Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Pirates - Out of Their Skulls

Johnny Kidd and the Pirates were, of course, the 60's band responsible for the huge hit "Shakin' All Over", and the group, especially the guitarist Mick Green, were incredibly influential on the early British r'n'b/r'n'r bands - the Who being an obvious example and Led Zep being another.

The group initially broke up after Kidd's untimely death, but the backing band - Green, Johnny Spence (bass, lead vocals), Frank Farley (drums) - reformed in the mid-70's, in time to latch onto the emerging pub rock and then punk rock scenes, making a name for themsevles yet again with their fantastic, stripped down sound.

Green was always known for making a big sound with just his single Telecaster and he continues to amaze here. Of course, the rhythm section makes quite an impression themselves, but Green's combination of rhythm and leads - sometimes simultaneously - makes the Pirates sound.

This was the first reunion LP and side one is a live show from the Nashville Rooms in April of '77 and is comprised mostly of reworkings of their old material, including "Please Don't Touch" (a number that Motorhead & Girlschool did together, giving it punk/metal cred, as if it needed it), "I Can Tell", "Peter Gunn" (when Farley's mic went out), a ferocious "Lonesome Train" (so good it gave me chills), their calling card number "Shakin' All Over" before ending with a frenzied and frenetic "Milk Cow Blues". Besides being a unbelievably powerful instrumental unit, Spence's voice, while a bit gruffer than Kidd's, fits right in and sounds terrific.

Side two is comprised of studio recordings, though this all sounds pretty damn live-in-the-studio to me, with everyone working together and Green absolutely on top of his game. "Drinkin' Wine Spo'De'O'D", gives Mick a couple of chances to show his stuff while Farley & Spence rock behind him. A take-off on "Walkin' the Dog" is "Do the Dog", a little less crazed, but solid and "Gibson Martin Fender" is a fine, fast-paced rocker. I assume that "Don't Munchen It" is about touring Germany, and it has a cool, chunky chord riff, though I could do without the overly effected guitar solo - kinda unnecessary for a talent like Green. A neat mixture of country and blues comes together for the mid-paced "That's the Way You Are" - well-written, interesting chord progressions and melodies. Of course, they can't quit on anything less than a fierce pounder, so "You Don't Own Me" comes out fighting, as one of their best, showing that they still have the spark needed to keep rockin'.

Great, great, rock'n'roll album! Glad that the punk scene gave some talent like this a new lease on life as people looked back to early, raw r'n'r for their influential touchstones.