The Cramps

Off the Bone

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This British compilation includes the entirety of the Cramps' first release, the Gravest Hits EP, along with selections from Songs the Lord Taught Us, Psychedelic Jungle, Smell of Female, and a live version of "You Got Good Taste" (shortened here to "Good Taste"). It covers the years 1979-1983, a formative period in the band's long career. Ten of the tracks can also be found on the domestic compilation Bad Music for Bad People, which was released the following year. Although the bulk of the material consists of covers, you can hardly tell (barring an intimacy with any of the originals). Once the Cramps get hold of a song, they always make it their own -- even the more recognizable numbers like "Surfin' Bird," "Lonesome Town," and "Fever." All benefit from Lux Interior's vocal prowess. He's a proto-punk screamer like Screamin' Jay Hawkins or the Sonics' Gerry Roslie on the rockin' numbers, but can caress a ballad like mid-period Elvis when the need arises. None of the songs sound as if they could possibly have been written anytime after the '60s. Alex Chilton produced the first ten tracks, the Cramps the remaining seven. [The cover art for ...Off the Bone has varied over the years; the 1987 Illegal edition is rendered -- appropriately enough -- in 3-D.]

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