While I am fairly sure most of the music experts frequenting this blog have heard of the fabulous British band The Pretty Things, I would like to devote this blog to a fairly rare album of theirs that blew my mind the minute I listened to it.
Now, before you start guessing – it is NOT one of the band’s classic ’60’s albums like S.F. Sorrow or even one of their ’70’s albums recorded when the band started leaning away from their punky/garage/dirty-bluesy beginnings and attempted some classic arena rock sounds. No, this album was recorded by the band wayyyyyy back in the good old days of 1999. The album I am talking about is the expertly titled latter-day masterpiece Rage Before Beauty (on Snapper Records), their first true album since 1980’s supposed swan-song Crosstalk
Note to sticklers: the Pretties did get together to record one new album about a year before Rage Before Beauty came out and the story behind it is really quite cool. The band had decided to regroup for a one-off webcast of their music and, putting their heads together for a concept, decided to record a live concert performing their old concept album SF Sorrow in it’s entirety for the first time since the album was released in 1968. Wanting to make the event extra special, the band enlisted two ringers: Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour to augment the band as only he and his guitar work can, and veteran English rocker Arthur Brown to add extra narration and cohesion to the storyline. Needless to say, the resulting album Resurrection is an absolute joy and should be searched out and acquired as soon as possible. Often found in a version that packages it with the original version of SF Sorrow, while not eclipsing the original, shows the band is more than capable of continuing their legend without showing the usual signs of age or obsolecense often all-too-present in the middle-age-rock set.
But, back to the reason I am writing this blog: Rage Before Beauty. Often when listening to a new album from a band or artist of this vintage it is hard to put their past out of your mind and accept a new work as a credible continuation of a band’s legacy. Most likely, the band’s new work suffers from comparison like, say, the Rolling Stones’ releases of the past twenty years or so. Though they may be fine albums and the band members may be better musicians technically, the new works never quite sound as good as our old favorites, do they? Well, believe me when I say this album by The Pretty Things will not suffer at all by comparison to the gritty, sleazy blues rock they belted out in their formative years. In fact, it sounds as if the band has lost nary a step. Gone are the arena rock posings of their middle years and reborn is the anger and hunger this band of hooligans were always known to flaunt like badges of honor. Phil May, Dick Taylor and the rest of the Pretties fly the flag of down-and-dirty rock once again!
From the first note of the urgent rocker Passion Of Love to their ode to their lost ex-bandmate Vivian Prince to my personal favorite of the album Everlasting Flame, the band plays as if their lives depend on it. Guitars twine and twist, the bassist and drummer bludgeon their respective axes as if in a race to oblivion and May does his vocal exorcises on all of his demons on this little shiny disc just for our enjoyment. They even do a version of the Stones’ song Play With Fire that obliterates the Stones’ version. Only an ill-advised cover of Mony Mony slows the proceedings down for a bit, but the band recovers nicely by the next song.
I was very surprised by how good this album sounds, not thin and brittle like the last few albums by the Stones and Paul McCartney but full-bodied and very tough. I recommend this album wholeheartedly and suggest you get re-acquainted with the band as the US label Zoho Records has a NEW album slated by The Pretty Things to come out in the now-great year of ’07. Needless to say, I will be the first in line to pick the album up and if anyone tries to stop me, well, their in for a fight.
So, quit being ugly and pick up a few PRETTY THINGS!
The Music Nerd knows……..