The Fleshtones

Living Legends Series

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An essential collection for those wanting to find out more (the more so because the IRS material is thoroughly out of print, including this disc itself), Living Legend Series draws on the debut Upfront EP, Roman Gods, Hexbreaker, and various other goodies. It makes a great overview of the early band in one place, accompanying by celebratory liner notes from critic Chris Morris. Compared to some of the wilder and meaner examples of garage/psych revivalism that future years produced, the early Fleshtones sound almost sweetly tame in comparison -- something that Zaremba and his compatriots would likely consider a horrifying prospect. In context, though, the band kicked against prevailing trends with inspired fire, while years later their stuff holds up just fine. Spaeth's sax work in particular often makes them sound like logical forebears to the likes of Rocket From the Crypt (check out the opening "Theme From 'The Vindicators'," originally from the Upfront EP). Nearly everything sounds like it should be on the Nuggets box set -- or at least one of many Pebbles collections -- but that's not so much a criticism as a basic description of what it is. Zaremba's sometimes hiccuping, sometimes engagingly smooth white soul moves entertain just as they should, while the band pulls out all the needed riffs and grooves (the Milhizer/Pakulski rhythm section deserves particular credit). The rarities interspersed throughout the disc make for an interestingly mixed bunch, drawn on foreign and domestic singles and B-sides, not to mention a smart redo of "American Beat" originally recorded for, of all things, Tom Hanks' pre-serious persona film Bachelor Party. A couple of unreleased covers surface as well, including a fine romp through the Dantee's "Can't Get Enough of Your Love." Good sound and great cover art make for the icing on the cake.

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