In a year that has been beyond miserable for the world, this has been one of those gleams of light that I have looked forward to since it was first announced back in 2019. Some will dismiss this release without ever listening which is a crying shame. The Dogs D’amour changed not just my musical world but my world in general with the release of ‘In the Dynamite Jet Saloon’ way back in the day. They were the first band that I ever really felt like were my own. In looking at those early full length albums, the band released another monster in ‘Errol Flynn.’ There was a tiny bit of a break before the band returned with ‘Straight’ which included a change in the producer chair with Rik Browde replacing Mark Dearnley. There were subtle differences in the production, and the album contained many classic songs. For whatever reason though, ‘Straight’ has always been my least favorite in the run from Dynamite to ‘More Unchartered Heights of Disgrace.’ With that in mind, I was really interested to see what the current line-up would do with these songs as they have recently released two stellar brand new albums in ‘In Vino Veritas’ and ‘Jack O Byte Bluesy Vol 1.’ With the line up on the version 30 years ago, there was always a cool danger element that everything was about to go sideways at any moment, but the band kept it together. There was a special chemistry that cannot be replicated, but this is truly not about trying to replicate that. This current collection of Dogs has developed their own chemistry that is magic in its own right. They have become extremely tight musically with all of the members contributing to the writing on the new releases.
When I initially received this for review, it was the unmastered version in alphabetical order, but the mastered version arrived soon after so I am basing my review on it. I am a creature of habit so when I added it to the computer and iPod, I put the album in its original running order. (Sorry Tyla) On an interesting note, this is the first Dogs D’amour album to have no acoustic guitars on it which may surprise fans of the original album and the band in general. The initial two guitar notes and ‘for what you are about to receive’ line from Tyla may sound familiar, but this version of ‘Cardboard Town’ is built much more on a groove that gets the body moving with the piano enjoying a healthy spot in the mix as well. The band is extremely tight here with Gary Pennick delivering a fine solo that sets the table for what is to come next. One of my favorite Dogs songs is ‘Kiss My Heart Goodbye’ which sounds excellent here. The acoustic guitars at the beginning are replaced with some electric notes that give it a different feel. Tyla has really been delivering some great vocals over the past several years. He really sounds like no one else, and there is no doubt he is channeling these songs from deep inside his soul. Simon adds some great fills on the drums here as well. ‘Lie in this Land’ does not include the old vocal quip at the beginning. This version feels a little more controlled on the guitars in the mix with Simon and Matty (bass) giving it a tight beat. I would say this version feels a little more rock n roll than the original with both the old version and this one being great versions. The guitar solo works well within the context of the song. I don’t ever feel like Pinnick is trying to be Jo Dog. They are two very different players who I don’t ever compare.
Turning to ‘You Can’t Burn the Devil,’ the band turns it into a moody electric song that contains some great drum work by Simon. I don’t always notice the drums right away, but his work here jumps right out at the listener. The pace builds a bit as the song goes, and I have to say this is my much preferred version of this song. ‘Gypsy Blood’ comes shooting out of the speakers like a cannon shot and showcases a group of guys who are totally in sync. Jamie Turnbull has done a great job in the producer chair and mixing this one as each member sounds amazing in the mix. ‘Empty World’ has been transformed from a sullen journey about heartbreak into a much more up tempo song musically. It captures that Dogs magic where a classic lonely lyric feels positive and optimistic when juxtaposed against the music. Something that should stand out here is that these Dogs were never concerned about going into the studio and cranking out a note to note same version as the original to get around record company rights. The record sounds fresh and awesome.
Flipping the digital files over for side 2, the band deliver a noisy romp through ‘Back on the Juice.’ When I initially listened to the unmastered version of the record, this was the first song I heard and was a little iffy on how it was sounding. The finished product sounds great with an extremely busy mix as it is one of those songs that really doesn’t seem to contain any quiet moments. Simon again kills it on the drums, and the piano work is great. One of my favorites from the original album was ‘Evil’ which never seems to get as much love as some of the others here. A fully electrified version sounds even better with Tyla once again on fire with his vocals. I want to also mention the other guys deliver great backing vocals across the album with this being just one example. Tyla re-recorded ‘Victims of Success’ about 8-9 years ago when he released a new version of ‘In the Dynamite Jet Saloon’ which ultimately failed to deliver. I would put that down to several reasons with one of them being that this was not the band recording that version. The original is a song that is ingrained in my DNA. I loved the extra backing vocals on the original and how it rocks after the intro. This version follows its own line of tricks and stands equally on its own even if it paces itself a little different.
Coming up to our final quarter post, we start with one of perhaps the songs that never resonated much with me on the original in ‘Flying Solo.’ For me, there was always just something that never quite connected. This version finds a cool bluesy groove that works much better for me. The way the piano is sprinkled into the mix adds a lot to the song. James and Simon really deliver great performances across this album and form a great rhythm section. I remember an old interview in Kerrang around the time ‘Straight’ was released where Tyla mentioned they redid ‘Heroine’ at the request of Browde because he loved the song. This was another song that was added to the new version of ‘In the Dynamite Jet Saloon’ and just left me kind of flat. This has historically been one of those songs that I like but came into this wishing it would have been left off for ‘Lady Nicotine.’ Tyla reckons this is the best performance and version of the song yet, and, quite honestly, I think he is right. It takes cues from the original version back in about 1988 (god I feel old) but gives the song a very different approach. I think I will leave it at that, and let everyone experience it on their own. Wrapping up the album is another one of my favorites from the original- ‘Chiva.’ This version takes the song to another level with Matty’s bass propelling listeners to move. It shaves about a minute off the original and ends my original running order of the album on an incredible high point.
I am generally not one to advocate re-recording albums because you will never capture the nostalgia factor that we as fans have for the original recordings. I think that even applies to situations where we are hearing a 5th generation dubbed cassette (remember those?) of something that has considerable sound issues. In this situation, I mentioned that the original ‘Straight’ was my weaker link in those earlier albums, but I also want to stress that it was and still is a great album. The Dogs on that record put out several very special records which is why we still play the crap out of them today. This version as a whole has grabbed me more than the last version did 30 years ago. The production seems a little more dense here where the production on the original had a different feel. I have not been able to stop playing this one since I received it, and it is one of those experiences where I don’t want to have to just listen to a few songs, I want to hear it from start to finish. I am not sure what the track order on the actual CD will be but look forward to seeing if it is the traditional or alphabetical. Now, I am going to hit play again and just keep rocking here.
‘Straight Up 2020’ is released soon.
Buy ‘Straighten Up’ Here
Author: Gerald Stansbury