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The Days Of Wine And Roses
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The Days Of Wine And Roses [Digital Version]
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The Dream Syndicate’s debut album, The Days Of Wine And Roses, has long been considered a cornerstone release of the early ’80s Paisley Underground scene. However, it was more influential than that, and is one of indie-rock’s essentials. The original Steve Wynn/Karl Precoda/Kendra Smith/Dennis Duck line-up took seminal ’60s rock and filtered it through more modern sounds. In fact, it was Flesh Eaters’ front man Chris D., who produced The Days Of Wine And Roses, who got it released on Slash Records—one of the premier L.A. labels of the punk rock era. Despite its seminal status, The Days Of Wine And Roses has been out of print for the better part of a decade. With the rebirth of the band as a live/touring unit over the past two years, Omnivore Recordings has remastered and expanded this gem. Calling on the band’s long-time archivist Pat Thomas, the CD now contains a slew of never-before heard recordings that capture the first year of the classic Wynn/Precoda/Smith/Duck line up in all their lo-fi glory! Bonus tracks from previous editions have been replaced by rehearsal tapes that capture two songs that later turned up on Medicine Show, as well as four songs that no one has ever heard, including a nearly 10-minute Krautrock inspired jam! Long-time fans have often wondered what it would have sounded like had Kendra Smith stayed in the band for a second full-length album, now we have the answer— less ’70s FM rock, and far more Marquee Moon-era Television! A revamped booklet includes new notes that describe the source of the vintage recordings—plus fresh testimonies from their peers; members of the Rain Parade, The Long Ryders, Divine Weeks, and Sonic Youth weigh in about the first time they heard The Days Of Wine And Roses. This is a reissue that is essential for both fans who’ve already collected it all before and the new kids on the block—those discovering the soundtrack of ’80s college radio for the first time. We’ve experienced The Day Before Wine And Roses. Welcome to the new Days Of Wine And Roses.
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Dream Syndicate's roots in Dylan, the Velvet Underground, Crazy Horse and Television provided the obvious surface, but the band aimed for influence and homage, rather than slavish stylistic nostalgia, and grounded their sound in the new decade. The feedback laden guitar solos of this debut, particularly on the extended length title track, had the confrontational theatricality of punk rock, but the record's expansiveness didn't adhere to the two-minute ethos. Comparing the album to the contemporaneous live set The Day Before Wine and Roses, it's clear that the group's chemistry was that of a band that played together and fed off one another. Dennis Duck and Kendra Smith locked together as a rhythm section, providing a hypnotic backing for the penetrating, strangulated tone of Karl Precoda's guitar.
Standing in front, pushed by the rhythm section and speared by the guitar, vocalist Steve Wynn sounded desperately engaged. His monotone was seasoned by the spittle of punk rock, and supplemented by slight, but highly effective melodic diversions that occupy their own seat in the house of Lou Reed. Early `80s college radio listeners are apt to remember "Tell Me When It's Over," "When You Smile" and "The Days of Wine and Roses," but the rest of the album connects the dots with music that's filled with dark, savage energy. "Definitely Clean" and "Then She Remembers" charge from the gate and never relent on their driving tempos, and the title track's extended instrumental middle adds a harrowing new entry to the pantheon of guitar duets.
Omnivore's reissue reconfigures Rhino's 2001 reissue, dropping the pre-LP EP, early rehearsal tracks and a pre-Dream Syndicate single by 10 Seconds, in lieu of newly discovered vault entries. Heard here for the first time are the lengthy instrumental "Outside the Dream Syndicate" and forgotten title "Like Mary" from early 1982, the short jam "Is it Rolling, Bob?" and the complete song "A Reason," from December 1982, and early rehearsals of Medicine Show's "Still Holding On to You" and "Armed With an Empty Gun," with Kendra Smith on bass. The latter two, recorded only a few months after the album, suggest what Medicine Show might have sounded like had the band not spent months recording in San Francisco for a major label with producer Sandy Pearlman.
The newly excavated tracks provide bookends to the album, showing off both the band's primordial roots and a glimpse at an alternate future they might have lived out. Fans who have collected all of the official releases and reissues will appreciate this newly discovered ground, particularly the Medicine Show titles. As rehearsals, the production quality doesn't match that of the album, but the unguarded nature of these performances provides a fascinating glimpse into the band's development. Those new to the Dream Syndicate will also want to also track down a copy of Rhino's earlier release for the EP and pre-Dream Syndicate tracks. Omnivore's 80-minute CD is accompanied by a 12-page booklet that includes testimonials from Bucketfull of Brains' Nigel Cross, the Rain Parade's Matt Piucci, the Long Ryders' Tom Stevens, Green on Red's Dan Stuart, Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley, Rhino Records' Gary Stewart and several friends of the band. [©2015 Hyperbolium]
The fascinating thing about the album is that it sounds so familiar, but when you look at the albums that it sounds like, they all come after its release, while nothing that came before bears much resemblence to it. Little in rock is truly original, but this comes as close as one can get. One can hear a lot of Television in the album, especially the slower pace of the songs, but the guitar playing sounds far more like Neil Young than either Tom Verlaine or Richard Lloyd. Some compare it to the Velvet Underground, but I've never heard that as much as Television. Like Television, the Dream Syndicate is built around twin guitars, though an unequal partnership. Steve Wynn is so much more celebrated than the underrated Karl Precoda that many think he was the only guitarist.
For those coming to Dream Syndicate for the first time, I recommend two albums. THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (I've never been able to determine if the title was taken from Ernst Dowson's poem "Vitae Summa Brevis"-"They are not long, the days of wine and roses/Out of a misty dream/Our path emerges for a while, then closes/Within a dream."-or the Jack Lemmon movie whose title was taken from the Dowson poem) and the retrospective TELL ME WHEN IT'S OVER: THE BEST OF THE DREAM SYNDICATE. Though the band produced a lot of good music, almost all of it is contained on these two CDs. I'm actually not a big fan of the extended version of THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES. The CD includes the eponymous EP that came out shortly before the LP and I find few of the EP cuts to be anywhere near as interesting as the LP versions. I'm not much of a fan of extended versions of albums; I rarely find that the extra cuts are especially good additions to an album. There are exceptions. Elvis Costello's extended versions of albums often contain fascinating alternative cuts of songs (e.g., the acoustic version of "Green Shirt") and the Gram Parson versions of the songs that were (for legal reasons) sung instead by Roger McGuinn on the Byrds's SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO are vastly superior. But these are the exceptions. To be honest, I would rather that THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES featured only the original cuts and I'll be honest and say that on my iPod I've deleted the additions and kept only the original nine cuts.
However one listens to this album, either at home with all the cuts or on iPod with extra cuts eliminated (my recommendation), this is one of the crucial albums in the development of alternative rock. The songs remain very strong a quarter of a century later (eeek! I suddenly feel old!). "Tell Me When Its Over," "When You Smile," "That's What You Always Say," "Then She Remembers," "Halloween," and the title track are as haunting now as when the album first came out. Truly one of rock's great albums.