Anyone who has ever visited New York has a story to tell about the city, so you can bet your bottom dollar that having lived there all his life Handsome Dick Manitoba has volumes of the buggers just filed away ready to regale you with.
Mantitoba’s debut solo album ‘Born In The Bronx’ takes a dozen of these tales and adds a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack (provided by al all-star cast) to truly bring them all to life, and the resulting sound is so authentic you can almost taste the New York City air. Add in a cover version of P.F. Sloan’s ‘Eve Of Destruction’ to the Big Apple pie and what you have is a 13 track album that Handsome Dick Manitoba has been waiting all of his life to release.
With it being 18 years since ‘DFFD’ and 29 years since ‘And You?’ I have to admit a Handsome Dick Manitoba solo record was the last thing I’d expected to be reviewing as 2019 draws to a close. The surprises don’t stop there either as ‘Born In The Bronx’ was actually recorded in Nashville not NYC, thus enabling producer Jon Tiven to draw on the local talent pool of Buddy Miller, Harry Stinson, Beth Hooker, Shannon Pollard, Chuck Mead and Donte M’Shawn alongside the likes of Mickey Curry, Mat Reale, Simon Kirke and Mike Shrieve who provide a rock solid backbeat throughout.
Opener ‘Shelley’ sets the tone of the record perfectly, a rock ‘n’ roll love story that shuffles its way into your heart on 6 inch platform heels it’s a song that is instantly recognisable due to Manitoba’s unique vocal delivery. ‘Back To My TV’ and ‘Surfside’ which fall either side of the faithfully reproduced run through of ‘Eve Of Destruction’ are for me the highlights of ‘Born In The Bronx’ both of them being raw blast of proto-punk that take the Sonics and dresses them up as Dolls. Likewise, ‘Big Army Brass’ is a one finger piano boogie bastard that will have you dancing all night long and ‘Callie May’ sees Manitoba’s songwriting influences extend into late 60s/early 70s Detroit for a truly riotous shindig. Absolutely breath-taking stuff!
After this ‘The Cooker & The Hit’ treads more of a bluesy path whilst ‘Thicker Than Blood’ could very well be a song written for a certain Mr Springsteen, and then there’s the title track which saunters in like The Thin White Duke after spending a weekend missing in the Bronx in the mid 70s, and here Manitoba allows his storytelling to go into overdrive cramming as much history as he can into 3 minutes and 59 seconds.
Look I’m not going to do my usual track by track run through here because there is so much to discover within the grooves of ‘Born In The Bronx’ that I’d really like you to go and discover the record the same way that I did. It’s a really up sounding set of songs that’s for sure, and it’s an album that deserves to be played in full and given repeat listens -something quite exceptional in this age of here today gone today one hit wonders.
With ‘Born In The Bronx’ the party really does start now!! So go out and get your copy and tell the ‘Soul Punk King of NYC’ that RPM Online sent you.
Buy ‘Born In The Bronx’ Here
Author: Johnny Hayward