Monday, March 3, 2014

Reissues: The Big Crash Collection

Basically it's really pointless to talk about the reissues of the early Rodney Smith albums, now available on CD for the first time from the early 80s prior to So Much For That, the first and actual album of thought out songs.  I admit that the majority of songs are one take, drum only numbers that harbor back to the primitive ways of recording albums and then the infamous 70s echophonic recordings that are better left in history.

But The Big Crash Collection (the term Big Crash was given to Smith by former guitarist Dennis Lancaster of the ways Smith would smash his cymbals with reckless disregard). focuses on the first three albums of Smith's career and basically a step by step from barely playing and keeping a consistent beat of Tonight to the forceful infamous drumming that echoed parts of Keith Moon and John Bonham into a loud mix that still sounds like thunder to this day that is on the 1982 Bizarre Behavior album.

Beginning with the clang clang clang of the cheap cymbals used for It's Me Tonite, R.Smith Tonight is your typical wanking around as Smith searches for a style to his one take ramblings and this record is no where near of the level of albums 3 decades onward, but to get to where Pawnshops For Olivia is at, one has to stumble through Tonight!. There are hints of novelty with Out Of Gas, containing some of the most goofy lyrics this side of Vanilla Ice but as the song progresses onward you can begin the feel of the beat is beginning to take hold as the alter ego Big R Rowdie raps out Get Up Get Down, Make Everything All Right, but it's not going to win any Grammys nor airplay in this day and age.  It's a 19 year old, who has never played the instruments at all trying to make sense of it all. And some songs do take effect later on, Movin On To Better Things, one of only two tracks from the original Paraphernalia album and Black Wind, both guitar numbers, both ragged, the drum numbers too clumsy to add, but Tonight chooses the best tracks off 4 reel to reel tapes and warts and all begins the long 3 decade journey but half the time the wheels fall off.

The best of the three albums The Power Of Positive Thinking (1981) is still sloppy one take numbers but the flow of the album is much better with the adding of more guitar and actual attempted songs and the drum solos are cut to a minimum.  All Night Dancing and Same Old Thing would be used later for 20 and There's Nothing Left, and playing on a old out of tune two string acoustic guitar, the minute and half Same Old Thing became the first true song that sounded like it was thought out, even down to the harmonica solo, something that Smith has abandoned using.  The title track one of the best early guitar numbers and was even used for a time in the late 80s when Route 66 was playing but outside of that, the rest of the album suffers from thought up lyrics on the spot, and very one dimensional, but TPOPT itself, it has a better ebb and flow and a more steadier beat.

The final of the three Bizarre Behavior (1982) is where the infamous drum repetition and representation of what made Rodney Smith a terror on the drums. By now, Smith finally mastered the bass drum and was capable of keeping the beat as he went flying through the drums and cymbals, playing with a wildness to which Keith Moon is awaken from the dead.  On some of the so called songs, wild drum sticks hit the microphone sending the sound going from one speaker to another.  The thunderous roar of the old Zickos drums that were used, flies through the speakers like a train coming off the tracks. The stop and start of Thunderfoot, or the echo drenched Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can, this is the sound that you got if you were playing guitar or bass in front of the wild drummer, not exactly playing but rather taking his frustrations on the drums and getting all kinds of reaction from the drums or cymbals used.  It took Smith 2 years to finally learn to play to the point that not only he could play but he could kick every drummer's butt in a 100 mile radius.  While the drum solos were fine themselves, the rest of the actual songs once again lacked anything but another excuse to bash away on the drums, although Heart Of Stone would be reworked from a drum solo cop and plea into a power ballad that Paraphernalia would do for a song submission to a KKRQ rock song contest (later rejected by the radio station).  There's really nothing that anybody would want to hear be it Roll A Rock or Sidewalk Sale Woman.  If there's any of value of these reissues it's of the fact that Smith really became one of the best drummers in the area on the range and power of Thunderfoot or Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can, or even Drums On Fire from Tonight.

But things had to change and when Jack Orbit finally agree to produced what would become So Much For That, the original session work of continuing the one take process has to end and thing would be aborted and helped Smith write actual songs and play actual guitar chords to go along with the wild drumming that Smith was doing on the early album and in the bar bands that he was playing in.  And finally made an honest effort with So Much For That but the next album would be the start of things to come, the 1983 classic Town's Edge Rock.

But before Town's Edge Rock and So Much For That, there was The Big Crash Collection, the three albums that showed Smith had raw talent and he had heart and soul but these albums were a big mess and he had a long way to go.  But there are spouts of inspiration that begin to appear.  But it would take three years before a consistency would take hold.  It's not for everybody and even the hardcore would be put off by all the silliness but eventually Smith would find the right music and the right songs to persevere and become a fairly good garage rocker 34 years down the road.