Monday, January 27, 2014

The Elms

The music world is such a unforgiving industry.  Too many bands and performers get too much kudos and press from Rolling Stone and most of them suck to high heaven, whereas the more traditional rocking bands get ignored and the list is long.  And The Elms are in the latter category, not outrageous enough for SPIN or Rolling Stone to get noticed but for myself, perfect in their own ways of rock and pop.

Originally, they started out more of a Christian band after an EP that I have not heard.  Big Surprise is your standard Praise Jesus album with more pop gospel than actual rock and roll, simply of the fact they recorded for the gospel Sparrow label.  It's not bad, but something I would listen to.

The next album  Truth, Soul And Rock And Roll, they still praising Jesus but this time they're adding more Rolling Stones riffs and some Gin Blossom pop to their Christian rock.  Somehow it does rock, leading off with the Tom Petty meets Georgia Satellites Speaking In Tongues and the pop rock of Though The Night and You Got No Room To Talk shows they have a sense of humor too.  Still embracing the Good Lord on You Saved Me and the Train sounding Smile At Life Again (complete with annoying falsetto), The Elms are beginning to shy away from the gospel into secular music and the next album would be their 360 turnaround.

They turn the amps up to ten on the David Bianco produced The Chess Hotel, their first and only album for Universal South, basically a country label and it clashed with their Cheap Trick meets Cream sound. Beginning with the pounding I Am The World and Who Puts  Rock And Roll In Your Blood , a Black Crowes soundalike.  The rest of the album is like that, any Gospel rock is thrown out the window.  The Elms simply want to rock and rock they do well.   From the Stones groove of Black Groove to even a Big Star sound of Tower and The Trains. Of course, Universal South had no way of promoting this and dropped the album soon after.  It's a shame really, they had more new country smarts than the Bro Country band of Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean.

Licking their wounds a bit, The Elms turned it down a bit on The Great American Midrange, some consider to be their best album and it just might be. Balancing hard rockers like Strut and Thunderhead and slightly mellower stuff like Unless God Appears First. It's not as in your face like The Chess Hotel was but also owes a bit more to their second album.  And with that The Elms called it a day in 2010, putting in a decade career that should have made them better known.  But for a band started as Christian Rockers, they did finished strong as honest to God rock and rollers, making honest to God real Midwestern rock and roll.

For which we should be thankful.

Big Surprise (Sparrow 2001) B-
Truth, Soul And Rock And Roll (Sparrow 2002) B+
The Chess Hotel (Universal South 2006) A-
The Great American Midrange (Trust Inc 2009) A-

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Fatal Flowers

One of the mystery bands of the 80s, The Fatal Flowers came from Amsterdam and made two albums for Atlantic that owed a lot to glam rock, garage rock and anything T Rex although they're a Dutch band.  The late Vic Maile produced Younger Days, and it showed a pub rock side, outdated by 1986 standards but had decent songs.

Their best album Johnny D Is Back!, was produced by Mick Ronson (Ian Hunter, David Bowie) and Richard Janssen revealed his inner Ian Hunter in him.  Although proclaimed the best album in 1988 in (where else?) Amsterdam, Atlantic gave little promotion in the album. and since this was not a hair metal band, The Fatals' were left to be written off as a tax write off.  Atlantic never bothered to issue Younger Days on CD either.  Johnny D Is Back! is a lost classic with the title track, Second Chance and the Mott sounding The Dance as standouts.  Moving over from WEA to Phonogram proved more bad news, their third album never came out in the states (Polygram passed on it) and disgusted with no promo and PR the band broke up.

Nevetheless, the two Atlantic albums do show up in used bins from time to time. And recommended to those with a open mind.

Younger Days (Atlantic 1986) B+
Johnny D Is Back! (Atlantic 1988) B+