When punk rock began exploding in the late 1970s, more than a few fans of the new music declared the only hope for rock & roll was to throw away its past and start over, but thankfully, a few people knew better than that. Dave and Phil Alvin were a pair of brothers from Downey, CA who'd been raised on a steady diet of what they called "American Music" -- blues, rockabilly, country, jazz, swing, R&B, and early rock & roll, nearly all of it dating back before 1955 -- and they knew the last thing that music needed was to be treated as a museum piece, as so many others treated it in the '70s. The Alvin brothers formed a band called the Blasters that approached the classic styles of the past with the energy and insouciance of punk rock, and their music taught a new generation that rock & roll was hard, wild, and manic fun even before it was called rock & roll. The Blasters cut a fine LP for Rollin' Rock Records in 1980, but it was their self-titled 1981 album for Slash that made them stars in Los Angeles while earning them a loyal following nationwide, and with good reason. The Blasters were a stronger, tighter band when they went into the studio for their second album, and while the production (credited to the group, with Pat Burnette and Roger Harris engineering) was simple, it captured the fire in their performances with greater accuracy and detail. The Blasters is divided the album roughly half-and-half between originals and covers, and the classic tunes cover a broad enough spectrum to show off the full range of what the musicians could do, while Dave Alvin's songs were the work of a writer who knew how to tell a compelling story with strong characters in a few well-chosen words, married to melodies that rocked hard and sweet. Phil Alvin's vocals hit an ideal grace note between reverence and gonzo passion, and with Dave's guitar, John Bazz's bass, and Bill Bateman's drums turning up the heat behind him, the Blasters took the group's tough, heartfelt music and put it on plastic for the ages in near flawless form. (It didn't hurt that they also had some excellent guest musicians on board who later became full members of the band -- Gene Taylor on piano, Steve Berlin or baritone sax, and New Orleans R&B legend Lee Allen on tenor sax.) The Blasters wasn't the only great album this group would make, but it was certainly their best, catching them when they were still fresh but with just enough seasoning to bring out their best performances; it's practically impossible to imagine the roots rock scene of the '80s and onward existing without this album as a roadmap.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming