The Red Rippers

Over There... And Over Here

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Privately released in 1983 and never re-pressed, Over There...and Over Here by the Red Rippers (aka Vietnam-era ex-Navy pilot Edwin Bankston) has reportedly been a collector's Holy Grail for three decades. Bankston's songs reflect not only his experiences, but those shared by fellow veterans lied to by the government, then shunned by society when they returned. These are not run-of-the-mill protest songs. These are songs by an outsider who sees all sides. Bankston didn't try to offer his songs to the general public; he wrote these songs for himself and other vets. He originally sold it via an ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine. Many "lost" and "collector's" recordings never live up to the hype, but this nine-song collection is the real deal. Returned from Vietnam in 1972, he wrote these songs in the decade that followed. They tell not only his story, but those he collected from friends and those told to him by other vets at his own gigs on base. A meld of raw '70s boogie, outlaw country-rock, psychedelic guitar, and excellent D.I.Y. production, they poetically yet directly offer a view of the returning soldier's mind from the inside. Bankston is a solid guitar player and an able bassist, and can manage a drum kit. His voice is reminiscent of Waylon Jennings' -- deep, strong, and soulful. In the countrified boogie of "I Roll," he sings "They use them up and send 'em home/Bodies heal, but those years are gone...Do your time come back in a year/But the home I loved up and disappeared...." "Firefight" is buzzing three-chord punk, laced with fuzzed-out psychedelic guitar. "Vietnam Blues" is the only blues song you ever need to hear about that war. "She's Been Down," with its pumping piano and throbbing bassline, offers a tale of spousal betrayal that far too many soldiers -- of either gender -- relate to. Bankston's songs move far past the limits of Vietnam in reflecting the combat veteran's experience. As thousands of servicemen and women return from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, these songs offer an unmatched musical empathy. Even Bankston's indictments of American government and society in the popping two-step stomp "Who Remembers" and the spooky closer "Over the Edge" hold true in the present: we still betray our veterans with a lack of employment, affordable housing, and adequate mental health care. Over There...and Over Here is a singular document, a rock & roll protest record born from actual spilled blood, sweat, tears, and alienation but refuses to surrender.

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