Monday, 19 March 2018

"Blank Generation" by RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS (November 2017 Rhino '40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' 2CD Reissue - Greg Calbi Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Another World..."

Kentuckian Richard Lester Meyers (Rick Hell to you and I) made the front cover of the NME I remember in April 1977. But British fans of the American New Wave icon would have to wait until October of that year for his Sire Records debut album on vinyl (released the month prior in his own USA).

Despite not charting in any real way in either territory – the album has garnished a hardcore following ever since – a reputation far past four decades of influence (and rightly so methinks). It was famously recorded in March 1977 at New York’s ‘Electric Lady Studios’ – but dissatisfied with the results – the bulk of it was re-recorded three months later at Pizza Studios. To this end Rhino USA have chosen to honour the ex Television and Heartbreakers original and his superb and ballsy account-opener with a '40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition'. It sports a Remaster of the released 10-track album on CD1 and 12 Rare Tracks on CD2 – some of which are those first version discards and live CBGB cuts from an audience cassette (most Previously Unreleased). It really was another world back then - here are the two takes...

UK released Friday, 24 November 2017 (reissued 16 February 2018 with a ‘Record Store Day Exclusive’ stickered sleeve) - "Blank Generation" by RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS on Rhino 081227932787 (081227932787) is a '40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' 2CD Reissue (Remastered album on CD1 with Twelve Bonus Tracks on CD2) that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 'ORIGINAL 1977 ALBUM REMASTERED' (33:34 minutes):
1. Love Comes In Spurts [Side 1]
2. Liars Beware
3. New Pleasure
4. Betrayal Takes All
5. Down At The Rock And Roll Club
6. Who Says? [Side 2]
7. Blank Generation
8. Walking On The Water
9. The Plan
10. Another World
Tracks 1 to 10 are his debut album "Blank Generation" - released September 1977 in the USA on Sire Records SR 6037 and October 1977 in the UK on Sire Records 9103 327. Produced by RICHARD GOTTEHRER and RICHARD HELL - it didn't chart in either country

Disc 2 'BONUS TRACKS' (35:01 minutes):
1. Love Comes In Spurts (Electric Lady Studios Alternate Version)
2. Blank Generation (Electric Lady Studios Alternate Version)
3. You Gotta Lose (Electric Lady Studios Outtake Version)
4. Who Says? (Pizza Sound Studios Alternate Version)
5. Love Comes In Spurts (Live At CBGB in New York, 19 November 1976)
6. Blank Generation (Live At CBGB in New York, 19 November 1976)
7. Liars Beware (Live At CBGB in New York, 14 April 1977)
8. New Pleasure (Live At CBGB in New York, 14 April 1977)
9. Walking On The Water (Live At CBGB in New York, 14 April 1977)
10. Another World (Ork Records Version from 1976)
11. Oh (Original 2000 Release)
12. 1977 Sire Records Radio Ad (1:03 minutes)
Tracks 1 to 12 are Previously Unreleased

RICHARD HELL - Bass and Lead Vocals
ROBERT QUINE - Guitars and Background Vocals
IVAN JULIAN - Guitars and Background Vocals

The gatefold three-way-foldout card digipak certainly looks the 'You Make Me...' part (close up that shirt pal) - the album's original inner sleeve collage of photos splashed across the inner flap. Disappointingly there are no photos beneath the see-through CD trays (missed a trick there boys) - but the 24-page booklet makes up for it with pictures of master tapes from the two key recording venues - Electric Lady and Pizza Studio - along with period snaps of Richard with Guitarists Bob Quine and Ian Julian, Richard's September 1977 diary pages (CBGB's gigs), period adverts and even a note from fans promising things to the lead singer that no young boy should be promised. The first half of it gives us a personal account of his earlier life including the four years Hell struggled with The Neon Boys and Television and then onwards to a track-by-track explanation (very illuminating). That's in turn followed by an interview with Ivan Julian (20 July 2017) where Hell is queried on Tour Dates, memories of his European and British tours, growing up in Washington and so on. There is a final page of New York reminiscences by Susanne Savage (also one of the reissue’s producers) putting the American Top 10 Singles in 1977 into context. Safe and perfect bands dominated from February to November as opposed to what was going on with New York's noisy boys giving it some angry short-sharp-shocks as they aired the frustrations of a blank generation (take it or leave it each time). You also get the lyrics, reissue credits and so on. My copy also sports a ‘Record Store Day Exclusive’ sticker because it was bought in 2018. Very nice...

While that’s pictorially pleasing – the real deal here for me is a new GREG CALBI Remaster that gives amazing power and clarity to that wall of US Punk and New Wave that keeps coming at you - track after track (he was the original mastering engineer on the 1977 LP). Quine's guitar solo in the Blues Punk Waltz of "Betrayal Takes Two" for instance is even more scuzzy than I remember - and amen to that. Calbi is more famously associated with Supertramp, Paul Simon and Paul McCartney Remasters – but he's also done Television's 1977 masterpiece "Marquee Moon" and that's a total magnet for me...

Coming over as a snottier version of Television - musically Richard Hell and his Band had that New Wave voice and stance down - making him especially instant NME hero-worship material right from the off. That 'attitude' comes screaming out of "Love Comes In Spurts" as he roars about being fourteen and a half with the innocence of "Love Me Do" and "All You Need Is Love" just not cutting it anymore. Smiling lies, pompous jerks and ridiculous creeps get short shift in "Liars Beware" - the song stretching to unforgivable Prog Rock length of 2:58 minutes. Those opening guitars in "New Pleasure" are seriously good now - the rhythm section feeling like they're in your living room - sublime poses indeed. I absolutely love that guitar sound Quine gets in "Betrayal..." (bit of a mini operatic masterpiece that song) and the sheer uh-huh scotch 'n' soda fun of "Down At The Rock And Roll Club" is still exciting. Both "Blank Generation" (dig those guitar jabs) and a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Walking On The Water" seal the album's greatness for me - making a John Fogerty song sound like it was a Voidoid tune all along. "Another World" gets all Talking Heads guitar wacky while Hell sings in his 'oh baby oh' best Stranglers-sleaze voice. I could live with you in another world, not this one. And you believe him...

What of the Bonus Material? Although its hard now to dislocate myself from album tracks I’ve known and loved for so many years - there is an amateur-hour feel to the Electric Lady recordings of "Love Comes In Spurts" and "Blank Generation" that don’t actually enhance the kick - but somehow lessen it. I can so hear why they were dropped. At least the Pizza Studios Alternate Version of "Who Says?" is a goer equal to its released version. But "You Gotta Lose" has to be surely worth the price of admission alone – an outtake where mum is a pinhead and God is away on holidays. What a find this track is!

The November 1976 CBGB live cuts are crude and rude (an audience cassette) and just a notch above bootleg quality – while the ones from a year later (April 1977) fare only a tab better. The six-minute 1976 US single of "Another World" on Ork Records 81976 (Richard Hell only credit) is another decent Bonus – but amazing that no one thought to repro its rare Picture Sleeve in the booklet. The final Voidoids recording "Oh" from 2000 comes 24-years after the event (same line-up) and yet cleverly reclaims that grungy sloppy feel of the 1977 songs. The 'no matter how you say it' radio advert for the album is cringingly awful but Hell (no pun intended) - it was American Radio in 1977...

Great remaster of the album, about half the Bonus Tracks actually worth owning and a decent presentation/price. Makes me want to...
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