At last, if you are reading this then Demon Records have probably just made your day, hell, probably even your year, yes that’s right we now have access to all six original releases from Frank Black and the Catholics on lush 180g clear vinyl, even albums that have previously been unavailable on vinyl.
The box set comes in a beautiful outer sleeve and housed along with a 32-page booklet which has all sorts of new and exciting content such as liner notes from Ben Mumphrey as well as unseen and rare shots from Steve Gullick. It really is a beautiful package and its obvious that a lot of thought, detail and attention has gone into putting this all together.
As I cracked open the box and slid the vinyl’s out the first thing to strike me was the beautiful outer sleeves that each vinyl is encased in, each sleeve has beautiful spot gloss detailing along with equally beautiful inner sleeves, and don’t even get me started on the absolutely decadent clear vinyl that each album sits upon.
I carefully place the first offering ‘Frank Black And The Catholics’ under the stylus and the sound which emanates from the speaker stack is one of beauty and inspiration, there certainly is no loss to the atmosphere and exquisiteness that we come to expect from the tracks within this debut release from ‘The Catholics. The grooves within the vinyl seem to conjure up memories of when vinyl sounded crisp and fresh, popping and crackling in order to make it an event rather than just a listen, making this release a joy to lower the needle onto. The tracks are all defined to the max and the vocals from Black himself are passionate and fiery with an obvious rawness to them as if he is sitting alongside, you on the porch with the sun setting perfectly behind you.
‘Pistolero’ is up next and my own personal favourite from all of the six siblings. From the opening chords of ‘Bad Harmony,’ both stringed and vocal, to the closing harmonies of ‘So. Bay’ this is elegance and sophistication beyond belief. Again, Frank Black creates velvet and smooth lyrical presentations, each word delivered with an ease and swagger which is naturally suave and downy and almost trance inducing. The beats from the skins are solid and robust yet still encompassing a bluesy rhythm and pulse which commands toes to be tapped and heads to be nodded in complete unison. There are elements of the album which verge on morphing into a grunge and raw body before switching back to the blues resemblance, particularly exhibiting the phenomenon on ‘I Switched You.’ I would even raise my head above the parapet and declare that sections of the track could possibly be straight out of the mid 80’s Seattle Grunge era if I didn’t know better.
‘Dog In The Sound’ starts with a more subdued intro and one which allows Black to showcase his vocal talents before the rest of the band kick into the groovy and harmonious main body of the track, ‘Blast Off’ Is definitely a perfect starting point for the rest of the album to launch from. This album has more of a laid back and relaxed blues feel about it than its two predecessors, ‘I’ve Seen Your Picture’ absolutely personifies this in its stripped bare body of musical scores and guitar leads along with hugely silky-smooth larynx productivity. Other standout tracks for me on this one are ‘Stupid Me,’ which sees a pedal steel guitar thrown into the fray, and the almost raucous (by Frank Blacks standards) ‘St. Francis Dam Disaster’
Next up, the only double vinyl release of the box set, ‘Black Letter Days,’ and transportation into an old east end pub in the 70’s. The composition and deliverance of this ensemble of tracks is one of exuberance, pleasure, and amusement. From start to finish, this is an album which encapsulates a huge sense of fun and freedom, each track constructed and built around a huge sense of liberty and raw talent. The tracks on show are ones that have a sense of having taken only one shot to record and one of just a bunch of mates sat around the piano in the saloon bar with aged single malts in hand. Sit back, stoke up the fire, grab the bottle of bourbon and enjoy, this is an event, a true magical journey from start to finish.
Award of the year for brightest album cover, and inner sleeve, has to go to ‘Devil’s Workshop.’ This one is almost nuclear in its appearance, take out your lightbulb, hang this from the rafters and you will be able to plot your route from one end of the room to the other with considerable ease. It is magnificent. The album contents are also a true accomplishment in their composition and deliverance, the string work is verging on mesmerising, guitar solos populate the tracks with ease and relevance, each one seeming to tell their own stories on top of the base line structure which the other instruments seem to build. Standouts on ‘Devils’ Workshop’ have to be ‘His Kingly Cave’ and ‘Are You Headed My Way?’
‘His Kingly Cave’ seems to be more down tuned and almost depressive but in a positive fashion, if that can even be a thing? The vocals seem to have more intent and purpose behind them, and the drum work is complex and intricate, each beat having a reason to be in existence. The guitar work again is captivating and charming, magnetic in its deliverance and sure to keep you hooked from start to finish and then subliminally forcing you to move the stylus back to opening groove.
‘Are You Headed My Way?’ is the shortest track on the album and one which punches its way in, says what it needs to say and then departs again with uncomplicated ease. The guitar work again is alluring and absorbing and has you tapping what ever part of your soul is allowed to fly free, once the lyrics are embedded in your conscience as well, this one will have you repeating them out loud as if it is an anthem with years of existence already set solid within your inner self.
Now I know they say you should never judge a book by its cover, or indeed an album by its sleeve, but if I could throw the rule book out then ‘Show Me Your Tears’ would win hands down for best album cover, complete with its ominous lucky cat sat beside the rather interesting fret bord. It is also the only album to make use a gate fold facility, opening out to expose the lyrics for each of the tracks and images of Frank et al.
A rather rocky ‘Nadine’ starts the whole event off and is catchier, rawer, rockier and a little more chaotic than I have grown to expect from a Frank Black release. ‘Everything Is New’ brings the album back down to its more familiar submissive and restrained beauty that we demand of a ‘Catholics product. Constructed of an impressive thirteen tracks, each one seems to bring an element of individuality to the proceedings, and each serves up a course different to any of its albums siblings yet all working in one tight knit community to bring a well-rounded album in a well packaged whole unit.
This whole compendium tells a rather obvious and evolution for Frank Black And The Catholics, stretching from the rather innocent and unassuming, cracking and popping self-titled debut ‘Frank Black And The Catholics’ through to the rather mature and raft of ‘Show Me Your Tears’. The band seem to keep the elements and cogs which work and make the trademark sound yet tweaking other mechanisms in order to grow the maturity and wisdom so as to keep each album sounding relevant and pertinent to each particular point in time.
This is a must buy if you are a Frank Black And The Catholics fan, even if you aren’t accustomed with the works for Frank Black but have an interest in multidimensional Blues then I would recommend adding this to your collection without delay. If you are a fan of interesting, thought provoking and downright blissful tunes to chill out to then this certainly needs to be on your radar. A beautiful package and about time too
Purchase the Frank Black and The Catholics The Complete Studio Albums box set go to: https://lnk.to/FrankBlackCatholics