First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2007, Volume 14, #8
Written by John Metzger
Sat August 18, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Once the British Invasion hit American shores, every boy in the country formed a band, set up shop in his parentsí garage, and began writing songs. A few of these outfits obtained regional fame. Some even flirted, to varying degrees, with national recognition. Chicago had Shadows of Knight, New Orleans had The Palace Guards, San Francisco had The Beau Brummels, Los Angeles had The Seeds, and Boston had The Remains. Led by guitarist Barry Tashian, the latter group quickly became a local favorite, and it subsequently scored enough attention to land a slot supporting The Beatles on its tour of the U.S. in 1966. This tidbit alone was enough to build a cult-like following around The Remains, and Tashianís contributions to Gram Parsonís GP as well as his lengthy stint with Emmylou Harris in the í80s further solidified his base of fans.
The Remains lasted a mere two years. Signed to Epic Records, the group culled together only one album from a handful of sessions that were held in New York and Nashville. Oddly enough, its self-titled affair was issued after The Remains had disbanded. The set was remastered and remixed for its CD debut in 1991 under the moniker Barry & The Remains, but although it doubled in size, its contents were jumbled. The latest incarnation of The Remainsí lone endeavor restores its historical accuracy. Not only is the outing presented in its proper running order, but also the extra material ó which, with the exception of an alternate version of Say Youíre Sorry, includes everything from Barry & The Remains ó is given more consideration in how it is sequenced.
The lingering problem with The Remainsí eponymous endeavor, however, is that 40-odd years later it doesnít sound terribly special. Although the ensembleís original compositions fit neatly alongside its well-chosen cover tunes, the album boasts nothing that wasnít done better by the British Invasion acts that The Remains was emulating. Not surprisingly, the Rolling Stones serves as the bandís most obvious influence, which dominates everything from Tashianís Thank You to its covers of Don Covayís Mercy, Mercy and Chuck Berryís Iím Talking about You. Although the group recasts Charlie Richís Lonely Week-End as a soul tune in the spirit of Wilson Pickett, it still exudes a Stones-ian flair.
When The Remains does deviate from this framework, it steers its material in other very familiar directions. It turns The Beatlesí Do You Want to Know a Secret? into When I Want to Know; it gives Billy Veraís Donít Look Back a snarl that is worthy of Eric Burdon & The Animals; it connects Do Wah Diddy Diddy back to the source of Manfred Mannís inspiration (the Bo Diddley/Willie Dixon tune Diddy Wah Diddy); and it draws from The Kinks and The Yardbirds on You Got a Hard Time Coming and Once Before, respectively. Although The Beach Boys-style introduction that is affixed to Petula Clarkís Heart is interesting, it also doesnít sit quite right with the songís garage-rock ambience. In addition, the cut doesnít fare very well as the albumís opening track.
For what itís worth, everything on The Remainsí eponymous affair is well-executed, but as Jon Landau famously pointed out in Crawdaddy, it barely scratches the surface of the bandís capabilities. In a sense, The Remains played it too straight and too safe for its own good. Beneath the surface, however, there are hints of why the ensemble was regarded so highly. Even within the tightly scripted constraints of the outing, itís apparent that the group was exceptional in concert, where it could turn its exuberance into an inescapable and irresistible rush of adrenaline-soaked fun. Unfortunately, as it stands, The Remainsí self-titled endeavor is nothing more than an interesting artifact from another place and time, albeit one that is thoroughly enjoyable.
The Remains is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box