Remaking albums can often go spectacularly wrong as the artist often runs into a barrier that cannot be overcome- the nostalgia factor of fans. Following up the brilliant ‘In Vino Veritas,’ Tyla and his Dogs have unleashed a celebratory new version of ‘A Graveyard of Empty Bottles’ that will be my new go-to version of the album. I know there will be some that will think I have to be wrong as the original version was perfect back at the end of the 80’s. For you, I ask that you approach the album with an open mind and give it a listen. While Tyla also redid the album back in 2012, this version soars above it by essentially finishing what that one started. The 2012 version now sounds like a painting that wasn’t complete with Tyla saying as much in his notes about this penultimate version.

This album originally came with a note that these were ‘soft songs for hard people’ as they were all largely acoustic and the best unplugged album that ever existed. This version contains the same 13 songs that made up the 2012 version and did make me start wondering what people would think if the band had changed the running order. The vinyl version will contain the original 8 songs though which would have likely made it impractical to change the running order on the other platforms. Lead song ‘I Think It’s Love Again’ should have been a hit single back in the day and sounds as magical today as it did 30 years ago. An excellent production and mix allow every instrument to be heard with a nice bit of guitar by Gary added into the chorus here. Tyla sounds excellent and like he is having the time of his life. ‘So Once Was I’ slows the pace (as most of you already know) with the piano (by Scotty) being a nice addition to the darkness and serving as a great complement to the slow bluesy guitar licks. Some haunting backing vocals give the song some additional depth.

Picking up the pace with ‘Comfort of the Devil,’ the band hits an awesome groove with an excellent bass line by Matty given plenty of space to burrow into the brain. This was one of my favorites 30 years ago and has become even better over the years. Back on the 2012 version, I felt that ‘Saviour’ truly lost something in its incarnation there. The additional instrumentation here, especially the prevalence of the piano has created something very special as the pace is increased too. It has a very different feel from the original with it feeling more like a midtempo rock song than the ballad on the original. Simon’s drum work is outstanding, and it provides an outstanding close to the first third of the album.

Old school side 2 opener ’Errol Flynn’ has been a constant in the setlist and for good reason. This version burns nicely with the band in exquisite form. Another one that has been a fixture is ‘Bullet Proof Poet.’ This is another one where the added instrumentation is used to great effect. There is a haunting feeling to the music with the added piano and drums. This paean for Charles Bukowski contains some of my favorite lyrics by Tyla. He paints a portrait of this character with his words that makes him extremely real and relatable.

One of the biggest changes back in 2012 was on ‘When the Dream Has Gone’ which went from a short acoustic song, essentially a coda to ‘How Come It Never Rains’ into a full band song that almost doubled the length of the song. The 2012 version serves as the jumping off point here. Tyla sounds excellent, and the bass line by Matty remains as catchy and sharp as barbed wire. The spacing in the song helps it grow with the refrain from ‘How Come It Never Rains’ being an excellent reward for the listener. Original closer ‘Angel’ has been a constant on my Dogs and Tyla mix tapes and CDs over the years. While I really enjoyed the 2012 version, there is a charm with the original for me that it did not quite capture. The changes they have incorporated here bring back that charm though with aplomb. I cannot even imagine how many times I have listened to this song over the years. These first eight songs by themselves formed a classic album which has lost nothing in this awesome remake.

We received the added bonus of 5 additional songs back in 2012, and those same songs are also included as a bonus here. The piano based version of ‘Just an English Outlaw’ has been even further developed to create the penultimate studio version of the song. It branches out from the 2012 version at the first chorus when the drums and electric guitar make themselves heard. There is a depth to the mix here too that has found me hearing new things with each listen. The guitar work by Gary and Tyla compliments the song perfectly, and it maintains the momentum of ‘Angel.’ When the 2012 version was released, ‘Gone Are All the Angels’ was an immediate hit with me in this format. After hearing only an acoustic version for years, the full band version was a revelation. They have improved it even more here for my tastes. Tyla’s vocal performance sounds like it was lifted from the early ’90s or late ’80s. There is a positive energy in this band that just exudes out of the speaker. It was apparent on ‘In Vino Veritas’ and just as evident here. ‘Died Fore She Got Young’ could have easily got missed in the big shadow of the previous songs as the band slows the pace back down at the start of the song. The pace picks up nicely though as the song progresses. The electric guitar licks are well placed in the mix, and the hook in the song locks onto you like gum on your favorite shoes.

‘Stealing from the Devil’ provides an acoustic bluesy showcase and really serves as the curveball epic to the album. The band plays with a delicate touch that conjures images of dark deserted buildings with only hints of flickering candlelight. The backing vocal really helps take the song to a whole other level with how it is placed in the mix. The story in the lyrics reminds me of local Texas legend Ray Wylie Hubbard. In some ways, I am surprised they did not make this the closer of the album as it casts a very different feeling, but ‘Won’t You Let Go’ then feels like a sunrise coming over the ridge after a dark cold night. There is a tangible warmth in the music that soothes the soul and lets the listener know that things will be alright.

I am quite aware there will be a handful of people that will not take the time to listen to the album and cling to the original. The original is a classic album, but this version by the current Dogs is also a classic that does not copy the original. In some ways, this feels like the electric version of the album as it carries a bit more of an edge. The additional songs add essentially a side 3 to the record and can stand toe to toe with the original 8 songs. It is a special time in Dogs D’amour camp as these 4 gentlemen have amazing musical chemistry. I may need to find a way to change the rules I impose on myself around Album of the Year nominees….

‘A Graveyard of Empty Bottles MMXIX 30th Anniversary Edition’ is available Here   

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

 

 

Gerald Stansbury

Wow… I mean… just wow. This album is a wonderful and tremendous addition to a Dogs D’amour discography that began with ‘The State We’re In’ 35 years ago. There will be those that may refuse to give this a chance, and that is really unfortunate for them. I would consider this the first proper album under the Dogs D’amour name by Tyla, Gary, Matty, and Simon even though they have been recording together for several years now. This album is truly made to feel like a Dogs D’amour album as opposed to a Tyla solo album or the Tyla J Pallas Band. It is not a secret that the last two new studio albums ‘When Bastards Go to Hell’ and ‘Let Sleeping Dogs’ were not everyone’s cup of tea, a bottle of jack…. or maybe I should now say bottle of red. Those albums really reflect a different moment in time where this feels much more like the follow up to ‘Happy Ever After’ in terms of style, sound, and approach. For me, this love affair started back at ‘In the Dynamite Jet Saloon’ which remains my favorite album of all time. The band was refreshing among the wave of hair metal bands that often blended together thanks to the other influences they incorporated such as the Stones, Faces, Hanoi Rocks, etc. Tyla’s lyrics were much more relatable to people like me who would try our best only to find out that sometimes the bad guys win despite our best efforts. Albums such as ‘Errol Flynn’ and ‘More Unchartered Heights of Disgrace’ are part of my DNA at this point. Over the years, Tyla has released a tremendous number of solo albums and projects as well as a couple of albums with Spike from the Quireboys. There has always been a difference between that work and Dogs D’amour albums which is partially where the lines got blurred in my mind on ‘Let Sleeping Dogs’ and ‘When Bastards Go to Hell.’ What we have here though is an album that has its very own identity but captures a true band effort and sounds like a Dogs D’amour album…. A damn awesome one too.

Getting the album started is a stomping version of ‘111,’ which will be familiar from Tyla’s solo work. This version though packs more venom and punch. This is a great opener along the lines of ‘Drunk Like Me’ and ‘What’s Happening Here.’ The guitars burn sharply in the mix with the outside production evident at the outset. The album transitions to the gorgeous ‘Black Confetti.’ The use of the saxophones here is perfectly placed, and the way they arrive after a brief pause at the beginning of the song is sublime. This is not your typical single by any Dogs D’amour incarnation and all the better for it. This is an opportunity for these Dogs to flex some musical chops and create a magical moment. For those of us that pledged, we got to hear just a bit of the up-tempo ‘Bloodline’ that rocks in a similar manner to ‘What You Do’ and ‘Lie in This Land.’ The bass by Matty has some added pop in the mix which really stands out at the beginning of the song. Tyla sounds sensational here. He would never win on any of those reality singing shows, but his vocals have always been more about character, heart, soul, and distilled from the finest blend of rock n roll spirits. I will take that everytime. I really love the guitar solo here by Gary as well.

‘Bottle of Red’ stands out as a future standard in the live show where everyone is singing along at the top of their lungs. Lyrically, I would say that it is like the uplifting cousin of ‘Satellite Kid’ as the music creates much more of a ‘Singin’ vibe from ‘Happy Ever After.’ The band adds some awesome saxophone here which creates some additional depth in the music. A Tyla spoken word ad-lib at the end is another very nice touch. I should mention again here that the mix and production on this album is excellent and truly showcases how great these songs are. Since I am reviewing the vinyl version, the midtempo ‘Everything to Me’ represents the end of Side One. Matty’s bass lines get a chance to stand out here as well as the tasteful guitar lines by Gary and Tyla. With a strong vocal hook carried by Tyla already in the chorus, the band adds some background ‘ooh Sha la la’s’ for good measure. What really stands out is just how happy Tyla sounds as these two songs feel like celebrations. Something I have not mentioned is that this album steers clear of the traditional ballads and acoustic numbers. This is a rock album through and through.

Flipping the record over, the uniquely titled ‘Chicago Typewriter’ begins with gunshots and sirens. Musically, this is a hard blues number driven incredibly well by Simon (drums) and Matty (bass) so that Gary and Tyla can add some great bluesy riffs to the mix which are complemented by a simple and highly addictive vocal hook. In some ways, this song recalls the best of where Tyla had gone on ‘Let Sleeping Dogs’ or ‘When Bastards Go to Hell’ but with a much more listener-friendly production style and mix. It provides a great rocking start to the second half of the record. The single in waiting ‘I Don’t Love Anyone’ follows with its tasteful piano and saxophone sounding amazing in the mix. This song should come with a warning label or two as I can’t help but find myself smiling when it plays and singing along. The loving message shows that even though good guys don’t win all the time; they can win from time to time so let’s take a few minutes to celebrate finding the love of our lives while we can. Up next is the title track ‘In Vino Veritas’ where the band brings in some more tasteful saxophone as Tyla tells us a tale as only he can. This is one song where I do wonder if these gentlemen revisiting Tyla’s ‘Nocturnal Nomad’ album recently added some new ingredients that had never really been on a Dogs’ record in the past. Lyrically, this song feels more like the characters and stories from that album as opposed to the characters we met in ‘Hurricane’ or ‘Baby Glass.’

As we approach the end of the vinyl version, ‘Monster’ slithers and struts out on a biting sustained blues riff. Over the course of these songs, the band really explores multiple musical avenues and back alleys with ‘Monster’ creating an awesome groove with added harmonica and organ. I love the guitar riffs and licks throughout this one with it becoming more and more of a favorite with multiple listens with a wonderful howl added at the end for good measure. ‘Movie Star’ serves as an epic finale that brings everything together over the course of its nearly 5 minutes. There are multiple vocal hooks that can kill at a long distance, great guitar work, rocking piano, and a great beat. The extended musical outro is not to be missed as the song eventually slows down for one last vocal before we hear the arm raise and the vinyl come to a stop.

Some people may approach this album with reservations, but I would urge you to check them at the door. This album exceeds every expectation I had and makes me hope that we don’t have to wait too long before we get a follow up from these guys based on how awesome this is. Tyla’s Dogs D’amour acknowledge the long history of the Dogs in many ways but more importantly, add to the band’s magical history with an album that can stand proudly with every record from their past. With two additional songs ‘Empire’ and ‘Fuck Off Devil’ added to the CD and download versions of the album, there really is no reason to not check out this album. Quite simply, this is a magical record.

‘In Vino Veritas’ is unleashed November 16th

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