Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Hot Dogs - Say What You Mean (1973 us, remarkable folk country silk rock, 2003 japan remaster)

The Hot Dogs featured the talents of Memphis-based musicians Greg Reding and Bill Rennie.  keyboardist/guitar player Reding had previously been a member of Village Sound, while singer/bass player Rennie had been in The Poor Little Rich Kids (he was known as Bill Renni).  Along with former Piccadilly Circus guitarist Jack Holder, in 1970 the pair started playing together under the moniker Silver.  The same year the trio went into Memphis' famed Ardent Studios to record some demos. The demos caught the attention of producer Terry Manning who brought in sessions drummer Prouty for backup.  Unfortunately Silver  fell apart before anything could come of it, with Reding and Rennie subsequently paying their bills as touring sidemen for Albert King. 

Back in Memphis, 1972 saw Reding and Rennie renew their relationship with producer Manning and with his support went into the Stax-affiliated Ardent Studios to record an album.  With backing from Holder, guitarist Robert Johnson, and Prouty, 1973's Manning-produced "Say What You Mean" was a surprisingly likeable set of British-influenced power pop.  With Reding and Rennie responsible for much of the material (Manning also contributed several tracks), these guys clearly had an affection for English-styled pop with more than a passing nod to the Fab Four.  In fact, imagine what Badfinger would have sounded like if they'd been from Memphis and you'd be in the right aural ballpark.

The title track 'Say What You Mean' was a gorgeous ballad with a haunting melody and some beautiful harmony vocals.  Even better were the stunning guitar solos (I'm guessing Holder and Johnson were the featured performers).  You had to wonder how this was overlooked as a single. Kicked along by a xylophone (?), 'Morning Rain' started out with a beguiling laidback tropical feel, before taking brief detours into Uriah Heep organ terrain, following by a Hammond B3 cocktail jazz interlude, and ending with a tasteful lead guitar (Terry manning?).  For some reason this one's always reminded me of an early Steely Dan track.  It would have slotted nicely on "Can't Buy a Thrill".

Shifting gears 'When I Come Home Again' displayed the group's proficiency in the country-rock department.  Nice melody with an incidiously catchy chorus be forewarned that  this one will stick in your head. Time Is All' started out as an acoustic ballad, but exploded into an outright rocker before returning to it's roots.  Not my favorite track, though the guitar solo was pretty hot.

'Another Smile' has a pretty melody and some wonderful harmony vocals from the pair.  Always liked the chiming twelve strings and the handclap percussion on this one. 'Thanks' was one of the track that reminded me of something out of the Badfinger catalog.  Pretty melody and a dazzling guitar solo made this one of the best songs on the album.  Great Rennie bass pattern to boot.

'Take the Time To Let Me Know' was another pretty ballad, but it didn't really go anywhere.  Once again the highlight came in the form of the tasty guitar solo. Manning's 'Feel Real Fine' offered up a weird mix of country and rock influences.  It was definitely weird and almost sounded like a "White Album" outtake. Kicked along by some acoustic slide guitar and harmonica, this was actually one of the catchiest numbers. 

Starting off as another country-tinged number the mandolin-propelled 'Let Me Look At the Sun' came as another major surprise.  Showcasing a fabulous melody and the album's best lead guitar, this was another lost single.  Following a pattern, 'Way To Get To You' opened up with spare acoustic guitars before bursting into a fuller rock arrangement.  Another pretty melody with glorious harmony vocals. 

'Lowdown' ended the album with another out-and-out rocker.  While the song was quite good (another killer guitar performance), on this one Reding and Rennie seemed somewhat uncomfortable singing in the high key.  This one was tapped at their third and final single. All hyperbole aside, this was one of those rare albums that actually seemed to get better the more often you listened to it.  
1. Say What You Mean (Steve Smith, S.T. Smith) - 6:36
2. Morning Rain (Greg Reding, Bill Rennie, Terry Manning) - 4:50
3. When I Come Home Again (Steve Smith, S.T. Smith) - 2:25
4. Time Is All (Bill Rennie, Jack Holder, Terry Manning) - 3:33
5. Another Smile (Bill Rennie, Terry Manning) - 2:56
6. Thanks (Greg Reding, Bill Rennie) - 5:38
7. Take the Time To Let Me Know (Greg Reding, Jack Holder, Bill Rennie) - 3:35
8. Feel Real Fine (Terry Manning) - 2:59
9. Let Me Look At the Sun (Bill Rennie, Terry Manning) - 2:26
10.Way To Get To You (Greg Reding, Bill Rennie) - 2:24
11.Lowdown (Greg Reding, Bill Rennie, Terry Manning) - 3:41

The Hot Dogs
*Greg Reding - Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar
*Bill Rennie - Lead Vocals, Bass
Guests Musicians
*Jack Holder - Lead Guitar
*Steve Holt - Drums
*Robert Johnson - Lead Guitar
*Terry Manning - Lead Guitar
*Fred Prouty - Drums
*Richard Rosebrough - Drums
*Steve Smith - Keyboards

Related Acts
1970  Terry Manning - Home Sweet Home (2006 remaster)
1972  Cargoe - Cargoe (Japan remaster)

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  2. The Hot Dogs - Say What You Mean 1973 ...Recovered.....