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The Dogs D’Amour
Sandwiched between the insanely good ‘In The Dynamite Jet Salon’ and ‘Errol Flynn’ (or ‘King of Thieves’ in the US); all of which were released back in 1989: the original ‘Graveyard of Empty Bottles’ was, in a way, a stop-gap release in what was an intensely productive period for our man Tyla and his band The Dogs D’Amour. Originally released as a limited edition 10” vinyl there was always something wonderful about the collection of songs, which showcased a mellower side to the Dogs and contrasted beautifully with the incendiary live performances of the time.
So 23 years later here we have the MMXII version and after just a few listens I’m blown away, perhaps even more so than by last years revisiting of ‘In The Dynamite Jet Salon’. To put the original release into context it’s worth adding that this was really the album that said that the Dogs had arrived making it to number 16 in the UK charts at the time, the highest chart position of any Dogs long-player.
At eight tracks long the original always left you wanting more, and here in 2012 we get just that with the original eight tracks (in order) supplemented by the addition of 5 more tracks, making a lucky 13 in all.
To the uninitiated The Dogs D’Amour always had a unique flavour to their sound which took as its starting point sheer raw rock and roll that sounded like it was played exclusively in smoky bar after more than a couple of rounds of Jack; a dirty country tinged blues laid upon Bukowski-infused lyrics from which Tyla spun his own mythology through some great songs that echoed the best of The Stones and The Faces without ever sounding like a pastiche of either.
So how does it stack up? Well let’s start at the beginning with the revisited tracks.
If you have last years’ ‘In The Dynamite Jet Salon MMXI’ and loved what had been done with the songs near and dear to any Dogs fans heart, then you will really love this. Yet again Tyla has pulled out all the stops in not merely rereading his back catalogue, but also reinterpreting it and adding weight to the numbers that were once bare-boned acoustic-led beautiful sketches. In my honest opinion this works even better than ‘Dynamite’ as the scope for experimentation is broader and the palette both bigger and more colourful, if still seen seemingly through that haze of smoke.
Starting with what was always one of my favourite songs by the Dogs: ‘I Think It’s Love Again’ is all that you would want it to be, joyous and immediate, slowed down slightly and augmented by keys that give the song more depth and flavour. Next up the stripped back original, largely acoustic, version of ‘So Once Was I’ is now transformed into something deeper than it once was, again slowed down, with a more intensely smoky vocal that adds so much to the translation. In fact one of the things you can say about the MMXII release is that Tyla’s vocal delivery has developed a real patina over the years that seems to somehow bring the best out in these songs.
By the time we reach 'Comfort of the Devil' it's clear just how good this album always was. It's one of those songs that just seems to resonate so deeply it's hard to describe. At the time it was perhaps the distillation of the entire CD; and now sat atop the new intro it still has that indefinable swagger that made the Dogs D'Amour such a special band. If anything it’s still too short!
A piano added to ‘Saviour’ is perhaps one of my favourite augmentations to any of the songs here, it lifts the song from the original ‘one man and an acoustic’ to something truly beautiful. And it doesn’t let up: so pour yourself a wine or maybe something a little stronger and relax. ‘Errol Flynn’ of course got an original reworking on its namesake album and here the new version with its sing-along refrain is perhaps the reinterpretation that sticks most closely to the original release.
‘Bullet Proof Poet’ with its great searching lyric has again benefited by the MMXII makeover, keys and understated guitar take nothing away from the original, but give the reworking more vibrancy somehow. Lyrically it’s a song I always loved, with its familiar Tyla themes and mythologizing. I just wish the new ending to the song had been expanded out a little; but throughout the album the song timings remain pretty faithful to the original construst.
Getting towards where the original album closed ‘When The Dream Was Gone’ with its added repeated guitar refrain gives it a faintly hypnotic flavour, and the almost Floyd-like guitar part that comes in towards the end only hints at what could have been if the song had been left to wander. If Tyla has missed any tricks here it’s perhaps the chance to expand upon some of the originals. And with the track that closed the original release: ‘Angel’ we get another winning reinterpretation that even hints at current day artists like Adele with its new drum track and deconstructed guitar.
And so to those tracks not on the original release…
‘Just an English Outlaw’ originally to be found on 1993’s reformation album ‘More Uncharted Heights of Disgrace’ has a decided country feel to it here, it’s a song that hooks you in and is positioned beautifully in the new tracklisting.
The remainder of the tracks on the CD can be found in their original format on the limited fan club release ‘Seconds’ from 2000; and it’s great to hear them here. ‘Gone Are All The Angels’ ups the pace and is a great counterpoint to both the preceding songs and the blues of ‘Stealin’ From the Devil’ which just adds another texture to an album you already thought had pretty much everything. And all to soon it’s over as ‘Won’t Let You Go’ again adds that lighter country bar blues infusion that seems so fitting a way to draw a close to MMXII.
Like I’ve said before, there are many great songwriters out there that you may not have discovered yet, troubadours that live their music, and as a result produce real raw gems that are so much more than just a collection of songs. I’d like to think Tyla gets as much as we do from this series of forays into the past; and it’s so much more rewarding to see an artist reveling in reinvention than just producing carbon copies and repackaging their history.
This was an important album when it first came out and it’s just as important now, perhaps even more so in a world that seems to have turned its back on anything that couldn’t merely be described as ‘product’ and pumped through channels still overseen by faceless corporations to a public that really needs to rediscover its individuality or face losing its soul.
Music at its best should be what emotions sound like. This is.
And there's more: we have a couple of very limited Promotional Copies of the album to give away:
e-mail mark@therockpit telling me what you think of the album and a we'll randomly select 2 winners to be announced on 1st May 2012 AWST
I'll also add the best of the comments to this review and our Facebook page!