Dr. Feelgood

Feelgood Factor

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The first indications that Feelgood frontman Lee Brilleaux was ill came during the Primo recording sessions. They were little things, mood and temperament mostly, but, later, all his bandmates agreed that they knew something was wrong. Two years later, they knew what it was. Brilleaux had been diagnosed with lymphoma, a revelation which forced the band off the road at a time when, even the critics acknowledged, they were playing some of the best music of their career. Unable to face anything even remotely resembling downtime, however, Brilleaux promptly led the band back into the studio to cut what became Feelgood Factor. Recent arrivals Steve Walwyn and Dave Bronze had already gelled into the strongest internal songwriting team the band had known since the days of Wilco Johnson. It was they who dominated the sessions then; they, too, who established the "back to basics" mood which permeates the record. And even with Brilleaux now spending as much time in hospital as he was the studio, they pulled it off. What transpired to be Brilleaux's last recordings would also stand among his greatest. The title track itself is glorious defiance, a classic Feelgood grind; "Wolfman Calling" growls as ferociously as its title, while the latest in a long line of best-of-breed covers, Sean Tyla's immortal "Styrofoam," comes out fighting, as brutal in 1993 as it was the first time anyone heard the song, pre-empting punk rock 18 years before. And that was exactly as it should have been, because that was what the Feelgoods themselves did. Feelgood Factor simply reminded us all of that.

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