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Album Review

Boy, talk about a return to form. Black Oak Arkansas' first new album in over ten years is easily the best thing they've done since their '70s heyday. This record reunites the men who formed the band way back in 1963, frontman extraordinaire Jim Dandy (prime exponent of "Dandyism"), rhythm guitarist Rickie Lee Reynolds, and bassman Dirty Daugherty. The chemistry that is still there is amazing. Now augmented by Rocky Athas (one of the country's most underrated guitarists — he was a hero of Stevie Ray Vaughan's when they were kids in Oak Cliff) and drummer Johnnie Bolin (kid brother of guitar hero Tommy Bolin), the band is in ripping form. The material is top-notch — a far cry from the work the band did in the '80s. The lead-off track, "Forgive and Forget," sets the pace with crunching guitar riffs and a great chorus where the Dandyman lets you know that "I never forget, and I ain't that forgiving." There is more serious heaviness to follow, particularly the two Tommy Bolin covers the band whips out. "Post Toastie" is one of the great tales of rock & roll excess: "I don't know what went wrong, it seems like nothing is right, I don't know what went wrong, I hope I get me some sleep tonight." Also, Tommy Bolin's "Shake the Devil" gets a hard rock treatment. Both renditions are a fine tribute to the departed axeman. "Talk to the Hand" is another fine original and a great title to boot: Picture Dandy (or yourself) with an arm outstretched and hand in STOP position. BOA has also redone five of their most classic tunes for this album. The remakes have strengths and weaknesses when compared to the originals. Rocky Athas is definitely the best guitarist Black Oak has ever had. His leads make the remakes soar. Johnnie Bolin, on the other hand, is a very solid drummer, but he is cursed with the fact that Tommy Aldridge used to sit in his seat. Aldridge's drumming with Black Oak set the standard for arena rock in the '70s. His parts are simply not do-able for a normal human. Fortunately, Johnnie Bolin doesn't try to re-do the old parts, but there is something missing (mega-fills). All in all, this is more than could've reasonably been expected from a band that hadn't released a good album since 1976. The band and the disc are both loaded with charm, humor, and hard rock. Just when things were looking bad — Dandy to the rescue.

The Wild Bunch, Jim Dandy's Black Oak Arkansas
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