Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Vital Gesture Xmas Vol. 1

Hard to believe that it's been about 20 years or so since this stuff has been recorded - and, as far as I
know, there has never been a Volume 2, which is unfortunate! Tony Fate (Black Widows, Bell Rays, Grey Spikes, etc.) is the mastermind behind Vital Gesture Records and was involved, one way or another, with many of the songs on this fantastic holiday release.

Opening with the Bell Rays' amped-up version of "Merry Christmas Baby", you know that you're not in for the usual holiday cheer. This is a wild blast of rocket-fueled rock'n'soul that sets up the scene for the rest of the record. The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs follow with a Heartbreakers-esque original (with yours truly on bass - many of the tunes were recorded at the same session with interchangeable members) "I Wanna Die For Christmas", a hard-rockin' though silly number with great lines like "I wanna whole new face and identity, I wanna change my name on my fake ID"! The world's greatest instrumental group, the Black Widows (featuring members of the Bell Rays, Streetwalkin' Cheetahs and Alter Egos) give us the joyful "Christmas in July" and then my band at the time, the aforementioned Alter Egos (me, Melanie Bruck - now Coffee - and Mike Czejka), promote the reason for the season in a Ramones-crossed-with-Devo-crossed-with-Rich-Coffee "(Gimme Gimme) I've Been Good".

The Bell Rays return for a soulful, jazzy ballad about "Poor Old Rudolph" along with a blast of power-funk in "Gimme Some Funk For Christmas", which woulda been a hit in a better world - catchy as hell! With groovy bass, drivin' drums, wah-wahed guitar, melodically growling vocals and lines like "this is the season for giving, so give that damn funk to me", how could you not dig it? Bob Vennum (bassist for the Bell Rays) led the Snakes, where he played guitar and sang lead, and he is joined here by Lisa (vocalist for the Bell Rays) for the 50's-styled "Santa's Gonna Rock". Todd Westover's Doorslammer provides a ragged-y, punky take on the Kinks "Father Christmas" and then the Bell Rays return for a funky "Back Door Santa", told from a female's point of view. The wildest and hardest rockin' "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" you've ever heard is generously contributed by the Black Widows and Dr. Vibes' flying fingers. Fear's "Fuck Christmas" is revisited by the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs and "Rocket Ship Santa" is another new Christmas Classic from the Bell Rays. The Mellows (Bob & Tony) create a noise-dominated "Merry Christmas" before The Vital Gesture All-Stars close out the proceedings with the country-stylings of Frank Meyers' excellent "Christmastime Again".

I'm not sure of the availability of this release is any longer, but if you have a chance at all, be sure to pick this up to fill yourself with tidings and good cheer. Happy Holidays!