Friday, March 28, 2008

Miracle Workers – Primary Domain

The first thing I noticed about this CD release is the dramatic re-mixing by Gerry Mohr making it sound vastly different than the album. Not that this is bad, but considering that I have listened to the album a million times or more, the changes are almost startling. I don't know if I would say that either mix is better, but they are quite distinctive, making the purchase of the CD worthwhile regardless of whether or not you have the vinyl (of course you won't want to get rid of the vinyl now!).

There are several bonus tracks, such as bassist Rob Butler's "Memory Lane", which, in an unusual move, opens the CD! It’s a great rocker and a great start for the record! The rest of the tracks have changed order from the vinyl, as well. “69 Ways” is another high-energy head-shaker with Gerry’s cool line “didn’t want to fall in love but maybe now I do”! “The Most Righteous Way” was the album opener and is still a raver! Starting with one of Matt Rogers’ excellent guitar riffs, they play with dynamics in the verses and then slams out the choruses. Matt provides a rockin’ solo as well, showing off his prowess as one of the best guitarists of the scene!

“Ninety-Nine” continues in this vein, though this is pure, non-stop power-rock! Another incredible break by Rogers as Mohr sings about touring, including a nod to a trip that my band went on with them: “hand me that Fourgiven pin, and a coke can to poke it in” (in order to make a disposable bong)!

Gerry worried that the band could become one dimensional and wanted to prove that they were more than crazed rock’n’rollers. “Your Brown Eyes” is downright pretty and ballad-y, though in no ways dull! Romantic and sensitive as hell, but, while much quieter, still has a beat and is a super tune!

Butler’s contribution to the vinyl release is “Long Gone on her Night Train”, which I find to be a funny play on words, and is a cool garage rocker with nice harp playing by Rob and even a guitar/harmonica duet!

The band’s masterpiece for this album is the fantastic “Mary Jane”. They couldn’t be more obvious in regards to the subject of the song (though it specifically references some friends in Switzerland, where Gerry and Rob eventually moved) and the riffs, keyboards and reverbed vocals makes it sounds like you’re stoned! Still more terrific guitars from Matt and Gerry plays some cool keyboards.

Another bonus track on the CD is the acoustic “Senor Amore Theme”, dedicated to a friend of the musical family by the same name. This is a nice instrumental interlude. The band follows this with the intense mania of “She Came to Stay”, a wild ride that has an incredibly slow bridge stuck in the middle before returning to the insanity for the end!

“Tick Tock” is an almost agonizingly slow acoustic ballad that is my least favorite song of the record – maybe of the band’s career. It’s not terrible, just not up to this group’s high standards and the tempo – it literally moves with a “tick tock” rhythm – slows the record’s momentum to an abrupt halt. This has always reminded me of the MC5’s “Let Me Try” from Back in the USA – breaking up an otherwise super strong record.

“Earlier Today” isn’t manic, but it is a superb mid-tempo r’n’r tune, with excellent words and melody. I realize that I haven’t given kudos to drummer extraordinaire, Gene Trautman, but, while he doesn’t get any specific spots, he is perfect throughout the record and was an amazing time-keeper for this band. He has gone on to such bands as the Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal. Nice guy and incredible musician – any success is well deserved!

The final track is another bonus and another Butler tune, “Magic Slide”, another garage rocker previously released – in another version – on the great Roll Out the Red Carpet CD.

This highlights absolutely one of the best bands of the 80's at their prime. This record sounds great (thanks at least in part to their sound man and all around cool cat, Hutch, who worked on this album) and shows off the band at their peak musically and in their songwriting. An essential garage/punk'n'roll effort!