Saturday, October 24, 2015

It's Time To Catch Up With The Nearly-Lost Greatness Of Nashville's Raging Fire

I can't say that I remember much about Raging Fire even though I worked in 3 record stores in the era when they were active. I *do* remember the RCA compilation Ten of a Kind on which the band made an appearance but I really remember that one for the Material Issue cut.

Which is a shame 'cause after one listen to the superb new Raging Fire compilation, Everything is Roses: 1985-1989, I feel like I missed out on one of the great American bands of the era back then.

Raging Fire cranked out a near-country rock brand of college music -- as this sort of thing was termed at the time -- that's closer to Patti Smith than it is to Lone Justice. There are moments here, surely, where singer Melora Zaner does indeed put herself in the same class as Maria McKee ("A Family Thing" and "A Desire Scorned") but there are also moments where she's more in the same league as Exene Cervenka of X ("You and Me" and the title track of this collection). Those cuts also suggest the direction punk pioneer Patti Smith eventually pursued on 1988's Dream of Life, all punk fury dressed up with alt-rock trappings.

Despite that, I suppose that given the real elements of country rock on display here that critics now are gonna ride that Lone Justice comparison to death but, really, much of this is harder than most of what Lone Justice recorded. On the rockier "Locusts Sing" Raging Fire sound remarkably like a very American version of mid-period Siouxsie and the Banshees, Michael Godsey's guitars working up a great squall. Elsewhere, on the wonderfully-titled "Beware of a Man with Manners" the band blend hints of what was then current hardcore punk with the sort of riffs favored by the Rolling Stones in the late Sixties. There's an real sense here that this must have been a formidable live act in the era. By the time period covered by the tracks at the end of this compilation, a song like "The Dry Spell" hints at a more polished sort of alt-rock from Raging Fire and the cut is, like a lot of what's here, catchy and accessible.

The overall effect of listening to Everything is Roses: 1985-1989 by Raging Fire is surely what the makers of this compilation intended: an awareness that this was a band that you should have been listening to in the late Eighties, and a band you should be re-discovering now if you didn't hear them then. Raging Fire deserve a lot of attention and luckily this collection should do the trick of generating it. Fans of X, Patti Smith Group, Romeo Void, Lone Justice, and The Divinyls would be well advised to grab this one now. Then read the liner notes, put in the CD, and crank up the volume.

Everything is Roses: 1985-1989 by Raging Fire is out now.

More details via the band's website: www.RagingFire.us.