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| 1 February 2021 | Reply

Independent (Australia)/Cleopatra Records (World)
March 2020
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Released only a week or so before the world started to close down due to Covid-19 – The Tatts were on tour in Europe, in fact, necessitating an early end to the tour and a scramble to find flights home – Outlaws is a re-recording of the band’s debut, self-titled album.

Rose Tattoo today is a very different beast than it was in 1978. Pete Wells, Ian Rilen, Mick Cocks and Dallas ‘Digger’ Royall have all gone on to that great gig in the sky, and are missed and paid tribute to with this recording.

“Honouring the past and respecting the future, Fuck, I like that! That’s great!” exclaims Angry Anderson in Murray Engleheart’s album liner notes.

That’s exactly what this is. The band are as rockin’ and rock solid as any line-up of this formidable, legendary outfit. Mark Evans – AC/DC, and now a member of his all-time favourite band. Bob Spencer – Finch, Skyhooks, The Angels, he was even asked to join the band some forty years ago. Dai Pritchard – the man hand picked by Wells as his replacement. Jackie Barnes – son of, and drummer for, Jimmy Barnes, he’s also appeared with The Dead Daisies, Diesel, The Lachey Doley Group, errrm, The Wiggles, and too many more to name.

This is no basic, colour-by-numbers tribute, though. For starters, it is rough and tough and twice as raw. This ain’t radio-friendly, nicey nicey. Nice boys don’t play rock n’ roll, remember – and the band with producer Mark Opitz have ensured that this is nasty, vicious, bitin’ at yer heels, dirty rock n’ roll, guaranteed to scare off any pretenders.

Anderson’s vocals are ragged and weathered with age – hardly surprising for the pit-bull rocker, who has since turned 73. His singing is also impassioned like we haven’t heard from him in far too long. He sounds like he’s thrilled to be reliving these songs – all written between 42 and 45 years ago – with a band the equal of his fellow originators.

Crucially, the band aren’t content to just play the songs as carbon copy covers. There is room for interpretation, for “respecting the future.” They make these songs sound vibrant and fresh, give them a coat of varnish, if you like, rather than paint over them. The overall experience is closer to the rough n’ ready glory of a crack band live than to that of a polished studio experience. The Tatts don’t need Phil Spector – they are their own wall of sound.

Rock n’ Roll Outlaw is teased out to a bourbon-fuelled near-seven minute epic, and Butcher & Fast Eddie has every bit of its smouldering, street-rumble tension wrung out over seven-minutes-and-eighteen-seconds of restrained heft and raunch.

The track listing is shuffled, and interspersed with the ten tracks from the original album are Snow Queen – originally the b-side of the Bad Boy For Love single – and Sweet Love Rock and Roll – an Ian Rilen track which was demoed back in the day but never released before this current version. The CD cover also suggests a thirteenth track, Rosetta, a “love song” which was also demoed for the original album but left off the release back then. The word on the streets is that this track was accidentally missed off this first CD pressing but will be reinstated in future pressings. I guess that makes this initial CD release a collector’s item of sorts, but the song is available on the digital version of Outlaws. Rosetta is a slide-heavy ballad of sorts, very different for this band, so it’s not too hard to see why it was left off the original album. It’s good, though, and perhaps a surprise it didn’t appear as a b-side or on the 1990 reissue of the album.

Re-recording a stone cold classic is always a risky venture. People have over forty years invested in the original album. Any deviation from the Tablets of Stone of these original ten commandments of rock n’ roll scripture is immediately noticeable and sticks out like a sore thumb. It doesn’t always work completely. Anderson’s vocals are too shaky to pull off Stuck On You as well as they did 42 years ago, and his vocal meanderings go off-topic a little here and there. The rawness of Outlaws will also most likely deter some casual listeners.

The overall result, however, is one of cautious triumph. Of, in Anderson’s words, “of paying… all our respects to these classic songs while making [our] own reverent imprint on them.” Just listen to the smouldering intensity of Bad Boy For Love, all steroid-pumped live-in-the-studio tough love and muscle-flexing, and Nice Boys, complete with Anderson visiting Heartbreak Hotel, Lucille, Wop-Bop-A-Lu-La, Blue Suede Shoes. For a song so revered as to have been covered by Guns n’ Roses when they were the biggest band in the world, it holds its own here in street fighting style.

If this is Rose Tattoo dipping their toe back into the studio to see how the band work together off stage, and how a new record will be received, we can only hope it’s a big enough success that they will return, this time with some original songs for the first Rose Tattoo album of NEW material since 2007’s Blood Brothers.

Category: CD Reviews

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