The Dream Syndicate

3½ (The Lost Tapes: 1985-1988)

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So-called because it mostly consists of sessions and takes recorded in between Out of the Grey and Ghost Stories, 3 1/2 makes for an entertaining coda for the dedicated Dream Syndicate fan and has some points of interest for the general listener. While Precoda is understandably missed, Cutler was no slouch as a replacement guitarist, and the recordings here generally have a good, rootsy feeling to them. Most were recorded during mid-1987 with Vitus Matare manning the boards and Green on Red mainstay Chris Cacavas guesting on keyboards and vocals. Cutler throws in some okay feedback squeals and blasts, while Cacavas adds a further barrelhouse/bar band jam touch to the material, especially on the cover of Rodney Crowell's "I Ain't Living Long Like This." Wynn's in OK voice and everything sounds pleasant, though frankly less of the hot-wired inspiration of the band's early years appears -- it's reverential without being revelatory, where a band like the Walkabouts took many similar influences to wider conclusions. Most of the remaining tracks come from earlier recordings in 1985 shortly after the band was reactivated with Cutler as the new guitarist. Hearing him play distinctly non-chaotic/goth music so soon after 45 Grave's dissolution is perversely amusing, but the real point is that he brings a fine sense of performance to Wynn's material, especially to the disc-concluding "Blood Money," a solid rocker. One final ringer is an outtake from the Live at Raji's album, a nice version of "When You Smile," introduced with an amusing admonition for the crowd to scream so "we can run a loop of that whole thing" throughout said record's length. In general, 3 1/2, while nowhere near the real heights of the Precoda years, is listenable and intriguing if not deathless.

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