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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Long Ryders

Final Wild Songs

Review by Gary Hill

This band was sort of equal parts old time rock and roll, country and rockabilly and punk edge. They were never afraid of pushing boundaries are wondering “does this sound like us?” This four CD collection pulls together a lot of rarities and such. It’s a great introduction to a band that has a diverse sound. This is a great set, although not everything here is great. Still, when it’s this massive of a set, how could it be, really?

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc One 1983-1984

                   
Join My Gang

Americana and punk merge on this catchy tune. It’s got some great guitar sounds. The instrumental section here brings some Byrds (along with some soaring sounds that are almost prog-like). This is a great way to start the set in style.

You Don't Know What's Right
Here we get a song that’s much more of a country number. It’s very much a bluegrass styled journey. It’s also catchy and pretty tasty. I like the slide guitar on this thing. This is really a lot of fun.
10/5/60
Now we’re back into punk rock territory. This rocker is so catchy and so cool. It’s part old school garage rock and part punk edge.
And She Rides
This has a real psychedelic rock vibe. I love the soaring guitar soloing on the piece. The whole thing just oozes cool.
Born to Believe in You
Starting with percussion, this has some country in the mix. The thing is, it feels a lot like a Beatles song that might have been written by Ringo and George together. It’s a nice change and a lot of fun. The guitar solo brings both country and some touches of jazz to the table. There is definitely an old time music vibe on this, as well.
Final Wild
There is a real old time rockabilly vibe to this fast paced tune. It’s one part Johnny Cash, one part Bob Dylan and all cool.
Ivory Tower
This roots rocker seems like a cross between Tom Petty, The Byrds and Bob Dylan. It’s a catchy tune with a real classic sound.
Run Dusty Run
Old time rock and roll with a country twang, this is fun.
(Sweet) Mental Revenge
This is mostly old school country music. It’s energetic and fun.
Fair Game
Starting in a folk music style, when it gets more involved it turns toward bluegrass. Of course, those styles are traditionally related.
Tell It to the Judge on Sunday
An old time rock and roller, this is just such a cool song. It’s one of my favorites on the whole set, really. There is a bit of a punk edge to it. The guitar solo is particularly inspired.
Wreck of the 809
Based more in the garage band era of the 1960s, this is a classic sounding number.
Too Close to the Light
After a cool little psychedelically tinged introduction, this works out to a rather mainstream rock sound. It drops to balladic section for the vocals. In some ways this makes me think of Lords of the New Church. Yet there are some dreamy psychedelic elements at play, too.
Never Got to Meet the Mom
The opening section makes me think of The Who’s “Squeeze Box.” The song proper, though, feels more like a cross between bluegrass and rockabilly. It’s energized and fun.
I Had a Dream
There’s more of a modern alternative rock vibe to this thing. It’s catchy and has a lot of energy. Still, there is some Americana here. This is one of the cooler tunes here.
Masters of War
A Bob Dylan cover, this starts with a more stripped back arrangement. It works out to more rocking territory as it continues. This is a great rendition of the tune. I like it a lot. The guitar that solos around the arrangement adds a lot. So does the violin.
Black Girl (Live)
This has a real bluegrass vibe to it. It’s not bad, but not one of my favorites. It has a real slide blues arrangement.
Wreck of the 809 (Live)
I love the bass part that opens this and holds it for a time. It carries on even after the acoustic guitar joins. I think I like this arrangement better than the one we heard earlier on this disc. Both are great. Both are different. This really has a lot of soul. I’m definitely reminded of Elvis Costello on this take.
Further Along (Live)
More of a folk cut, this one just doesn’t work all that well for me. It’s very much an old time sounding number. It’s not bad. It’s just not something that grabs me.
The Rains Came (Live)
With an electric guitar arrangement, this has a lot of psychedelia and Americana built into it. It’s an energized cut that works pretty well.
You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover (Live)
This rocker works alright, but feels a bit awkward.
Disc Two 1985
                    
Looking for Lewis and Clark

Merging punk with roots rock, this is a catchy number that works pretty well. I like the harmonica solo a lot.

Lights of Downtown
That punk edge is still present here. This time, though, it’s mixed with some real down home country sound. The chorus on this is particularly effective. There are definitely some psychedelic things here at times, too. Then the guitar solo makes me think of Chuck Berry.
WDIA
Blues country and old time rock and roll merge here. This is a classy cut. This song is about music working to integrate society.
Mason-Dixon Line
More in line with classic rocking music, this has some alternative rock edges built into it. It’s another that’s among the more effective stuff here.
Here Comes That Train Again
Rockabilly, blues and country all merge on this number. It’s another fun tune.
Years Long Ago
Mellower and more dramatic, this feels more like the 1960s garage band movement. It’s a cool cut. In fact, it’s one of my favorites here. I just really like the tone and atmosphere of it.
Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today
With punk, rock and roll and Americana built into it, this is an energetic tune. It’s not a real standout, but it has some serious charms. The rockabilly guitar solo is one of those.
Two Kinds of Love
This mellower cut is very classy. It has a great psychedelic garage sound. It’s definitely one of the stronger tunes on the set.
You Can't Ride the Boxcars Anymore
Fast paced rockabilly, this is great fun. It’s another highlight. The instrumental section brings some real country stylings.
Capturing the Flag
To me there is a bit of a Kinks sound to this. It’s a fun number that works really well. They’ve really hit their stride by this point in the set.
State of My Union
A stripped back rock and roller, this one doesn’t work as well for me. Of course, after the last few songs, it was bound to drop down a little at some point. I do like some of the rockabilly guitar on this.
Southside of the Story
A bit better than the previous tune, there isn’t any big surprise here. It’s a 1960s styled rock and roller. It’s fun for sure.
Child Bride
More like old time rock and roll, this is a fun cut. There is plenty of country in the mix.
If I Were a Bramble and You Were a Rose
Country infused folk music, this feels like it would have been at home in the 1960s. This is potent and very evocative. It’s another highlight for certain.
Looking for Lewis and Clark (Recorded Live for BBC TV’s Whistle Test)
This high energy punk performance is good, but not one of the better pieces here. I do like the harmonica solo.
Lights of Downtown (Captain's Mix)
I like the sound on this. It’s more of a standard mix than some of the other things. I suppose some might say it’s over-produced, but I definitely disagree. I like this a lot. It’s a classic rock styled number.
Capturing the Flag (Captain's Mix)
I think I like this better than the previous version. It definitely feels a bit like The Byrds. I love the bluegrass bits that show up here and there.
Christmas in New Zealand
The first section of this is a bit weird. Then it works to something that has some definite country music built into it. That movement works much better. There are moments on this cut that make me think of Elvis Costello. The conversation part of the track is a nice touch.
Encore from Hell (Live)
There is a cool little jam going on in the backdrop as bad reviews of Long Ryders discs are read aloud. It earns a parental advisory.
Disc Three 1986
             
Gunslinger Man
Punky rock and roll, this is a lot of fun. The energy level is great, and so is the guitar riffing. I really love this tune.
I Want You Bad
There is a bit of The Stones in this to me. It’s more of a country tinged alternative rocker. This is one of the more mainstream tunes here. It’s catchy and quite cool.
A Stitch in Time
This thing just oozes cool. It’s a killer balladic rocker. Elvis Costello is definitely on the bill here, but so is Tom Petty. Yet, I like this better than either of those acts. The instrumental sections are particularly inspired. I love the harmonica on the tune. This might be my absolute favorite piece of the whole set. It’s hard to pick just one, though.
The Light Gets in the Way
A mix of 1970s rock, country music and more is heard on this piece. It’s one with a real classic sound to it. It’s another that’s very strong.
Prairie Fire
There’s a great rock and roll sound here. This occupies a similar space as the band Cracker’s music does. It’s a great tune. I like the energy and the vibe.
Baby's in Toyland
Folk rock is on the menu here. There is almost some power pop built into this. It’s another mainstream tune that works pretty well.
Long Story Short
This is a similar kind of tune. It’s a fun one that’s very classic in nature.
Man of Misery
I love the blend of classic rock and alternative on this number. It’s another killer tune.
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
I love the mellower, bluegrass meets folk and world music vibe of this cut. It has some great tones and stylings. The instrumental interplay is really inspired. This is another highlight of this massive set of music.
For the Rest of My Days
The country edge on this makes me think of The Stones. In fact, this whole song feels a lot like them to me, with some real rockabilly added to the mix.
Spectacular Fall
The Byrds meet Elvis Costello on this energized rocker. It’s classic in sound and really works well.
Ring Bells
With a driving beat, this is part Kinks and part punk rock. It’s fun, but not one of my favorites here.
17 Ways
This is one of the most decidedly Elvis Costello like tunes here. It’s great stuff.
Basic Black
Chuck Berry is the basic concept here. I suppose you could say that there is a bit of a Black Crowes vibe in the mix, too. This is a fun rock and roller.
Pushin' Uphill
Pretty straight Americana, this has good energy and vibe.
How Do We Feel What's Real
With a bit of a punky edge, this is another that reminds me of Elvis Costello.
He's Got Himself a Young Girl (And He Can't Keep Up)
There’s a lot of rockabilly here. It also makes me think of Bob Dylan. This is fun stuff.
He Can Hear His Brother Calling
Speaking of Bob Dylan, as the harmonica laden folky intro to this song plays through, I can’t help but think of that artist. The song works to more of a roots rock ballad from there, moving out of Dylan like territory. This is good, but not one of my favorites.
Sad Sad Songs
A cool old school rock and roller, this has a lot of energy and a lot of style. It’s fun.
Flak Jacket
With a lot of classic rock in the mix, this is an alternative rocker that’s pretty cool.
Blues Theme
This instrumental is a killer slab of old school rock and roll based jamming. The guitar soloing really steals the show.
Disc Four Live 1985
              
Mason Dixon Line

This live number is classy in sound. It’s got a lot of energy and a great groove.

Time Keeps Traveling
I dig the tempo and vibe of this one. The vocals don’t always work that well for me. In some ways this does feel a bit like The Stones to me, though. There some bits of spacey rock mid-track, too.
(Sweet) Mental Revenge
There is a lot of country in this thing. It’s energetic and a lot of fun. The instrumental work brings a bit more of a rock and roll vibe to it.
Run Dusty Run
More old school rock and roll, there is some great guitar soloing on this thing.
You Don't Know What's Right
Another old time rock and roller, the fun continues here.
As God Is My Witness
This one isn’t a big change, but it’s a bit harder edged. Additionally, there is a bit of noise on it. It does have some killer slide guitar soloing.
Ivory Tower
A classy dramatic alternative rock vibe permeates this killer piece. The vocals don’t work as well for me as the music does, but overall this is quite a cool tune. Some of the instrumental music later in the track really makes me think of The Byrds.
I Can't Hide
Not a big change, this is a solid rocker. It’s not a standout, but holds up pretty well.
Masters of War
A live version of the Dylan cover tune, I absolutely love this version. It really rocks out extremely well. It’s very much the kind of thing Camper Van Beethoven would do in a lot of ways. This is another candidate for best song of the set. The guitar fills really steal the show.
Wreck of the 809
The bass drives the early section of this as just that instrument and drums take it. Guitar joins and they create a smoking hot jam from there. It’s classy blues rock, really. Harmonica mid-track adds a lot to the piece.
Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today
With a lot of country built into it, this is a decent song, but not one of my favorites for sure. It does have some catchy hooks, though.
Six Days on the Road
High energy rock and roll, this is another fun one. It’s very much old time in its delivery. The vocals don’t work extremely well at the beginning, but they get better as it goes on. The guitar soloing is pretty tasty.
Southside of the Story
More of a raw rocker, this is good stuff. It’s the kind of thing that later became known as alternative rock. Yet there is a bit of a John Mellencamp vibe, too. Can you say “R – O – C – K in the USA?”
Still Get By
As this starts it feels like The Byrds to me. It’s another classic rocker that has a lot of energy. I dig the harmonica solo on the tune.
Tell It to the Judge on Sunday
There is some killer rocking guitar on this number. It’s another up-tempo rocker with old time rock and roll written all over it.
 
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