There are moments in life when you are confronted by something so blindingly obvious, that it is almost painful to have to admit that it has never occurred to you before.
The Radiators are a d@mn-fine rock band from New Orleans, Louisiana. How is it possible, then, that I’d never heard of them until recently? It certainly isn’t because they haven’t been out there trying to get their music across to people; they’ve been together since a 1978 jam session in keyboardist Ed Volker’s garage.
My wife, a native of New Orleans, knew of them. So, how is it possible that my first experience of this band’s music was their stint as the “house band” for the New Orleans’ portion of last month’s Comic Relief benefit?
Perhaps it is due to my stubborn knack for dismissing much of the music she listened to before we were together? That’s one of the reasons it took me forever to finally listen to her Mel Torme CDs, I’ll admit.
Mel Torme rules, by the way.
Just a little while after watching the benefit the opportunity came around for me to get to review the newest CD by The Radiators, entitled Dreaming Out Loud. Partly to be able to ultimately give the review copy to my wife, and partly to satisfy my curiosity about the band, I threw my hat into the ring and requested the CD.
Sitting here and listening to it while writing this, I can safely say that I am glad I did so. I can also say that, unaware to my wife, I’m not giving up my review copy.
Buy your own, woman! Now then, on to the album:
“Ace in the Hole” kicks things off as the opening track on the album. Armed with a funky bass line had me instantly hooked, I find myself having to confess that I find myself humming it occasionally throughout the day.
“Dreaming Out Loud” keeps things chugging along, with its wonderful and simple back beat. Add to that the lovely harmony of the band’s two guitars as they weave in and out of the rhythm, and you get the perfect showcase for the ruminating lyrics that explore heartbreaking acceptance. Great song to have as a title track; it really sets the mood.
“Wrestling With The Angel” begins with a nice little guitar riff that builds into a fairly up-tempo blues boogie. Okay, say that three times fast! Simple lyrics with a simple melody that all adds up into a simple and yet very solid song.
“Rub It In” does just that. It gives you this great soft blues-rock swagger and then grabs hold of your ears and begins to sonically seduce them. If the Radiators are the embodiment of swamp-rock, then this is their bait that should lure you down into the boggy depths.
“Lost Radio” gives you a few moments of delicious piano tinkling that lets you shake off the deeper vibe of “Rub It In,” as it seeks to seduce you with memories of days gone by in history when “radio” was king. Fittingly, this song is perfect for driving with the top down, as you sing along to your own radio, while taking in all the beautiful scenery.
“The Man Who Lost His Head” begins with a kick reminiscent of “Mustang Sally,” and builds on the same sense of swagger that is inherent in said song, as it funkily chugs along. Not the deepest song on the album, but still a darn fine excuse to boogie, nonetheless.
“7 Devils” kicks into gear with a great bass-line groove. dancing in unison with that, are some very nice little guitar licks that help set the mood of the song — which comes across as some sort of swamp-voodoo-blues. It’s a song that I have no trouble imagining Marie Laveau lifting up her skirts and dancing to.
“Don’t Pray For Me” begins with a nice acoustic guitar line, and then breaks into this wonderful rhythm. The lyrics seem to demand to be left alone, assuring listeners that there are others far more deserving of prayers, instead. In the wake of Katrina and all that it did to the Gulf Coast, it is a powerful assertion that the soul of the land and its people are still strong and vibrant. There are others more deserving, the song assures you, as it bends down and picks up the shattered remnants of its life. It is a powerful and poignant song, to say the least.
Again, choosing to come out of a heavier song with one that is bouncy and funky, the bass line seems almost to have been created by a fender strung with slinkies, as “Rollercoaster” begins. Much like its namesake, this song swings high and low on that funky bass, and takes the listener on a ride.
“The Death of the Blues” begins with a soft piano melody that is joined with an acoustic guitar. On top of that is the wonderful gravelly voice of Ed Volker, rising up in a lyrical prayer against the death of the Blues. When the band jumps in… the song turns into more of a swagger than anything else. What other kind of prayer would New Orleans offer, really?
“Desdemona” starts off with the same flair as a Dr. John song might. It’s just a beautiful love song, with an old rag-time-jazz feel to it.
“Good Things” begins, appropriately, with a groove comprised of good and solid guitar licks, both on bass, rhythm, and lead. Singing of how “good things come to those who wait,” the song is a reminded that part of that depends on not being late for your own miracle. Songs and sentiments like this are one of the reasons I’m still kicking myself for coming so late to getting to know this band.
Closing the album, “Shine Tonight” does just that — it shines. The vocal harmonizing on this song is just superb, especially on the chant near the end that echoes out the words “shine tonight.” It’s as if the city of New Orleans, going through the music of some of its native children, is assuring listeners that the city and all the wonderful musical history that it is built on… will come back to life slowly, and shine on.
The Radiator’s Dreaming Out Loud, after many repeated listenings, finds me scratching my head and wondering how I could ever have overlooked this band. It’s a mistake that I intend on correcting, though.
Maybe you’ll join me in my quest to learn more about the Radiators, by giving this CD a home in your own music collection? I hope so.