Though defunct for well over two decades, the Four Horsemen are like the gift that keeps on giving. When they bit the dust, all they initially left behind were two albums and an EP. Today there are a set of reissues with bonus tracks, live releases, and a “lost” second LP that was never released before. In 2018, another handful of unreleased tracks came to light on a brand new vinyl reissue of Nobody Said it Was Easy. This is the second reissue of the album now, the first (on CD) having three completely different bonus tracks (“She’s Got It”, “Homesick Blues (harmonica version)” and “Born to Boogie”). The vinyl replaces those with a bunch more you didn’t have.
First, about the album Nobody Said it Was Easy: We reviewed it back in 2016 and stand by every word. It was a shining beacon of rock n’ roll when it was in danger of drowning in a sea of grunge. Rick Rubin gave the album an edgy, loud and crisp sound. The band had a dirty vibe at odds with the Poisons and Motley Crues on the charts. And they boasted one of the greatest unsung frontmen ever: Frank C. Starr. A real life bad boy, there was nothing phony about Frank, nor any of the Four Horsemen. The nucleus was the man known as Haggis, ex-The Cult, ex-Zodiac Mindwarp. His slippy-slidey guitars melded perfectly with the southern soloing of Dave Lizmi. On bass was a chap named Ben Pape, but the secret weapon was drummer Kenneth “Dimwit” Montgomery. This mountain of a man, a Canadian punk rock veteran, had presence and a deep Bonham-like beat. The Four Horsemen couldn’t be touched by anyone in their field. The 12 songs that made up Nobody Said it Was Easy sound derived in equal parts from early AC/DC and the American South, with a healthy dose of sleazy intent.
“My name is Frankie, let’s fuck up the place!”
The three singles are flat-out indispensable. I wouldn’t want to live my life without “Rockin’ Is Ma Business” any more than I would want to live it without “Let There Be Rock”. “Tired Wings” is a greasy southern revelation, while the title track has more hooks than a tackle shop.
As an added bonus, this package also includes the first Four Horsemen EP, Welfare Boogie. It was available separately on a remastered CD with bonus tracks, but now you can get it on vinyl right here. The four EP songs were pretty high octane. “Hard Loving Man” remains a ridiculous highlight. Tattooed pecker indeed!
Onto the unreleased tracks, of which there are six: five songs and an interview. All of these are exclusive to this LP; nowhere else. The interview is a vintage road call from a humorous Haggis to a Calgary radio station, but it’s inconsequential at only 2:30 long. (My copy of the second LP has the sides labelled incorrectly.)
Check out the original open-G tuning of “Tired Wings”. It’s remarkable how changing the tuning made the difference between a good song and a great one. Now it’s timeless. Frankie did a completely different lead vocal on “’75 Again”, without the screaming (some of the guitar bits are missing too). I think I prefer the screaming version when you hear them side by side. An alternate version of “Can’t Stop Rockin'” is a different take, also without screaming (or backing vocals). These versions that ultimately didn’t make the album are as well produced as the record, but ultimately it’s a matter of taste which you prefer. It’s certainly startling to hear different versions after this many years.
“The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down” is an instrumental, recorded Christmas Day 1991. This certainly foreshadows the direction the Four Horsemen would go on their “lost” second album, Daylight Again, which was more Band than AC/DC. Finally it’s an extended 8:32 live jam on “Can’t Get Next to You”, a non-album rarity. Another version can be found on the CD/DVD set, Left For Dead. Dave Lizmi really gets to cut loose on this.
It doesn’t really matter which version of Nobody Said it Was Easy you end up with. The original 12 track CD was 5/5 stars then and now, but which is best? The remastered CD gives you unreleased tracks exclusive to the format, so there’s that. This LP gives you even more, plus the original Welfare Boogie EP, but it is limited to just 500 copies. Better act fast before it’s too late.
MORE FOUR HORSEMEN:
- Record Store Tales #224: Rockin’ Is Ma Business
- Welfare Boogie (1990 – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
- Nobody Said It Was Easy (1991 – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
- Daylight Again (1994 “lost” album – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
- Gettin’ Pretty Good…At Barely Gettin’ By (1996)
- Left For Dead 1988-1994 (2005 – CD/DVD set)
- Death Before Suckass – Live at Saratoga Winners 1991 (2012 CD)