& TUMBLIN' ? Motor City Rockers (Motor
It's blatantly obvious to anyone who knows me that I'm living in the past (please hold all calls?), but to this day, the sound of ex- Romantic Jimmy Marinos' voice reminds me of the musically fertile half-decade from 1977 to1982, when the often dangerous streets of the Eastside of Detroit were my personal playground.
Raised in the sleepy, whitebread western suburb of Dearborn, the Eastside was
like something out of a Scorcese film, scruffy rock dawgs in black leather replacing
the gangsters, guitars replacing the guns, the smell of clove cigarettes always
in the air. Marinos, an affable albeit flighty sort of guy, would usually approach
me and my then-girlfriend (an often clueless fence-sitter who refused to accept
that disco was dead yet didn't want to get left behind sucking the fumes of
this new punk rock/new wave thang) in various watering holes around the Murder
City and strike up a conversation with "Hey, I think I know you."
Of course he didn't, but Marinos was such a lovable mook that we just played
along and I took advantage of the situation to pump him for stories about life
on the boards and in the studio with The Romantics and just how he got his hair
to stand up like that.
Marinos left The Romantics in 1983 (sending the band on a slow trip to nowhere ? The Romantics without Marinos was like The Who without Keith Moon) and, for a while, I feared the planet as well, although I caught a quick glimpse of him at a mind-numbingly dull Chris Duarte gig around 1991 or 1992, barely recognizable under a fright wig of hair that had traveled earthward from vertical to horizontal, but still wearing a pair of painfully tight black leather pants. By the time I recognized him, he was out the front door in a cloud of Aqua-Net.
"Rollin' & Tumblin', originally released in 1993 on Black Cat and now available again through Motor City Music, sees Marinos finally escaping the shackles of his drum kit and grabbing a microphone, leaving Robert Gillespie (guitar/vocals/piano), Greg "Crash" Miller (guitar), Paul
Petrucci (bass), and Steve LaCross (drums) to bring the noise behind him and, judging from the liner photos, dip from the same bottle of Miss Clairol Blue-Black No. 5.
As may be expected, Gillespie, the king of been-there-done-that in Detroit, brings a certain guitar briskness to the proceedings, his sinewy leads snaking through "When The Cat's Away" and "Scratch My Back," with Miller, Petrucci, and LaCross bumping, grinding, and swinging through eight punchy Marinos originals and covers of Esquerita's "Rockin' The Joint" and John
Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom."
Marinos' pipes had taken on a chain-smoking, whiskey-swilling roughness during his years out of the spotlight as evidenced on album closer "Shook All Over," which begins with a Malcolm Young-like chord sequence and ends with a Daltreyesque "whooww!" from Marinos and Gillespie soloing his way into the sunset.
Despite all of the chewy bits available here for admirers of low-slung, scrunchy, R&B influenced swagger, it's the acoustically-driven, love song "Stone Blue" (no, not the old Foghat tune) which may raise the most eyebrows, Marinos reigning in the shouting and growling for a quick minute and actually demonstrating a knack for greasy soul singing.
The only sticking point for regular visitors to The Bar may be the production of Cat Black and the mixing of Peter Solley, which is tight and simple but stripped and clinically clean. It would have been interesting to see what a shit-hot, black-hearted approach on the knobs would have lent to "Rollin' & Tumblin', but something tells me Motor City Rockers may have had their sights set on radio airplay and the potential of making some big coin when this baby was birthed. I can live with that. - Clark Paull
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