PUNK RECORDINGS NEW YORK CITY 1976-79 - Testors feating Sonny Vincent (Incognito)
If the title of this 28-track collection of demos and live tunes is a mouthful, the breadth and ferocity of the sonic attack within takes some digestion too. This is brutal stuff, uncompromising and in your face. German label Incognito have done us a great service making the early work of Sonny Vincent available in digital form, compiling some early vinyl releases on one handy disc.
Testors were the original vehicle for Sonny, archetypal Bowery bad boy and associate to the stars. Contemporaries of the Dead Boys, the Cramps and Johnny Thunders, they never received the critical acclaim of those acts and it's fair to say they would have remained a footnote in NY punk's varied and colourful history if not for the ongoing efforts of Sonny. He's churned out a post-New York career as a sideman for people like Mo Tucker and with his own bands (Shotgun Rationale and the Dons, Sonny Vincent's Rat Race Choir and Sonny Vincent and the Safety Pins) whose discs have been notable for both a steady progression in their quality and the star-studded presence of people like Wayne Kramer, Captain Sensible, Scott and Ron Asheton, Cheetah Chrome and Bob Stinson. Many of the songs Sonny's put to tape with those outfits were first aired in grimy clubs like CBGB and Max's with Testors and you'll find them here in all their savage glory.
Testors began life as a two-guitar-no-bass outfit and a handful of their earliest songs are on this disc. What do they sound like? Think: dentist-drill guitar charged with (very) angry, anguished vocals. Much of the latter-period (1977) material is a little less confrontational but early cuts like "Primitive" and "Let's Get Zooed Out" are about as primal as it gets. Some other highlights: "Aw Maw" features a room-clearing guitar introduction (apparently used by Mr Vincent to "cleanse the room" of non-believers prior to performance). "MK Ultra" (later reprised by Sonny) is an instrumental alternately powered by a "Secret Agent Man"-style riff and some Thunders-style licks, while "Hey You" shows Testors making at a stab at incorporating melody into their material.
A couple of people I know find Sonny's act way too extreme/forced. I'm not in that group and he's welcome to pull up a stool in the I-94 Bar anytime. This is a fascinating stroll back, particularly if you first became acquainted with Sonny through his more contemporary material and have been back-tracking (thanks Mykel!) Don't play this near the elderly, small children or sensitive animals. Do play it exceedingly loud. - The Barman
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