Saturday, 8 July 2017

"Rock 'n' Roll Gentleman: His Musical Journey With Dr. Feelgood 1974-1994" by LEE BRILLEAUX of DR. FEELGOOD (July 2017 Parlophone 4CD Book Set – Peter Mew Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry

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"...Hit Git And Split..."

As a lifelong and frankly rabid-as-a-dog fan of Dr. Feelgood - I pre-ordered this 4CD-beauty months back (a musical companion piece to Zoe Howe's November 2015 autobiography of the same name). Devoted to the Feelgood's legendary frontman - Canvey Island's very own 'Lee Brilleaux' – I’ll admit that I ripped the shrink-wrap off this uppity little sucker this morning like a 59-year old given a personal audience with Gal Gadot in full Wonder Woman regalia.

Yummy I thought - and bugger me sideways with an Amazonian bow and arrow – but I was right. "Rock 'n' Roll Gentleman: His Musical Journey With Dr. Feelgood 1974-1994" is a Roxette Wind-Up, a Milk and Alcohol, a Nosebleed Sam, a Racetrack Tony, A Cigarettes and Stockings Pony and a No Mo Do Yakamo - all rolled into one....

First things first – content. For sure Discs 1 and 2 are slightly problematical for fans like me who have already invested in the April 2012 "All Through The City..." Wilko Johnson Box Set and the July 2013 follow-up Gypie Mayo Box Set "Taking No Prisoners..." – in that we have these Peter Mew Remasters already. That doesn't of course mean that newcomers aren't in for the treat of their lives playing CD1 and 2 – they absolutely are. Lean and mean – the Feelgoods in full flow between 1975 and 1980 was/is an awesome sonic beast to lay your weary ears on (Discs 1 and 2 concentrate primarily on those years).

But for us old timers that still leaves upgraded audio versions of songs on Discs 3 and 4 – LPs even the most die-hard uber fan may not have like 1982's "Fast Women And Slow Horses" on Chiswick right up to and including the "Down At The Doctors" LP released on Grand Records the month LB died (April 1994). Even now I find that he passed aged only '42' deeply saddening and hard to believe. But what a 20-year legacy Lee Brilleaux and his fabulous R&B band of anarchic heroes left behind. There's a lot to digest so let's get to gentlemanly details...

UK released Friday, 7 July 2017 (14 July 2017 in the USA) - "Rock 'n' Roll Gentleman: His Musical Journey With Dr. Feelgood 1974-1994" by LEE BRILLEAUX on Parlophone 0190295919214 (Barcode 0190295919214) is a 4CD Book Set of Remasters containing 93-Tracks (2 Previously Unreleased) that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (74:29 minutes):
1. Cheque Book
2. I Don't Mind
3. All Through The City
4. She Does It Right
5. Roxette
6. Keep It Out Of Sight
Tracks 1 to 6 are from their debut LP "Down At The Jetty" - released January 1975 in the UK on United Artists UAS 29727 (all tracks recorded in Mono)
7. I Can Tell
8. Rolling And Tumbling
9. Watch Your Step
10. Riot In Cell Block Number Nine
Tracks 7 to 10 are from their 2nd studio album "Malpractice" - released November 1975 in the UK on United Artists UAS 29880 (all tracks in Stereo from here on in)
11. Stupidity (Live)
12. Going Back Home (Live)
13. Back In The Night (Live)
14. I'm A Hog For You Baby (Live)
15. Checkin' Up On My Baby (Live)
16. Walking The Dog (Live)
Tracks 11 to 16 are from their 3rd LP (first live) "Stupidity" - released September 1976 in the UK on United Artists UAS 29990 (peaked at No. 1 on the UK LP charts)
17. Johnny B Good (Live) (B-side of the "Free Collector's Single" on United Artists FEEL 1 that came with the first 20,000 copies of "Stupidity") 
18. Sneakin' Suspicion
19. Nothin' Shakin' (But The Leaves On The Tree)
20. Lights Out
21. Lucky Seven
Tracks 18 to 21 are from their fourth (3rd studio) album "Sneakin' Suspicion" (last with Wilko Johnson) - released May 1977 in the UK on United Artists UAS 30075
22. Everybody's Carrying A Gun (Olympic Version) - outtake from the "Sneakin' Suspicion" sessions first released April 2012 on the "All Through The City..." Box Set
23. Baby Jane
24. I Thought I Had It Made
Tracks 23 and 24 from their fifth (4th studio) album "Be Seeing You" - released September 1977 in the UK on United Artists UAS 30123.

Disc 2 (72:12 minutes):
1. She's A Wind Up
2. The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock 'n' Roll (No. 2)
3. Looking Back
4. Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won't Do)
Tracks 1 to 4 from their fifth (4th studio) album "Be Seeing You" - released September 1977 in the UK on United Artists UAS 30123.
5. Take A Tip
6. Down At The Doctors
7. Milk And Alcohol
Tracks 5 to 7 are from their sixth (5th studio) album "Private Practice" - released September 1978 in the UK on United Artists UAS 30184
8. Let's Have A Party (Early Version) - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
9. As Long As The Price Is Right (Second Version) - re-recorded version released April 1979 as a UK 7" single on United Artists UP 36506
10. Matchbox (Live)
11. My Buddy Buddy Friends (Live)
12. The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock 'n' Roll (No. 2) (Live)
13. Lights Out (Live)
Tracks 11 to 13 are from their seventh album (2nd live) "As It Happens" - released June 1979 in the UK on United Artists UAK 30239
14. Put Him Out Of Your Mind
15. Hong Kong Money
16. Shotgun
17. Riding On The L&N
18. Feels Good
Tracks 14 to 18 are from their eight album (sixth studio) "Let It Roll" - released September 1979 in the UK on United Artists UASG 30269
19. Jumping From Love To Love
20. Best In The World
21. Drives Me Wild
22. No Mo Do Yakamo
23. King For A Day
24. Violent Love
Tracks 19 to 24 are from their ninth album (seventh studio) "A Case Of The Shakes" - released September 1980 in the UK on United Artists UAG 30311

Disc 3 (74:07 minutes):
1. Pretty Face (Live)
Track 1 from their tenth album (3rd live) "On The Job" - released August 1981 in the UK on Liberty Records LBG 30328
2. Waiting For Saturday Night
Track 2 is the A-side of a October 1981 UK 7" single on Liberty Records BP 404. Also featured as a lone 'new track' on the November 1981 compilation LP of singles called "Casebook" on Liberty Records LBG 30341
3. Crazy About Girls
4. She's The One
5. Monkey
6. Trying To Live My Life Without You
7. Sugar Bowl
Tracks 3 to 7 are from their album "Fast Women And Slow Horses" - released October 1982 in the UK on Chiswick Records TOSS 4
8. Hit Git And Split
9. You Don't Love Me
10. Neighbour, Neighbour
11. Close But No Cigar
12. I Don't Worry About A Thing
13. I Can't Be Satisfied
Tracks 8 to 13 are from the album "Doctors Orders" - released October 1984 in the UK on Demon Records FIEND 29
14. Dimples
15. Dust My Broom
16. Tore Down
17. Mad Man Blues
18. My Babe
19. Rock Me Baby
Tracks 14 to 19 are from the album "Mad Man Blues" - released October 1985 in France on Lolita Records 5042
20. I Love You, So You're Mine
21. You've Got My Number
22. Grow Too Old
23. Don't Wait Up
24. Come Over Here
Tracks 20 to 24 are from the album "Brilleaux" - released in the UK August 1986 on Stiff Records SEEZ 65.
25. See You Later Alligator
Tracks 25 is the A-side of a November 1986 UK 7" single on Stiff Records BUY 255

Disc 4 (77:06 minutes)
1. Hunting, Shooting, Fishing
2. Heartbeat
3. Hurricane
4. Quit While You're Behind
5. Nothing Like It
Tracks 1 to 5 are from the album "Classic" - released September 1987 in the UK on Stiff Records SEEZ 67
6. Let's Have A Party (Live)
7. (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (Live)
Tracks 6 and 7 are from the album "Live in London" - released May 1990 in the UK on Grand Records GRAND 08
8. Heart Of The City
9. My Sugar Turns To Alcohol
10. World In A Jug
11. Standing At The Crossroads Again
12. Down By The Jetty Blues
Tracks 8 to 12 are from the album "Primo" - released June 1991 in the UK on Grand records GRAND 12
14. Wolfman Calling
15. One Step Forward
16. Tanqueray
17. Styrofoam
18. She Moves Me
Tracks 14 to 18 are from the album "The Feelgood Factor" - released July 1993 in the UK on Grand Records GRAND 17
19. If My Baby Quits Me (Live)
20. Roadrunner (Live)
Tracks 19 and 20 are from the album "Down At The Doctors" - released April 1994 in the UK on Grand Records GRAND 18

The presentation is the same as the two previous Dr. Feelgood sets - a 'Book' Box Set with an attached booklet in this case of 50-pages. Although the 4CDs give a truly fantastic overview of his 20-year stay with England's best rocking R&B band - you do wish there was a DVD to get a glimpse of their raw magnificence - so a bit of a let down there. But if you want visual Dr. Feelgood fronted by Lee Brilleaux - I direct you to my in-depth reviews of "All Through The City" from 2012 and "Taking No Prisoners" from 2013 - stunning Box Sets that both have wonderful DVD elements. Each CD is also a picture disc of Lee at different stages of his two-decade career as frontman. And at less at twenty quid - this new 2017 Box Set is priced to go whilst still offering huge value for money.

Researched, compiled and co-ordinated by TIM CHACKSFIELD - the liner notes are truncated passages of Zoe Howe's "Rock 'n' Roll Gentleman..." autobiography. Weirdly there are no mastering credits at all - so Disc 1 and 2 are Peter Mew Remasters from 2012 and 2013 whilst Disc 3 and 4 are the Grand Records Remasters done in the Nineties. The audio on each CD is fantastic - full of punch. The photos are cool - full colour plates most of them of Lee in full sweaty flow as his band annihilates some club somewhere. There's an album photo discography starting on Page 43 that pictures those LPs few bought in 80s and 90s when the band had effectively stopped selling. It took me years to locate a vinyl copy of "Mad Man Blues" LP pressed up in France whilst the Stiff LPs were about at the time of release but quickly disappeared after that. Let's get to the musical action...

Lead Guitarist and band founder member Wilko Johnson led the initial advance of four albums on United Artists - "Down By The Jetty" and "Malpractice" in 1975, the stunning live LP "Stupidity" in September 1976 that saw them top the album charts and his final studio set "Sneakin' Suspicion" in May 1977. "Roxette", "She Does It Right", "Going Back Home", "Back In The Night", "All Through The City", "Riot In Cell Block No. 9" - so many great tracks and all sounding huge and punchy. New boy axeman Gypie Mayo joined the gigging clan - infusing new blood and a different sound. And with indecent hast the band quickly pumped out the brilliant and wildly underrated "Be Seeing You" LP in September of 1977. The album title was a nod to the Feelgood's fave cult TV show from the 60ts - Patrick McGoohan's "The Prisoner" - with the record's Producer being credited as ‘No. 6’ (Nick Lowe) and the Engineer as 'No. 2' (no one seems to know who No. 2 is to this day).

The next LP put them back on the chart-map big time – 1978's "Private Practice" with the huge hits "Milk And Alcohol" and "Down At The Doctors". For me every song is a classic (“Take A Tip” is wisely included here as are the other two mentioned above) and I own the Japanese SHM-CD of it just to pet it and stroke it every now and then. The first of only two Previously Unreleased tracks now presents itself - an Early Version of "Let's Have A Party" features a more Fifties Rock 'n' Roll feel with some crude and rude Rockabilly guitar. It's a run-though for sure but a fun one. The remastered sound hammers in with the superb single version of "As Long As The Price Is Right". By the time the Feelgoods got to 1981's third live set "On The Job" few were bothering any more. The Charlie Musselwhite cover of "My Buddy Buddy Friends" is kick-ass nonetheless. And the tracks from the hugely underrated "Let It Roll" and "A Case Of The Shakes" LPs are full of Nick Lowe winners like "Best In The World". Despite "Let It Roll' featuring a sort of muted Production value - songs like the John Mayo/Mike Vernon "Put Him Out Of Your Mind" and the band-created "Hong Kong Money (Pete Wingfield co-write) show they still had that witty edge to both the rhythms and the lyrics.  

Although I've had the later vinyl albums for years I never did get round to replacing them all with the Grand Records CD reissues - so the last two CDs are treats for me and I suspect for many fans who don't know much of the band's output past 1980. The Johnny Guitar/Dave Tice single "Waiting For Saturday Night" is an example - an absolute bopping winner you need in your living room. In fact Johnny Guitar provides many of the goodies on the delightfully named "Fast Women And Slow Horses" LP on Chiswick Records from late 1982 - "Crazy About Girls" and the seriously Wilko-mania influenced "Sugar Bowl" - a guitar 'n' harmonica racer that is guaranteed to make your neck jerk and your barroom-dancing-feet itchy.

I'm not surprised this set offers us six tracks from the excellent "Doctors Orders" LP - with cover-version winners from Young Jessie, Willie Cobbs, Mose Allison and a great slide take on the Muddy Waters classic "I Can't Be Satisfied" - the band sound like the fire in back in their bellies - "Hit Git And Split" even going into an old-days "Back In The Night" refrain as it plays out. A forgotten record is the wild "Mad Man Blues" LP - a warts 'n' all recording where the band sound like they miked-up in someone's living room and let rip. It's raw, mean and fantastically exciting - a souped-up cover of Little Walters' "My Babe" being a perfect example - Neo Rockabilly meets Dr. Feelgood Pub Rock. Unfortunately the "Brilleaux" album felt to me like the goods were sliding away - better was the huge Dave Edmunds production of their Bill Haley cover for "See You Later Alligator" - even if those synths now sound a tad dated.

Gordon Russell joined the ranks for the "Classic" LP in 1987 with excellent cuts like "Heartbeat" and the fun "Hunting, Shooting, Fishing" (bought the 12” single at the time). There’s a storming version of Nick Lowe's brilliant "Heart Of The City" - a tune he penned around the "Jesus Of Cool" LP. Another great Rock 'n' Roll writer and witty tunesmith Mickey Jupp provides "Standing At The Crossroads Again - a clear stand out on the "Primo" LP. The second Previously Unreleased track is a cover of The Coasters Lieber-Stoller classic "Poison Ivy" – but it could be any bar band at this point. Better is a great slow Blues from Dave Bronze on "One Step Forward". And on it goes to a live turn at Jr. Walker’s “Roadrunner” – back full circle to the music and influences they so obviously loved...

To sum up – there is no doubt that you can feel the quality of tunes start to slip on Discs 3 and 4 – but there is still so much to love here. And Discs 1 and 2 are wall to wall with greatness that few bands matched then or now.

"...Hit git and split...I’m coming back home to you..." – Lee Brilleaux sang on their manic cover of Young Jessie’s "Hit Git And Split" in the forgotten years of 1984. Well you were welcome in my home back then buddy and you're still welcome now.

"Rock 'n' Roll Gentleman..." is a fabulous celebration of not just a truly great frontman - but that of his kick-ass band too. I haven’t enjoyed a listen this much in years. Stick the needle in again baby - I love it to friggin' bits...

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