Alpha Band

Alpha Band

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Alpha Band was formed in 1976 while its three principle members, T-Bone Burnett, Steven Soles, and David Mansfield, were on tour with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. Shortly thereafter they signed a deal with Arista Records, and in 1976, amid a busload of hype, released their eponymous debut. The fact that Burnett co-wrote the record's opener, "Interviews," with Greenwich Village folk vet Bob Neuwirth and abstract, expressionist painter Larry Poons, should tell you most of what you need to know about Alpha Band. This is roots rock & roll with a dadaist bent. That's not to say that Alpha Band can't play it straight. On his own, Soles' material wouldn't be out of place in the singer/songwriter, country-rock world, while Burnett's "Dark Eyes" and "Last Chance to Dance" reflect his Texas background. And while these alone would be the nucleus for a strong album, it's unconventional tracks such as the impressionistic take on the state of the union, "Ten Figures," the aforementioned "Interviews," and the subverted, Southwestern country-rock of "The Dogs" that take things to the next level. But as strong as the material can be, it gets a big push from the solid rhythm section of Matt Betton and David Jackson (check out his great bassline on "Ten Figures"), and especially multi-instrumentalist David Mansfield. Mansfield's mandolin, guitar, and violin add both texture and fire to an already fine collection of songs. The label may not have gotten quite what they had hoped for commercially with Alpha Band, but what they did get was not only the most interesting record to come directly out of the Rolling Thunder Revue, but quite possibly the best.

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