The A’s – The A’s / Woman’s Got the Power [reissue]

January 01, 1970

(American Beat)

 

www.ccmusic.com

 

 

Just as the
evolving music scene was trying to find the blend between punk and New Wave in
1979, so too were Philadelphia’s
The A’s. Vocalist Richard Bush perfected the appropriate snotty sneer, sounding
almost juvenile on staccato songs like “Words” and “Artificial Love”. Bush
co-wrote all but one track with keyboard player Rocco Nolte, and most were
decent, but the one-two punch near the end of the album is what made heads
turn. “Teenage Jerk Off” was as hilarious as it was danceable – think The
Romantics aping a Ramones song – but blending the teen angst “Grounded” with
“Twist and Shout” was pure genius. Producer Richard Chertoff (Cyndi Lauper,
Hooters, etc.) knew how to work magic with Philly artists, but Arista Records
was unable to generate much out-of-town heat. College radio was hit and miss,
which was unfortunate – this was a better album than many of the titles being highly
touted at the time.

 

Cut to two years
later – the follow-up album boasted stronger songwriting and solid musicianship,
but the band’s punk edge was sanded over, replaced with a bombastic sheen. Nick
Garvey (The Motors) produced three of the songs as if they were anthems. The title
track was made for a rock dance club, and “How Do You Live” nailed that Middle America sound that radio seemed to be leaning
towards. But it was the third, “Heart of America”, which pulled out all the
stops. Everything was huge; drums kicked like cannon blasts, horns wailed
behind the guitars and organ, and at the boiling point where the guitar solo
should explode…a manic banjo solo! Still
a standout track almost thirty years later, it should have been the single of
that summer; as irresistible and powerful as The Eurhythmics’ “Would I Lie to
You” was four years later.

 

No doubt Bush
and Nolte structured the newer material to translate to bigger stages; hooks
abound in rockers (“Insomnia”, “I Pretend She’s You”) and ballads
(“Electricity”) and even a cover version of Tom Jans’ “When the Rebel Comes
Home” that The Del Lords would be proud to claim as their own. But despite the clear
step forward, success eluded them and the band soon folded. Now, thanks to
reissue label American Beat, both albums are now available on a single disc.
There’s little in the way of liner notes, and the sound is clean but not
remastered; so the production sounds dated on occasion. But this is a worthy
purchase, whether you’re updating your worn vinyl or jumping on the A’s bandwagon
three decades after the fact.

 

Standout Tracks: “Heart of America,” “Teenage Jerk Off,” “How
Do You Live” BILL HOLMES

 

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