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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

1.4.5.: Rhythm n' Booze review


I've had this unpublished review of 1.4.5.'s 1988 LP Rhythm n' Booze in my blog's to-be-posted queue for a few weeks.  I mentioned the review during This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio's memorial for lead singer Norm Mattice this weekend, and intrepid  TIRnRR listener Pete Murray suggested it would be a good blog piece.  So...yeah.

This was written for Goldmine magazine, and accepted by editor Jeff Tamarkin, but it wound up sitting in inventory too long, and its publication was cancelled.  The album itself is an undiscovered pop gem, and I wish more people knew about it. 

Rhythm n' Booze
Beautiful Sounds (MRBS Long 1)

The first full-length release from Boston's 1.4.5. is a nice surprise:  self-assured rockin' pop, reminiscent of The Romantics, or a more aggressive Records, with maybe a dash of New York Dolls for extra spunk.  For all that, the record really doesn't sound derivative, and the original tunes far outshine the perfunctory covers of "Do We Still Do It" and "Hippy Hippy Shake."  Don't be surprised if a major label snaps this mob up soon. 

2016 POSTSCRIPT:  Upon re-reading this review decades after the fact, I'm struck first by my dismissal of 1.4.5.'s cover of Slade's "Do We Still Do It" as "perfunctory."  What the hell was I drinking?  I love that track!  I've put it on mix tapes, and I even played it during a guest appearance on The Wax Museum with Ronnie Dark over on WVOA in Syracuse. "Perfunctory?"  Jeez.  Never trust a rock critic.

A bit of background for 1.4.5.:  The original version of 1.4.5. formed in Syracuse in 1980, led by once and future Flashcubes guitarist Paul Armstrong.  The first line-up of 1.4.5.  was basically The Most (Paul's first post-Flashcubes group), minus singer Dian Zain:  PA on guitar, plus bassist Dave Anderson and drummer Dick Hummer.  Hummer left to form his own act, Machine And Hummer, and was replaced by Ducky Carlisle, formerly of The Ohms, and now a hotshot (in a good way!) record producer.  This version of 1.4.5. went through several line-ups, and still plays today.  It is represented by a compilation CD called 3 Chords & A Cloud Of Dust; my liner notes for that are HERE 

But the 1.4.5. of Rhythm n' Booze was different and distinct.  The addition of Norm Mattice on lead vocals gave the group a pop sheen 'n' shine it never had before, without sacrificing any of the three-chord swagger and grit that made the original 1.4.5. a guaranteed good time.  In the late '80s, PA, Norm, Ducky, and bassist John Fortunato moved the new 1.4.5. to Boston, seeking the fame and fortune that should have been their divine right.  Rhythm n' Booze certainly makes that case.  Later on, PA and Norm changed the group's name to The Richards, and released one more album, 1995's Over The Top.  (And, as I noted yesterday, The Richards also recorded a track called "Five Personalities," which is one of my all-time favorites.)

I don't intend to write a fresh review of Rhythm n' Booze, even though my original review was....um, perfunctory.  But lemme tell ya this much:  while preparing for our tribute to Norm Mattice this weekend, I listened to Rhythm n' Booze again, start to finish, for the first time in years and years. And it holds up.  "Right Now" and "Do We Still Do It" had been the two tracks I'd returned to over the years, but I did myself a disservice by not playing the rest more often.  In particular, "Girl In The Window" and "Your Own World" (the latter re-done more recently by the current 1.4.5.) just demand more volume than my cheap speakers can handle.

Whatta record.  Given the bad news about Norm, I may suffer from a temptation to overpraise Rhythm n' Booze now...but I don't think so, honestly.  This was just a damned fine rockin' pop record, probably one of my favorites of  the 1980s, and it's a record more people should have a chance to hear. It's long out of print, but there are copies still kicking around; if someone wants to entertain the notion of a CD reissue, I'll write the liner notes. Meanwhile, we played a bunch of it on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio's tribute to Norm:  TIRnRR: Norm Mattice  Turn it UP.  You need new speakers anyway.