The Devil

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Originally intended as a set of demos, The Devil captured Gwen Snyder's irresistible Blueberry project in its earliest incarnation, a full year or so before Twilight took form. As such, the album is expectedly raw at times: off-the-cuff and underdeveloped in places, it's in want of proper mixes and sounds, for stretches, almost like a good live recording. But as trial runs go, The Devil is a wonderful one, full of supremely visceral performances, loose but palpable energy, and a sort of fly-on-the-basement-wall immediacy -- plus a wealth of engrossing musical ideas, and sometimes even full songs (the title track, for instance). In fact, it features some of the baddest, fattest-backed bass-and-clavinet groove de deux to survive the '70s with wah-wah pedal intact, as on "Laughing Tears" and "Nowhere Train to Everywhere," both of which sound not unlike Debbie Harry fronting a ramshackle reunion of ex-Funkadelic players, or the explosive minute-long vamp "Why Lie?" There are also moments of sublime weirdness, such as "Beautiful Mount Airy Lodge," which seems to capture a lost flash of history, during which the Andrews Sisters and the Dorsey Brothers shimmy-bopped together after dropping amphetamines. Along with "Coffeelosophy," it is perhaps as much or more Box Ass (Snyder's earlier funky accordion trio) as it is full-blown Blueberry, yet no less beguiling for that fact. And then there is "Terrorrific Energies," a piece of paranoid outer-space electro taken over by what sounds like a rogue theremin. Even if it vacillates between cohesive and slack, this always fascinating sketchbook is chock-full of passages of undiluted inspiration, and as none of it had yet to reappear officially as of the first two Blueberry albums, it is certainly worth tracking down. There is much here that deserves to be picked out of the pantry and spiced up for future use.

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