Album Review – The Original Memphis Recordings – PRIMAL SCREAM (Sony)
Review by Geoff Jenke
Primal Scream are several bands in one. There is the rock band that released such great songs as Rocks and Loaded, then there is the techno flavoured Primal Scream who released Swastika Eyes, Accelerator and Kill All Hippies. There is the psychedelic Primal Scream who produced classic songs such as Higher Than the Sun and Come Together and the garage Primal Scream who went out on the road with MC5. The 2006 album Riot City Blues is still one of my favourite albums from this century, a mix of rock, country and blues orientated tracks.
The “new” album, The Original Memphis Recordings, was actually recorded in 1993, in Memphis, as the title suggests. Lead singer Bobby Gillespie, “In 1993 Primal Scream went to Memphis to make an album with Tom Dowd and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, that album never saw the light of day, until now …..”
The tracks were recently discovered in a box lurking in guitarist Andrew Innes’ basement. These are the original recordings for what was to become their album Give out But Don’t Give Up. However, when manager and band heard the finished results they were both confused and underwhelmed so they bought in producer George Drakoulias to overhaul the recordings, replacing most of the guitar, bass and drum parts. “I felt we went down there with such good intent, but somehow we lost our way afterwards,” Bobby Gillespie admits. “There’s definitely a lesson to be learned about how creativity can go down the wrong track. We’re a band that constantly keeps moving and doesn’t look back, but, for years, I felt bad about us going to Memphis and not doing what we set out to do. Hearing these songs after all this time has made everything all right again. I feel redeemed.”
The versions recorded here are not a million miles away from what was eventually released but they sound rawer and “simpler”. All the tracks were eventually released on the Give Out album except the song Jesus, which sounds like an early take of I’ll Be There for You from that album.
While Rocks and Jailbird don’t sound as rockier as what was finally released, it is the Muscle Shoals horns that lift the sound. Sad and Blue would fit nicely on the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers album with its beautiful backing vocals.
Free sounds soulful and bluesy at the same time, with a wonderful vocal by Denise Johnson, who featured on finished song. Jesus is the highlight of the album and reminiscent of the Lou Reed song of the same name from Velvet Underground’s self-titled third album. It is haunting song, full of grace and feeling.
A sparse (I’m Gonna) Cry Myself Blind rounds out what is a highly recommended album. The album may not be quite up to the what became Give Out But Don’t Up, but darn it, I just can’t get it off my play list.
There is also a second disc of outtakes, alternative recordings and rehearsal jams.
A bit of trivia – Singer Bobby Gillespie played drums for The Jesus and Mary Chain from 1984 – 87, playing on their debut album Psychocandy.