The Saints

The Greatest Cowboy Movie Never Made

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After the commercial failure of the Saints' third album, 1978's Prehistoric Sounds, EMI gave the band their walking papers and guitarist Ed Kuepper and drummer Ivor Hay decided to pack it in and leave London to return home to Australia. Singer and guitarist Chris Bailey, however, wasn't about to throw in the towel, and with Kuepper's blessings he assembled a new version of the Saints and began the long, hard struggle to re-establish the group as one of the world's great rock bands. Bailey's first three albums with his new Saints are collected in The Greatest Cowboy Movie Never Made, a box set includes the LP's The Monkey Puzzle, Out in the Jungle... and A Little Madness to Be Free in their entirety, as well as the Paralytic Tonight Dublin Tomorrow EP and an unreleased live set. Folks looking for a four-disc onslaught of old-school punk in the manner of (I'm) Stranded will be disappointed, but given the eclecticism the Saints displayed on their first three albums, the blend of pop melodies, soul accents and rock & roll passion Bailey and his bandmates summon on the studio material certainly fits the spirit if not the letter of the band's original intentions, and one thing that remains consistent throughout is the excellence of Bailey's singing, which is smart, forceful and original throughout, as well as his considerable gifts as a songwriter. And folks who want to hear Bailey rock out are rewarded with disc four, titled "A Gallon of Rum Is a Harsh Mistress the Morning After: Live in Oz," a warts-and-all recording of a well-oiled and highly energetic show in Sydney from 1981 that features classic songs from the Kuepper-era Saints as well as Bailey's more recent tunes. The only disadvantage to this set is that some hardcore Saints fans may already have the three albums included and will have to pony for them a second time to get the live CD, though given the obscurity of this material (especially in North America), that isn't terribly likely, and this is a fine package for fans of one of the more unpredictable (yet satisfying) groups of their era.

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