Review – Alan Price – Savaloy Dip, and The Rave Ups – Town + Country from Omnivore Recordings

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You might not have heard of Omnivore Recordrings, but it's time you did. They have created a unique, atypical label with passionate and beautifully produced releases ranging from a long lost album by Alan Price, Big Star, Alan Ginsburg, Maynard Ferguson, JD Souther, Neil Finn, to Southern California favorites The Rave Ups and The Bangles. Take some time perusing their catalog to really grasp how passionate they are about these reissues!

Alan Price – Savaloy Dip

Alan Price's musical career ranges from his early seminal work with the Animals, to the critically acclaimed soundtrack to Lindsay Anderson's 1973 masterpiece, O Lucky Man! Price recorded the successor to O Lucky Man! in 1974 and its been shelved till now, finally available after 43 years. Savaloy Dip is a combination of dance hall, pop, and politically motivated tunes. Where the Animals carried a rough edge, especially with Eric Burdon's incomparable voice at the helm, Price took a curious turn with his musical endeavors. Embracing the Gin and Jag set, his cover of Randy Newman's "Simon Smith and his Wonderful Dancing Bear" was a goofy, fun, effervescent take on an already lovely eccentric song. His affection for British Dance Hall music, with a keyboard driven jauntiness was quite the opposite of the Rock and Roll work of Burdon.

Looking through a cut-out bin the late 70's I discovered a copy of an out of print LP by Price, "Between Today and Yesterday" a loose concept album, one side for "Today" and the other for "Yesterday", the title song which actually first appeared as a piano solo on the almost unreleased Savaloy Dip. Almost unreleased? Yes, well it turns out that a small number of 8-track tape versions of the album did make it to market, but that was a mistake, and most were recalled. As the press releases for this release states, “Omnivore is proud to present the first ever, non 8-track release of a great lost album, Savaloy Dip!” From a paean to a favorite Welsh boxer, to boogie-woogie piano, it’s actually a bit difficult to properly characterize the proceedings with a simple label.

Savaloy Dip is a great title, certainly a must for any Alan Price fans and completists, and unlike many unfinished albums, Savaloy Dip was finished, ready for release, so the production values are consistent with the feel of other Price titles of the era. Price is an interesting artist, with a career that has been consistently inconsistent, if that makes any sense. Wondering what the title means? Here is Price’s explanation, “I feel that a word of explanation is necessary regarding the title of the album. Savaloy Dip consists of (1) big fat red sausage, (2) a bun, (3) dipped in gravy. That tells you something about a Savaloy Dip but nothing about the album. Carry on regardless.—Alan Price”

As a time capsule of his 1970s work, Savaloy Dip gives a glimpse of his future musical direction, and Omnivore's thoughtfully written liner notes, photos, and clean remastering from the original master tapes, insures that this is a release any Alan Price fan will cherish.

The Rave Ups – Town + Country

Pretty in Pink, the classic 1986 John Hughes film starring Molly Ringwald, was accompanied by an official soundtrack album, but for most fans of the film, the soundtrack was missing the most important song, "Positively Lost Me" by the Los Angeles based band, The Rave-Ups, led by Jimmer Podrasky. Their Town + Country title on Fun Stuff Records was a college favorite, and led to a later record deal with Epic Records, but alas it seemed that if bad luck could strike a band, then The Rave-Ups were a super magnet of sorts.

Town + Country was recorded in fits and starts in the A&M Studios, with studio time allocated only when the studios were empty. The band members all worked at the studio, in the mailroom, and would practice at night, finally convincing producer to record them. Not only was their song the driving music for the film, but they also appear in the film to boot. Why then were they not included in the soundtrack? The answer (or myth) was that A&M didn't want their mailroom guys on an A&M record. But they conquered the LA music scene, with consistent positive critical reception in the press, radio, and fans. The story of the band is almost a Greek tragedy, one of loss, wasted opportunity, and bad timing. All the while it was a band anchored by some seriously talented musicianship. So, It was like a bolt of lightning to many fans when word got out in 2013 that Podrasky was back in the studio after more than 20 years, with an independently produced album, "The Would  Be Plans" a release that like it's predecessors garnered instant fan support and critical raves.

So, it was a surprise when Podrasky announced via Facebook in May 2016 that the long of print debut album from The Rave Ups was being treated to a 30th Anniversary reissue by Omnivore Records. And like Omnivore’s other releases, the new version has been carefully remastered, with extensive liner notes and photos, 11 previously unissued bonus tracks, and a new introduction and history of the album written by Podrasky. The new remastering is exemplary, and brings back the punch of the band. From an audio standpoint the new version is a revelation, until now, just how well recorded and produced the album wasn’t really evident, at least not on my old pressings of the album.

The percussion is tight, taught, and punches you in the gut. The bass lines are articulate, musical, and reveal a band at the height of it's powers, honed by endless nights in clubs and on the road. Podrasky’s songwriting and lyricism is one of the best kept secrets in rock and roll, and from the first notes of the first track "Positively Lost Me" the albums doesn’t let up. Podrasky, a Carnegie Mellon graduate, where the band was formed, always informed his music with a poetic narrative, accompanied a guitar driven signature.

It’s easy to think of Podrasky as The Rave Ups, but that does an immense disservice to the rest of the band, whose lineup at the time was, Jimmer Podrasky (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Terry Wilson (guitars, background vocals, harmonica),Tommy Blatnik (bass, background vocals), and Timothy J. (drums, percussion, background vocals, four-handed piano).

In Podrasky’s liner notes he writes, “There was something inexplicably magical and frustratingly tragic about the record. Town + Country was the album wherein I found my voice, both as a singer and as a songwriter. More importantly, it was the album wherein four disparate individuals from different places combined to form a whole larger than the sum of its parts. It was a simpler time. It was, I think, a better world then. The irony of that last sentence isn’t lost on me, nor should it be on anyone even remotely familiar with the band’s history. Ironies, both comic and tragic, loom large in The Rave-Ups’ story.”

For fans of the Rave Ups, this is a long overdue reissue, superbly put together by Omnivore. From an audio standpoint, the remastering allows the tight musicianship to hold together as a band, yet showcasing the strength of the individual performances, and recording. Podrasky's many personal trials, near death experiences, poverty, fatherhood, and more are detailed in other publications, and it's wonderful to finally see his life on track, and his work back in the limelight again. The Rave Ups – Town + Country on Omnivore Recordings comes Highly Recommended.

Harris Fogel, posted 5/18/2016

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