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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, May 3, 2016

The Romantics


I love The Romantics.  I bought the group's first indie 45 at The Record Grove in Brockport, NY in the Spring of 1978, and then their second single via mail order from Bomp Records.  I've been a fan ever since.  This review of The Romantics' King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents live CD appeared originally in Goldmine.

At their peak, The Romantics were a simply magnificent live rock 'n' roll band, combining the irresistible pop hooks of their swell records with the insistent, aggressive attack of road-savvy kickmeisters fueled by beer and greasy food.  This welcome CD release of a 1983 radio broadcast captures The Romantics in their natural setting, and provides an appropriately raucous document of what a great rush it all was.

The set list here is heavy with selections from the group's then-current In Heat album, with eight of that album's 10 tracks represented here.  The remaining nine tunes are drawn from each of the first three Romantics albums, with a cover of The Righteous Brothers' "Little Latin Lupe Lu" that's new to The Romantics' catalog of hits.

The set opens with "When I Look In Your Eyes," the same number that led off the first Romantics album. The live version retains the effervescent spark of the original, while sacrificing none of the essential shake 'n' sweat you need for a good ol' rock 'n' roll road show, gotta go!  From that point on, The Romantics are an unstoppable juggernaut, rampaging through blistering volleys of power pop, and paying proper attention to both the power and the pop.

There's a good sampling of the best of The Romantics here, from the totally wonderful "Open Up Your Door" through "Keep In Touch,""Rock You Up," James and Bobby Purify's "Shake A Tail Feather," and even the Rick James cop "Talking In Your Sleep."

Regrettable MIAs include "Tell It To Carrie,""Little White Lies,""Running Away," and, oddly enough, In Heat's "One In A Million."  In any case, the other In Heat selections are certainly strong enough, all solid rockers that may inspire a reevaluation of that underrated album.

Oh, and the group's signature tune, "What I Like About You," is here too, its transcendent pop brilliance still undimmed by subsequent corporate machinations and unctuous '80s nostalgia-mongering overkill.  Some songs are just good enough to survive even the worst that the music biz has to offer.

The liner notes earn demerits for inaccuracies.  The group's second album, National Breakout, was released in 1980, not '81, and In Heat was their fourth album, not their third (though it could be argued that their actual third album, 1981's Strictly Personal, is best forgotten anyway).  And, like most accounts of The Romantics' story, the liners omit any reference to their fab 1977 indie single,
"Little White Lies"/"I Can't Tell You Anything," erroneously marking the beginning of The Romantics' recording career with the 1978 "Tell It To Carrie" Bomp 45.

None of which prevents this album from rocking and rolling with fierce abandon.  A pop pundit once noted that The Romantics only know three chords, but they're the right three chords.  Here's further evidence of The Romantics using the right three chords, and using 'em well.  (As a postscript, it should be noted that this writer had a chance to see the current edition of The Romantics, with prodigal drummer Jimmy Marinos back in the fold.  And it's our great pleasure to report that The Romantics are still a magnificent live rock 'n' roll band, whether they're rippin' through The Pretty Things' "Midnight To Six Man" or getting the crowd to shout "HEY!" one more time.  The Romantics are on stage, and all is right with the world.