Dr. Feelgood

On the Road Again

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A courageous move, a courageous album. With the death of vocalist Lee Brilleaux in April 1994, the story of Dr. Feelgood came to a grinding, heartbreaking halt. He had been the last surviving original member for more years than any other original member had been on board, an institution within an institution. How could the band even dream of continuing on without him? At first, they couldn't. But as the band's own authorized biography, Tony Moon's Down by the Jetty, points out that time is a great healer. So is the encouragement of friends, fans, and family. With final lineup stalwarts Kevin Morris and Steve Walwyn joined by '80s-era bassist Phil Mitchell and newcomer vocalist Pete Gage, the aptly titled On the Road Again came together around a clutch of songs which both echoed the past and looked forward to the future. Gage was an especially inspired choice, a lad with a larynx which was just as charred and charged as Brilleaux's, but which had a sleeveful of tricks of its own as well. With the Walwyn/Dave Bronze writing team reconvening behind the scenes, the new material on the album echoed all the hallmarks of latter-day Feelgoods -- and sometimes, it sounded as though nothing at all had changed. But of course it had and, of all this triumphant album's many achievements, perhaps the most admirable was its refusal to try and kid us otherwise. The name was the same, the sound was similar and the doctor was still on call. But songs like Fleetwood Mac's "The World Keeps on Turning" and Canned Heat's "On the Road Again" would never have made the old band's repertoire, just as the likes of "Styrofoam" and "Bony Moronie" could never be included in the new group's. On the Road Again was more than a revival. It was a complete reinvention -- and, though it seems hyperbolically hard to comprehend, it ensured that the new Feelgood were one of the best things to come out of the entire 1990s.

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