CD REVIEW: THE ANGELS – Brothers, Angels & Demons

CD REVIEW: THE ANGELS – Brothers, Angels & Demons
Liberation Records
August 2017
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Disc 1 – 7/10
Disc 2 – 8 ½ /10

This double disc compilation from The Angels’ Brewster Brothers, John & Rick, is – understandably – very Brewster-centric, being a companion piece to the new book The Angels, written by their friend Rob Yates in collaboration with the Brewsters.

The Brewsters started the Moonshine Jug & String Band, recruiting Doc Neeson as co-singer, and sometimes guitarist/bassist, and at least one of them has guided them as they renamed the band The Keystone Angels, then The Angels, through a myriad of line-up changes, world tours, triumphs and dismays.

Brothers, Angels & Demons kicks off with a handful of tracks from the Moonshine Jug & String Band’s 1992 reunion album, showing the hillbilly style which the Adelaide band started off playing way back in 1970.

A half dozen Brewster Brothers tracks follow, with John Brewster on vocals. The songs are good, but it’s extremely obvious why Neeson handled the vocals in The Angels – Brewster’s voice is fine, but relatively innocuous, lacking any real stand-out quality.

There’s a similar problem with some of the prime cuts of the more recent Angels material which follows, featuring Dave Gleeson out front of the band. Gleeson is a great singer, as we know from The Screaming Jets, but Neeson set the bar for The Angels so damned high with his unique, electric voice, that just about anyone else pales in comparison. There’s some cool cuts here, though – Talk The Talk and a everyone-on-guitar live version of Can’t Shake It which comes closer to the urgency of the Neeson era.

The Brewsters didn’t waste time putting the usual suspects and hits on disc 2, filling the disc up instead with more obscure deep cuts, and still the difference is obvious immediately.

Neeson’s dramatic, electrical delivery crackles through Alexander and I’m Scared from 1980’s Dark Room; the 1981 non-album single Into The Heat/Back On You; Shoot It Up and Easy Prey from 1983’s Watch The Red; the intense Man There and When The Time Comes from the Howling, from 1986, as well as four tracks from 1998’s Skin & Bone.

The album finishes with six tracks from 2010’s original line-up reunion concert, Symphony Of Angels. Whilst the orchestra – and, to be fair – age and illness dampen the high energy of the songs a little, it’s still wonderful to hear them given the full strings treatment. The accompanying book explains that the full concert was never released, as was originally planned, due to a poor vocal performance, and it’s fair to say that these tracks aren’t as gripping as we would have hoped.

It’s not that Brewster or Gleeson are BAD singers in any way – it’s just that Neeson had something unique about him, and consequently Disc 2 of this double is going to get played a lot more than Disc 1.

CD REVIEW: THE ANGELS – Brothers, Angels & Demons

Filed Under: Music Reviews

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