The Second Disc

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Review: Dust, “Dust/Hard Attack”

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Dust - Hard Attack and DustEverybody has to start somewhere.  For producers Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise (KISS), Stories bassist Kenny Aaronson, and Marc Bell, a.k.a. Marky Ramone, a major chapter of their starting chapter was Dust.  Wise (guitar/vocals), Aaronson (bass/steel, dobro and bottleneck guitars) and Bell (drums) joined with producer/songwriter Kerner to create two albums for Neil Bogart’s Kama Sutra label in 1971 and 1972 that proved Americans could give their British brethren a run in the heavy-rock sweepstakes.  The music of Dust can be fairly be labelled as hard rock or proto-metal, but the New York power trio’s pair of albums also take in pop and blues influences and would probably best be described now as in a classic rock vein.  But you can decide for yourself, as these formative albums have been remastered and paired on one CD from Legacy Recordings (88883 70289 2).  Dust/Hard Attack is oddly presented with the second album first, perhaps to emphasize the edgier side of the band which was explored more fully on the sophomore set.

A snarling attitude is evident on these ferocious tracks.  In four separate notes contained in the nicely illustrated booklet, each key figure in the Dust story reflects on the Brooklyn group’s background and shot at success.  Kenny Kerner laments that Kama Sutra wasn’t a “rock label,” depriving Dust of the chance to become a “Supergroup.”  Indeed, Dust made unlikely company for Sha Na Na.  Marky Ramone confesses that the band was influenced by “what was happening in Britain, but there really weren’t any bands in America doing what we did at the time.”  Richie Wise admits a Brit influence, too, but perhaps a surprising one: The Beatles.

Hit the jump for more on Dust!

And so 1971 debut Dust does an adequate job establishing the band’s loud, fast, hard and raw spin on rock.  A tough riff, quite possibly the album’s strongest, propels the kiss-off “Chasin’ Ladies”.  It’s almost a hard-rock spin on the Kama Sutra pop style, complete with a “ba-ba-ba-ba” refrain.  Another heavy riff opens the epic “From a Dry Camel,” which exploits an eerie, exotic flavor and prog-influenced vocals.  There’s also a touch of Black Sabbath in the sprawling track. Despite its title, “Goin’ Easy” is one of the best examples on Dust of the band’s reworking of the blues.

Musicianship from the young band members is strong throughout.  (Marky Ramone remembers still being in high school when the album was released!)  Aaronson’s slide guitar on the boogieing “Stone Woman” is impressive, and Ramone’s rapid-fire drums never take a rest.  The sound is so thick and thunderous on numerous tracks, like the darkly evocative “Often Shadows Felt,” that it’s easy to forget you’re listening to a three-piece.  The album closes with “Loose Goose,” an unexpected and quite storming riff on rockabilly.  It was contributed by Kenny Aaronson; every other track on Dust was written by the team of Kerner and Wise.

Hard Attack, originally adorned with a striking Frank Frazetta cover painting, is a tighter and more diverse album than its predecessor.  Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise took production and arranging credit; this is significant as Dust credited Kerner, the three band members and Dominic Sicilia for production only.  The Kerner/Wise duo also wrote the entire album save one track penned by Kerner with Aaronson (“Learning to Die”).  Hard Attack (which opens Legacy’s new CD) stakes out new territory immediately as its first track, “Pull Away/So Many Times,” begins with an acoustic strum and Wise’s resonant voice: “Waitin’ for something that is never comin’/So I guess I’ll be on my way/I know it’s over, we could never make it/So I guess I’ll just pull away…”  And then the band enters in rip-roaring garage mode, all swagger and confidence.  Before the song is out, it takes in an acoustic interlude, with Wise’s full-throated vocals in contrast to the gentler guitar part.

The experimentation continues throughout Hard Attack.  “Walk in the Soft Rain” isn’t exactly a quiet moment, but it’s relatively quieter and melodic, with acoustic and electric guitars, Brit-inspired vocals and even background parts.  But even it’s just an appetizer for “Thusly Spoken.”  When strings and piano open the song, it’s a “Toto, we’re not in Brooklyn anymore!” moment.  The lyrics are ironic counterpart to the pretty melody, with Wise crooning of demons and poisons over an atmospheric, baroque arrangement.  (Thog’s Fred Singer played piano and organ, and orchestrator/arranger Larry Wilcox scored the strings.)  There’s even a country vibe on “I Been Thinkin’” and the drawling “How Many Horses.”  The former has one of Hard Attack’s most sensitive vocals, while the latter recalls the music of Leslie West’s Mountain, a touchstone for Dust’s first album.

The frenetic, hard ‘n’ heavy, and gleefully-cackled attack of “Learning to Die” (“Now the time has come for every man to die!  Soon you will all be gone!”) and the rowdy instrumental “Ivory” both balance the softer sides of Dust.  Garage rock fervor again takes over on “All in All” while “Suicide” – one in a number of songs on the album focusing on death in all its forms – is purely brutal (“I found a shotgun and held it close to my head/And pulled the trigger just to be sure I was dead”).

Vic Anesini has remastered both albums well, and Kenny Kerner advises in the notes to “play the fuckin’ thing loud.  Or don’t play it at all!”  The entire package is nicely-designed, and it’s always a treat to see the Kama Sutra and Buddah logos reactivated.  Only the reverse chronological sequence is a deterrent; following Hard Attack, the debut album feels like a step backward.

Dust, of course, didn’t make the kind of commercial waves that producer/manager Kerner and Kama Sutra likely hoped. Yet the band proved a fertile incubator of talent. As Marky Ramone, Marc Bell would be celebrated with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame among other accolades. Kenny Aaronson joined another band on Kama Sutra, Stories, and contributed bass to that group’s 1973 No. 1 hit “Brother Louie.” He then went on to tour or record with such diverse artists as Bob Dylan, Rick Derringer, Billy Idol, Joan Jett and the New York Dolls. Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise, of course, joined together to form a production team, and famously handled duties on KISS’ first two albums in addition to LPs from Stories, Badfinger, Elkie Brooks and others.

Though integral to the development of Stories and KISS, Dust has often been viewed as just a footnote to their histories, as well as to that of the Ramones.  Thanks to Legacy’s reissue of this pair of albums, however, the Wise/Bell/Aaronson triumvirate has come into its own, all these many years later.

You can order Hard Attack/Dust at this link!

Written by Joe Marchese

May 2, 2013 at 10:24

Posted in Dust, News, Reissues, Reviews

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One Response

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  1. You really should add that Marc Bell really rose to cult prominence and artistic genius as the drummer for Richard Hell & the Voidoids before replacing Tommy Erdelyi in the Ramones.


    May 2, 2013 at 10:38

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