“You know, Sean Connery was the best Roger Moore they ever had.” — Frank C. Starr
THE FOUR HORSEMEN – Left For Dead (1988-1992) (2005 CD/DVD set)
“Nobody said it was easy…and they were fucking right!”
The final review in this Four Horsemen series is a valuable live album/DVD set. The CD was put together from “a box of old tapes”, all from 1992 gigs (one of which was Toronto), and there are ample liner notes discussing the band’s history and the songs herein. It’s a brilliant live set, loaded with energy and Frank C. Starr’s unmistakable charisma. Every track sweats whiskey. With an opening one-two punch of “’75 Again” and “Moonshine”, you know you’re in for an action packed ride. “Moonshine” is particularly cool, because the album version featured an authentic over-the-phone lead vocal, but the live one is full-on. Throwing in a couple extra screams, Frankie added the icing on the cake. Man, we so miss Frank C. Starr.
It’s a noisy affair, which actually suits this band just fine. It’s appropriate that a Four Horsemen live album isn’t an overdubbed and glossed collection. What it sounds like is a live band in a tiny club. All three of the Horsemen’s singles are included in live form. The slide-drenched “Tired Wings” goes down a treat. “Nobody Said it Was Easy” and “Rockin’ is Ma Business” are both electrifying; the latter especially so. You don’t hear a singer with a voice like Frank’s very often. He had the grit, the power and the ability, wrapped up in a rock star-sized bottle of Jack. Frank Starr has to be one of the greatest unsung losses in modern rock.
And what a band behind him! There is a constant and very hard-hitting beat at the back, courtesy of the man-mountain Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery. According to the liner notes, Dimwit was a psychiatric nurse in addition to being a hell of a punk rock drummer. The name Dimwit was clearly a joke, but there is a dark side. The rigors of his work and the amount of care and emotion that went into it may have contributed to the depression and substance abuse that eventually took his life. It’s sad really, but thankfully these live recordings exist.
One non-album cut is included in this set, a slow raunchy one called “Can’t Get Next To You”. The AC/DC influences are obvious as this one is clearly in the musical mode of “The Jack”. The fans wouldn’t have known this song, but Frank wants to see how many people know the album. Introducing “Hot Head” he announces, “Let’s see if some of you fuckers actually went out and bought this shit!”…right before an equipment breakdown! And it’s all there, documented for history. Leaving in things like amp troubles makes for a more authentic listening experience.
All told, only two songs from the legendary first Four Horsemen record are not on the live CD: “Can’t Stop Rockin'” and “Homesick Blues”. Although unlisted, “I Need a Thrill” does contain the “Something Good” coda, just like the album. It’s even longer, with some absolutely consummate playing from lead guitarist Dave Lizmi. The low grade sound quality perhaps enhances the overall experience. This was a dirty rock and roll band and that’s how the live CD sounds. That seems right. With almost the entire first album plus an unreleased song, any Horsemen fan worth his or her salt should probably get their ears on this. But there is still the DVD to feast our eyes upon!
Interspersed with rare footage and interviews, you get all the original Horsemen music videos, starting with “Rockin’ is Ma Business”. The stark music video for “Nobody Said it Was Easy” is a previously unseen version with some risque shots. An interesting clip from MTV has the band mistakenly called “Four Horseman”. (Apparently it was Riki Rachtman’s first show. But then MTV got the name wrong on a later episode too! MuchMusic got it right though.) A rare live bootleg of “Hard Lovin’ Man” is audio garbage but video gold. “High School Rock and Roller” is a blast to watch, especially the moving mountain that was Dimwit on drums. There is big stage action from October ’91, opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd (“’75 Again” and “Rockin’ in Ma Business”). Perhaps most interesting are some rejected music videos that didn’t see the light of day. An early version of “Tired Wings” (with a pre-fame Kate Moss) is pretty crap and rightfully hated by the band. Better than this is a rare “Mexican version” of “Nobody Said it Was Easy”. The intro borrows liberally from “The Old Man Down the Road” by John Fogerty, but it’s cool watching the band mime in a hot dusty town in Mexico. Then there is a never before seen $2000 budget video for “Welfare Boogie” from the original EP. This video was rejected by MTV because the band were “too ugly”.
DVD special features are sparse but cool. There is an exclusive acoustic demo version of “Tired Wings”. What a different spin this is! In demo form it was a slow acoustic drawl, laid back with angelic band harmonies. The lyrics and melodies are identical but the arrangement is completely different. This is set to a nostalgic slide show of rare band photos. There is also a band commentary track for the main feature (Haggis, Dave Lizmi and Ben Pape). Lots of laughs, memories and anecdotes. And making fun of “Dave Lizmo’s” hockey stick-style guitar neck. Mostly they poke fun of each other’s clothes. It’s a lot of fun to hang out with the Horsemen. The audio commentary track is a highly recommended shambles.
The CD/DVD set can be ordered straight from the band, and it comes autographed. I think mine is signed by Haggis but I cannot be sure!