boys, The Beatles or Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.  The album could come with a warning: These songs will get stuck in your head!

Ron Nagle and Scott Mathews found gainful employment as songwriters in the 1970, successfully placing songs with artists ranging from The Tubes to Barbra Streisand.  When the duo set their sights on recording as a band, it was so named for “a breed of pig known for its intelligence and large testicles.”  (Seriously.)  Nagle calls his take on the Philles sound his “Wall of Mud,” and it’s in evidence on the album’s blast of an opener, the tongue-in-cheek “Hog Wild.” But there’s nothing sludgy on this goofily charming rock anthem: “We got the Dūroc stance/But we don’t stand a chance if we do it only half-hearted…hog wild!”)  An authentic Wrecking Crew legend, Steve Douglas, adds his trademark honking saxophone alongside, um, squealing backing vocals!

Douglas’ saxophone adorned many Beach Boys songs, so why not the very Beach Boys-influenced “We Go Good Together,” then?  The catchy, humorous list song with a tropical vibe has a lyric so eccentric that even Brian Wilson would likely have approved: ““We’re just like ham and cheese/Birds and trees/Shoes and socks…”   There’s even a New Wave sheen to “True Love,” which also recalls the best of Todd Rundgren.

The surprisingly earnest ballad “Don’t Let the Dream Die” features yearning Beatle-esque songcraft with ringing guitars and pedal steel played by Mathews (“We’ll never have to worry anymore/Goin’ round in circles/Chasing rainbows ‘til I think I’m gonna drop/Then a little voice inside me says that/Good things never come from giving up”), and “One Day at a Time” is another look at the softer side of Nagle and Mathews’ ouevre.  The raucous, scathing “Seeker (You Be Sucker)” is at the opposite end of the spectrum, turning its lyrical ire towards quasi-spiritual truth-seekers.  It, too, is tempered by a Douglas sax solo!  “Saving It All Up for Larry” is similarly dark; Gene Sculatti’s liner notes reveal that the song “evolved from a true story involving a reluctant miss, her absentee boyfriend and a zealous, deliciously overconfident stalker.”  The lone cover is a choice one: the irresistible “It Hurts to Be in Love,” a hit for Gene Pitney penned by Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller.

The length of the album has been almost doubled, with eight bonus tracks added to the original ten.  The otherwise-copious notes by Gene Sculatti don’t go into much detail about the origin of these tracks, but they’re copyrighted with a 1985 date, and that date sounds about right.  These “bone-us tracks” demonstrate the same melodic facility and fun sensibility as the original album, with a bit more of a “big ‘80s” sound. Highlights include the wryly-titled “Pete Has Got the Power” and the honky-tonk country homage “Drinkin’ One Day at a Time,” with a suitably exaggerated, pathos-filled lyric.  In a rather unexpected cameo, you’ll hear Ernie K-Doe (“Mother-in-Law”) on the most peculiar “Nawgahide.”  As a whole, they’re not as strong a set of songs as the original album, but they round out one of the most purely enjoyable reissues to have emerged of late.  If you prefer your pop with a sixties sensibility and a seventies/power-pop sound, you won’t want to miss Dūrocs.

We check out Jerry Reed and Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo after the jump!

Jerry Reed, The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed/Nashville Underground (Real Gone Music RGM-0063, 2012)

Jerry Reed might be best remembered today for his role in Smokey and the Bandit, the 1977 Burt Reynolds-starring comedy that also featured another notable songwriter, Paul Williams, among its cast.  And although Reed concentrated on his acting pursuits in his later years, the Georgia-born singer, songwriter and guitarist had been recording since the 1950s.  Signed to Capitol in 1954, Reed didn’t find any success with his country and rockabilly sides there.  But a decade later, under the aegis of RCA’s Chet Atkins, Reed established himself a first-rate artist and also helped to revitalize the career of Elvis Presley.  Real Gone has just reissued Reed’s first two RCA albums on CD for the very first time, and these two LPs happen to contain Reed’s first three charting singles.

There’s no concept to these albums from the original “Guitar Man” except to present two collections of great songs, and both records succeed on that level quite well!  Reed’s gee-tar is out front on The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed, and although his burnished voice is no match for, say, Glen Campbell, it was nonetheless full of character.  This is the album that introduced “Guitar Man” as well as “U.S. Male,” both now closely associated with the King of Rock and Roll.  Elvis Presley reportedly heard Reed’s single on the radio, and elected to cover it in Nashville – with Reed reprising his guitar part.  Elvis almost made the Top 40 with his version, but did even better with another Reed song on Unbelievable: “U.S. Male.”  The No. 28 hit became Elvis’ first song to reach the Top 30 in two years’ time.  The rollicking, wild and comical persona of Reed is most evident on this punning song: “Quit watchin’ my woman, for that ain’t wise/You ain’t pullin’ no wool over this boy’s eyes/I catch you ’round my woman, champ/I’m gonna leave your head ’bout the shape of a stamp!”  Reed even takes a dramatic deep breath for effect on the tongue-twisting “Love Man.”  It’s no wonder that Elvis was drawn to the casual, plain-spoken swagger of Reed’s songs, but there was nothing plain about Reed’s guitar skills!  They’re on full display in the instrumental “The Claw.”

That said, many of the songs on Unbelievable lean heavily towards the pop end of the spectrum.  Ray Stevens (yes, that Ray Stevens!) adds harpischord to “It Don’t Work That Way” and “You’re Young,” and the percolating swing of “It Comes to That” has a memorable pop melody and another ornate arrangement.  Less polished but equally delightful is the laconic, drawled “Woman Shy”: “If I ever marry, you’re the one I wanna try/But I’m a little bit woman shy…”

Chet Atkins’ daughter Merle noted in the original liner notes (reprinted here alongside a fine new essay from Chris Morris) that “Jerry Reed is ‘Tobacco Road,’ Tin Pan Alley and Bleecker and MacDougal all rolled up into blue-eyed soul.”  The description is an apt one!  For his next album, Nashville Underground, fellow songwriter John Hartford (“Gentle on My Mind”) honored Reed with a sleeve note, also reprinted.  Nashville Underground is one step further in a pop direction, although it’s still set apart from many of its countrypolitan brethren because of Reed’s idiosyncratic songwriting and a rare trio of cover versions among the original material.

Reed’s persona wasn’t that of a pop balladeer, but he gives it a game shot on the warm “Remembering,” which dented the charts, as well as the string-laden AM pop of “You Wouldn’t Know a Good Thing.”  He’s in most fine fettle, though, on “Fine on My Mind,” with its rocking, primal guitar lick enhancing an ode to a girl that he just can’t shake: “I never met a woman quite like you/And all the sweet things you do/Stay fine on my mind…”  The most enduring song on Nashville Underground, however, is another fast-talking story-song in the style Reed had made his own with “U.S. Male.”  The story of Beauregard Rippy from Tupelo, Mississippi (Elvis’ hometown!), “Tupelo Mississippi Flash” became Reed’s very first Top 20 single.

He concluded Nashville Underground with three unusual cover versions.  Reed lends the folk standard “John Henry” a rollicking, bluegrass flavor, tackles the traditional “Wabash Cannonball” and even makes Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” his own.  “Hallelujah” is delivered in a light, loose and half-spoken rendition in which Jerry names-checks himself!  But when he says “Pick it, son!” he certainly does!

A&R producer Rob Santos has assembled an impressive package designed by Tom D. Kline.  Mark Wilder has done a customarily great job remastering these two albums that should serve to remind listeners that there was much more to Jerry Reed than Smokey and the Bandit!

Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, I’m Not Me (Real Gone Music RGM-0042, 2012)

When Fleetwood Mac took a hiatus following 1982’s Mirage, Mick Fleetwood used the opportunity to explore his solo muse.  But the Mac’s namesake drummer always got by with a little help from his friends.  He followed his solo debut (1981’s The Visitor) two years later with I’m Not Me, the first album released under the moniker of Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo.  The “zookeeper” was joined by Billy Burnette and Steve Ross on guitar and vocals, bassist Roger Hawkins and, on background vocals, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham!  Richard Dashut, of Rumours and Tusk fame, produced the album which spotlights the singing and songwriting talent of the Brunette/Ross/Hawkins triumvirate while the nominal frontman kept the rock-steady groove.

Although Fleetwood is featured on the album’s front cover, I’m Not Me feels like a band effort.  It’s perhaps too eclectic to have established a distinct identity for the band, but it doesn’t sound like Fleetwood Mac, either.  Fleetwood knew when to cede the spotlight; the ever-generous drummer doesn’t even drum on one track, Stephen Ross’ “I Give.”  A democratic approach to songwriting and vocals prevailed.  Billy Burnette takes the lead on The Beach Boys’ “Angel Come Home,” co-written by Carl Wilson and originally sung by Dennis Wilson.  It’s no surprise that longtime Beach Boys devotee Lindsey Buckingham elected to provide backing vocals on this song!  The lush harmonies of Ross’ “Tonight” also recall the favorite sons of Hawthorne, California!  Fleetwood and Richard Dashut’s clean production lends the album more of a late 1970s feel than that of 1983.  Buckingham also co-wrote the minor hit single “I Want You Back” – no relation to the Jackson 5 song!

Imagine flipping the FM dial around the time of the album’s release, and you might get an idea of what to expect here.  Though I’m Not Me is more straightforward than the Ghana-recorded world music explorations of The Visitor, Fleetwood nonetheless explores a number of sides to his musical identity.  Tom Snow (“He’s So Shy,” “Somewhere Down the Road,” “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”) co-wrote the sleek, blue-eyed soul of “You Might Need Somebody” sung by guitarist Ross.  “State ofthe Art,” written and sung by George Hawkins, is also on the softer side, with its sinuous saxophones.

Hawkins shines most when he cuts loose on Annie McLoone’s “Tonight,” but he also lends a lilt to “Put Me Right,” while a Burnette song gave the album its title.  “I’m Not Me” is a strong, guitar-driven track, and Burnette revisits his musical roots on “Tear It Up,” written by his father and uncle, Dorsey and Johnny Burnette in 1956.  The pounding piano, rockabilly guitars and shouted vocals add up to an infectious treat.  Another true throwback is the languid Lloyd (“Personality”) Price song, “Just Because,” sung here by Ross.

Mick Fleetwood briefly returned to the Zoo concept in 1991 with a different line-up for the Shakin’ the Cage LP.  Although this initial iteration was short-lived, it makes for an enjoyable reissue in Real Gone’s hands.  Scott Schinder writes the liner notes for this first-time-on-CD release, and no bonus tracks have been appended to the original 11-track set.

Written by Joe Marchese

June 8, 2012 at 11:39

2 Responses

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  1. Wrong Fleetwood Mac related reissue… “Buckingham Nicks,” please.


    June 8, 2012 at 18:18

    • yeah there’s a long line of reissue labels panting after that one. Seems unlikely it will ever come out.


      June 8, 2012 at 20:13

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