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Bang: Bullets-The First Four Albums PLUS... (Remastered/Box Set)

Some of you might be asking "Who the hell are Bang?", which is the same question I had asked myself recently when the topic of this band first came up to me. Bang were an early '70s hard rock/proto-metal band that formed in the late '60s in Pennsylvania but later relocated to Florida after signing to Capitol Records for their self-titled debut in 1971. Quite heavy for the time but also very musical with interesting lyrical imagery, Bang combined the bruising raw power of Black Sabbath, the hard rocking groove of Grand Funk Railroad, the balance of early heavy metal & acoustic folk of Budgie, and the enchanting vocal harmonies of The Beatles.

What we have here on Bullets are all three albums that Bang released for Capitol Records, fully remastered, along with the original Death of a Country album, which is previously unreleased. This album was originally recorded in 1971 and intended by the band to be their first for Capitol, but the label rejected it as being too dense & heavy a concept album for new listeners and asked them to go back into the studio and write & record something else. That album wound up being the debut Bang, which was followed by Mother/Bow to the King in 1972, and Music in 1973, but the band broke up shortly after that, never quite achieving the fame & fortune that they and Capitol figured. Also included here are a few post-1974 songs recorded after the contract with Capitol expired and before the breakup.

Let's start with the Death of a Country, which for all intents & purposes is the bands first album. Kicking off with the lengthy 10-minute title track, you can see that Bang (guitarist/vocalist Frankie Gilcken, bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara, and drummer/lyricist Tony Diorio) was embracing the early heavy rock sounds of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad, Blue Cheer, and Budgie, but they also had a soft spot for band who specialized in lush vocal harmonies and pastoral folk. Plenty of crushing riffs but also extended musical passages and twisting time signatures abound on this epic opener, which leads into the folk-meets-hard rock of "No Trespassing" (you can almost hear how Rush might have gotten some influence from this band, with the upper register vocals, booming bass lines, and mix of electric & acoustic guitar passages). "My Window" is a melodic & textured hard rocker, and "Life on Ending" once again sees the band explore more folk based elements. The band rips into an almost Cactus-like heavy blues rocker "Certainly Meaningless", but throw in some melodic Beatles-ish vocal harmonies to keep things intriguing. To close things out the band offer up the psychedelic "Future Song", a tune that will remind some of prog legends Nektar and features some killer guitar work, trippy sound effects, and layers of vocals.

Bang starts off literally with a 'bang', as the band have upped the ante on the heaviness factor, evident on opening track "Lions, Christians", and it's on this album that bassist Ferrara has taken over lead vocals from Gilcken. He's got a much different voice, and probably better suited to this heavier material. The music has taken on a doomier vibe, so instant comparisons to Black Sabbath, early Pentagram, and Budgie will happen, but the band also has that keen sense of groove that Grand Funk Railroad were famous for. "The Queen" features some killer riffs and busy drum & bass work, while "Last Will" is a haunting little folk tune with enchanting vocals and lush acoustic guitar work. The crunching heavy rock riffs return for "Come With Me" (again, the comparisons to early Pentagram from right around the same time are astonishing), and the band even throw in some almost prog-rock styled elements on the melodic but still quite heavy track "Our Home". "Future Shock" is pure early doom, with massive riffs and Ferrara's wailing vocals, and the band launch into groove laden bluesy hard rock with "Questions" (released as a single), featuring some great dual vocals harmonies from Gilcken & Ferrara and a boatload of sizzling guitar work and sinewy bass lines. The Bang album concludes with the scorching "Redman", another very heavy blues rock number with some evil riffs courtesy of Gilcken that are as heavy as anything Sabbath, Budgie, Zeppelin, or Mountain were doing at the same time.

Over on Mother/Bow to the King, the heaviness continues, but drummer Diorio is kicked out of the band and replaced for the recording by Duris Maxwell & Bruce Gary (later of the Knack). Though this one is pretty heavy, there's a sophistication setting in that adds a lot of variety to many of these songs. "Mother" and "Humble" again pummel the listener with bruising, almost doom laden riffs, but "Keep On" gets pretty funky, almost like vintage Trapeze, complete with tricky bass & drum grooves and Gilcken's wah-wah laced guitar riffs. "Idealist Realist" has an almost Humble Pie feel to it (some GREAT guitar riffs here), while the bands cover of the Guess Who's "No Sugar Tonight" is very well done and a lot of fun (also released as a single). The band seemed to almost be going for a Southern Rock vibe to the anthemic "Feel the Hurt", which has some great catchy vocal passages, acoustic guitar textures, and heavy riffs, almost like a combination of Bad Company & Lynyrd Skynyrd. "Tomorrow" is hook laden hard rock, and closer "Bow to the King" dips into progressive-rock with its lush acoustic guitar & Mellotron. This last track is one of the more unique from the band, and showed how well they could play multiple styles.

By this time, Capitol Records were getting impatient that the band was not taking off like they expected, and the end was surely near. Manager Rick Bowen was out, and the band brought back Diorio to manage the band this time around. Bruce Gary was once again brought in to lay down the drum tracks for the new album, and Pete Sears added some keyboards and the result was Music, a much lighter affair but still no less of a success musically. Though it's much less 'heavy', a few of these songs still rock a bit, but in an almost 'power pop' way, not unlike acts like The Raspberries or Ambrosia. "Windfair" combines heavy rock riffs with proggy Mellotron and pop hooks, while "Glad Your Home" has more of a pop/folk feel to it. "Don't Need Nobody" could easily be a Doobie Brothers or Raspberries leftover track, with some great vocal hooks and tight, nasty guitar licks, while "Page of My Life" suffers as being somewhat of a filler track, a meager pop ditty that is too brief to really make much of an impact. "Love Sonnet" is also pretty lightweight, and though a decent enough ballad, just sounds like another band. The same can be said for "Must Be Love", which comes across as a hook filled Southern Rock tune, complete with jangly guitars and plenty of vocal harmonies. "Exactly Who I Am" is more of a hard rocker, but the guitars have less of a 'heft' to them this time around, and "Pearl and Her Ladies" once again sees the Southern Rock & power pop elements come together in what is a fun number with some great hooks and guitar & keyboard work. "Little Boy Blue" and "Brightness" are mostly acoustic based country-pop ditties, decent enough tracks, but it's as far removed from the classic Bang sound as this band gets. The bonus tracks here include the 'lost singles', of which "Slow Down" is a pretty heavy rocker, "Feel Nice" a snarling, Aerosmith styled blues-metal piece, and "Make Me Pretty" a psychedelic/folk ballad. There's also a lengthy radio interview with the band recorded back in the day.

The whole set comes in a clamshell box, with all the CDs encased in mini-LP replica sleeves with original artwork. There's also a great thick booklet, which is filled with the story of Bang, loads of info, and stacked with photographs, all of which gives you all the history you need to know. If that's not enough, there is also a mini fold out poster containing all the lyrics, and a sticker. All the albums sound great with remastered sound, making this a can't miss box set for anyone who wants to either rediscover Bang all over again, or for the first time get all the scoop on one of the most obscure & underrated of all the early 1970's hard rock/proto-metal bands.

And, as a perfect ending to this story, the original trio reunited back in 1996 and have been releasing new music ever since.

Track Listing
Disc: 1 - Death of a Country
1. Death of a Country
2. No Trespassing
3. My Window
4. Life on Ending
5. Certainly Meaningless
6. Future Song

Disc: 2 - Bang
1. Lions, Christians
2. The Queen
3. Last Will and Testament
4. Come With Me
5. Our Home
6. Future Shock
7. Questions
8. Redman

Disc: 3 - Mother/Bow to the King
1. Mother
2. Humble
3. Keep On
4. Idealist Realist
5. No Sugar Tonight
6. Feel The Hurt
7. Tomorrow
8. Bow To The King

Disc: 4 - Music
1. Windfare
2. Glad you're Home
3. Don't need Nobody
4. Page of my Life
5. Love Sonnet
6. Must be love
7. Exactly Who I am
8. Pearl and Her Ladies
9. Little Boy Blue
10. Brightness
11. Another Town
12. Slow Down -bonus track
13. Feels Nice -bonus track
14. Make me Pretty -bonus track
15. Radio Interview

Added: April 10th 2013
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2603
Language: english

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