Terry Reid-River

November 23, 2011

Terry Reid

River(Atlantic Records 1973)


Yes, it has been a long while since last these digits tapped upon this long neglected space. My husbandly duties and newfound role as father have understandably detracted from the importance of rambling aimlessly about albums that tickle my fancy. However, the little dude is sleeping through the night and leisure time has become a vocabulary word in my lexicon once again. I ain’t gonna sell you the Brooklyn Bridge and say this is going to become a daily ritual again, but these lips can promise that I will pop out of the groundhog hole now and again to share what puts a spring in my step these days.

If I were ever to be locked in a basement full of a paunchy fellows playing word association games involving 70s rock albums, I imagine I would immediately belt out a sprightly “Swagger!” when Terry Reid’s River came into earshot. By no means do I invoke this term as means of conjuring an image of a Robert Plant-esque figure slithering and wailing against a throbbing backdrop of bass, guitar and drums. I associate swagger with Reid’s River in a different manner because he tackles each of its songs with such overwhelming confidence and mastery. He knows he is the shit and that his ballads are awash in seduction and languorous moments while the bluesy stoner anthems possess that waggle of the hips and sweaty aura Mick Jagger perfected before sinking into parody. Plus, there is a southern-rock via 60s English folk vibe that does not really exist anywhere else but here and my most fantastical dreams. River’s got a special kind of strut that catches your ear right off the bat and makes you wonder why this dude is a footnote and Rod Stewart is still jiggling his mole onstage for cash money.

What separates Terry Reid from the cadre of Doug Henning look-a-likes with sleazy intentions and a full-throated warble is his grounding in the blues. Yes, Reid’s bread and butter is 70s rock and roll replete with all of its stadium-sized ambitions and grand gestures, but there is something world-weary and bruised about even the most rambunctious tunes here. It’s a warts and all melange of 70s country-rock, bluesy come hither, Stax soul and hoary 70s rock cliche all at once. Since all of these individual parts comprise most of my daily listening, River is an unadulterated synthesis of all that plasters a shit-eating grin on my face when music just coalesces into something larger than the moment and my universe becomes copacetic via a simple song.

Listening to River, it is kind of surprising that Reid never left a bigger imprint upon the musical landscape. Considering his pedigree as a near-frontman for both Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and songwriter for hits by the Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, you would think the payola machine would’ve thrown a few bucks in his general direction. It’s a shame that some of the most brilliant musicians fall into the dustbin of lovable losers, also-rans, outcasts and should’ve been something specials that populate my daily soundtrack. I get why Tim Buckley, Moondog and Hawkwind never quite set the world on fire, but River’s obscurity endlessly puzzles this tattered mind of mine. Hell, any album that opens with a tune that invokes a sleazy nexus of boogie-rock, r&b and a backwoods honkytonk, then finishes with its polar opposite, a slow-motion folk meditation on mortality and lost love is more than okay in my book.

Royal Trux-Thank You

August 13, 2008

Royal Trux

Thank You (Virgin 1995)


There was a time in the late 90s and early on in this decade where this may have been one of the best live acts in a sorry period in rock and roll. No one really gives them the time of day anymore and their major label albums can be had for a few bucks. Ignore the ignoramuses because this band had an amazing streak of albums that abandoned the heroin-addled experimental genius of Twin Infinitives and embraced the boogie rock and Rolling Stones worship that always lay beneath the surface. Everything from 1993s Cats and Dogs to 2000s Pound for Pound stood out like a sore thumb amidst what was popular during this time, but you won’t find a more fried take on Jagger and Richards.

During the oddball rush to sign indie acts in the 90s, Royal Trux somehow wrangled a major label deal with Virgin records and got David Briggs, producer of most of Neil Young’s catalogue as well as Spirit’s best work, to take the reins of this album. His influence is readily apparent as this is their most cohesive album as he transforms the band into something resembling Southern rock and the Stones. However, there is no dolling up Jennifer Herrema’s throaty growl, but Hagerty seems like he is in heaven as he can channel his 70s heroes in the hands of a great producer.

Personally, I like Royal Trux much better during their return to Drag City with Accelerator and Veterans of Disorder. These albums reconciled the chaos of their early albums with the big riffs of their Virgin years, but I always had a soft spot for the one moment where Royal Trux was dusted off and presented to the masses as a grandiose rock band. It is even more fitting that Sweet Sixteen, the next album owed to Virgin, featured a toilet full of shit on its cover and some dense, almost Beefheartian shit that I am still digesting. God love this band and their weird and wonderful career.