The Fleshtones

Hexbreaker!/Speed Connection: Live in Paris 85

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The Fleshtones were on the scene well before the garage rock revival took hold in America, and they'll probably be around after the last Nehru-draped hipster collapses over his Vox guitar, so given their longevity, it's a shame that so much of their best and best-known work remains out of print. The excellent Australian reissue label Raven Records has thankfully been attempting to rectify this situation; in the spring of 2010, the label released an excellent collection of the band's recordings for IRS Records, It's Super Rock Time!, and six months later Raven dropped a two-fer reissue including a pair of the band's IRS long-players on one disc. Released in 1983, Hexbreaker is one of the Fleshtones' best studio efforts, not quite up to the level of its immediate predecessor, Roman Gods, but a tight and eclectic set of tunes fusing the sound and spirit of rock & roll's past with the energy and attitude of the present. The R&B groove of "Right Side of a Good Thing," the anti-gospel fury of "Burning Hell," and the tough rock action of the title cut capture the band in excellent form, and if the production is a bit too clean in spots, it also allows you to hear how well these guys tackle this material, and it holds together as well as anything they've released. The second album in this package is a bit of a wild card; in 1985, the Fleshtones recorded a live album at a gig in Paris that was released in Europe as Speed Connection: Live in Paris 85, but the group wasn't especially happy with the results. Speed Connection II: The Final Chapter, which appeared in the U.S. the same year, nixed most of the original album's material in favor of recordings from another Paris gig. Rather than release the Fleshtones' preferred version of the album, Raven has included the original Speed Connection, and it's not hard to see why the band wasn't thrilled with it. Peter Zaremba's voice starts to fray early on in the set and he sounds painfully hoarse by the end of the album. Add a recording and mix that sound curiously hollow and you get an album that struggles to capture the power and energy of a great live band, though enough of their house-shaking mania makes it onto tape that this is worth a listen for fans, even if the U.S. variant is a decidedly better album. Given how long these two albums have been out of print, Fleshtones fans should welcome this set with open arms, and the quality remastering and well-designed booklet add to the value; one can only hope Raven keeps this up and continues to preserve this great band's history as the Fleshtones keep rocking into the 21st century.

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