Black 47's self-released debut album brought joy to the hearts of their growing downtown cult following and made the eyes of major label A&R men light up with dollar signs. The band's punky insouciance, sense of humor, and hooky fusion of Celtic, American, and Jamaican musical influences looked like an awful lot like a winning commercial combination at the time. Black 47's subsequent SBK releases (some of which featured re-recorded versions of these same songs) flopped, but ten years later you can still hear what everyone got so excited about in the raw energy of this debut. Bandleader and main songwriter Larry Kirwan is a terrible guitarist and a worse singer, and he has an embarrassing tendency to throw tired catchphrases around like someone trying to prove that he's fluent in American slang, but somehow it all seems to work in his favor here: "Desperate," with its uillean pipes and slow-skanking reggae beat, is an agonized wail of longing for a middle-class family life ("I want a Donna Reed, but she'd think I'm too kinky"), while "Free Joe Now" and "James Connolly" rail against the British domination of Ireland in terms that will guarantee the band a hero's welcome in any South Boston bar. Even when the lyrics get overwrought and the singing grates, Black 47's crack horn section, judicious choice of traditional tune structures, and boundless energy will keep you involved. This one and Live in New York City (on Gadfly) are the two to own.
AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson