FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE - DEATH (Drag City)
An amazing 2009 find by the Chicago based Drag City imprint, and an equally entertaining story behind the release / band. As the story goes, the band was comprised of brothers David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney, three black teenagers from Detroit, who took in the percolating music of the day. Influenced by Alice Cooper, Funkadelic, MC5, and the Stooges, these proficient musicians had been playing together as a family for years.
At this point in time, in refining their cohesiveness, songwriting abilities, and development of sound, the band had grown from being fans, into one mother of a trio. In 1973, the brothers took the next logical step and recorded this lost gem under the moniker DEATH, which resulted in the single “Politicians In My Eyes” grabbing local radio airplay; eventually the single caught the attention of Columbia Records head Clive Davis. Davis liked what he heard, offering them a potential record deal. However, there was one problem - Davis wanted a name change for the band. The band refused, and sadly the master tapes stayed with guitarist David “Rough Francis” Hackney until he gave them to his brother Bobby, who had since relocated to Vermont, in the late '90S. David Hackney passed way in 2000.
Thirty-plus years later, these recordings have been reissued by Drag City Records, and now more than ever, they remain vital. If you think about it, and the music press is correct (for a change), DEATH was doing something very different in the Midwest, years ahead of what had transpired in NY or London in 1977. I find it equally as amazing the Detroit band was able to stay below the radar of Anne Arbor based CREEM magazine, who took pride in the Motor City sound/guitar-soul manifesto.
The tuneful opener “Keep On Knocking”, which was the 7” b-Side, is a melodic crunching number. Dannis’ drums keep a fast pace, which David’s short quick guitar leads accent the song. The next track “Rock and Roll Victim” begins with a characteristic 1-2-3-4 call to arms, as bassist Bobby vocalizes in those time silent time frames. One of the trademarks of DEATH is their ability to use unusual timing patterns, which for some critics, is the Bad Brain references.
“Let The World Turn” displays the band’s ability to remain very soulful / melodic, and quickly shift gears within one section to the next. The song has a nice little drum solo, ending with multi tracked vocals – reverb, and then back to a hard rock / punk attack. “You’re A Prisoner” and “Freakin Out” soon follow in track sequence, both exacting a hard hitting left/right combination, which leaves you feeling that this is what rock and roll is all about. “Freakin Out” has great goofball vocals by bassist Bobby, which only adds the song’s addictive nature.
The track “Where Do We Go From Here” culminates all of the great qualities of the band: crazed vocals, tight musicianship, and high volume. The last track “Politicians In My Eyes” grabs the attention of the listener, just as it did for Columbia suit Davis, with its message of exasperation and frustration of mid- 70’s America. The guitar playing of David Hackney is explicit and direct.
In the midst of some mind boggling lack of vision in today’s listening trends, the archival release of DEATH: "For the Whole World To See", is a stunning reaffirmation of what makes rock and roll an amazing art form. Drawing upon their influences, taking it to the next level, and creating music that still sounds fresh and exciting 30 plus years later is no easy feat. DEATH have been able to do that with this release, and cudos to Drag City to see fit that this CD saw the light of the day. - Arthur S
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