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The Long Ryders / Final Wild Songs

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The Long Ryders were pioneers of ‘alt country’ music a good decade before the genre got a name, and Final Wild Songs, a new four-CD set issued by Cherry Red Records, is a definitive career overview…

The band’s original line-up was Sid Griffin (vocals, guitar, autoharp and bugle), Stephen McCarthy (guitar, steel guitar, mandolin and banjo), Des Brewer (bass – Brewer was later replaced by Tom Stevens) and Greg Sowders (drums and percussion). Formed in 1983 from the ashes of Los Angeles band The Unclaimed, the musicians brought a heady brew of diverse influences to the table – from country to punk rock. Consequently, the Long Ryders’ novel sound gave a respectful nod to the likes of Gram Parsons, The Clash, The Flying Burrito brothers, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield.

For those of you less familiar with the band’s oeuvre, check out rockpillsTV’s mini-documentary here, which features a December 2014 interview with the band reliving their mid-Eighties pomp.


As discussed in the documentary, a lack of radio play in the States and the predominance of synth pop music in the UK meant that commercial success was elusive for this “organic band” whose members always followed their instincts for writing good songs rather than what would sell. That’s why, perhaps, as acerbic comedian and Long Ryders’ enthusiast Stewart Lee puts it, they are “one of rock’s great undiscovered bands, like the Flamin’ Groovies and Big Star.”

So high time to discover them, then, and this box set appears to be as good a way as any to do so. According to a post on Griffin’s Facebook page in December announcing Final Wild Songs, Griffin and Stevens spent over a year compiling and organising the songs featured in the set. With all tracks remastered by Andy Pearce (from the original tapes, where they existed), Griffin claims the recordings have never sounded so good.

The first three CDs feature the 10/5/60 EP, the three LPs the band recorded – Native Sons, State Of Our Union and Two Fisted Tales. There are also 18 rare tracks – eight of which are previously unreleased – including, on disc two, audio of the band performing Looking For Lewis And Clark on the Beeb’s Old Grey Whistle Test in 1985. The bonus tracks on that disc also include completely different mixes of Lights Of Downtown and Capturing The Flag from sessions for the State Of Our Union album. The CDs also include nine selections previously only released in the USA, and listen out for a “top-secret hidden brief track” too.

The fourth disc offers the rarest treat of all for Long Ryders disciples, showcasing as it does their March 1985 gig in Goes, The Netherlands. Long forgotten, this concert was unearthed by Stevens from his personal collection, and the track list includes live versions of songs they played on that one tour alone.

The box set’s artwork and enclosed booklet is designed by UK graphic artist, Phil Smee (a close friend of Griffin’s). The booklet features previously unseen photos, fans’ memorabilia, a fold-out poster, song-by-song comments by “five Long Ryders” (we’re assuming the fifth one is original bassist Des Brewer… ) and an introduction by Rolling Stone writer and Long Ryders’ fan, David Fricke.

And if the box set whets your appetite to see the reformed band play live, they are touring in 2016. The schedule is currently a bit hazy so look out for precise gig dates and venues, but the European tour will begin in Spain on 23 April and end in Scandanavia (probably) on 7 May, with a London date or two (hopefully) in between. Sid Griffin will also be playing some solo gigs in the UK in June before rejoining his fellow Long Ryders in August for their first proper US tour for 28 years.

Final Wild Songs is released on 22 January 2016.

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track_listing

Disc One: 1983-1984

Original 10/5/60 EP:

  1. Join My Gang
  2. You Don’t Know What’s Right…
  3. 10/5/60
  4. And She Rides
  5. Born To Believe In You

Native Sons:

  1. Final Wild Son
  2. Ivory Tower
  3. Run Dusty Run
  4. (Sweet) Mental Revenge
  5. Fair Game
  6. Tell It To The Judge On Sunday
  7. Wreck Of The 809
  8. Too Close To The Light
  9. Never Got To Meet The Mom
  10. I Had A Dream
  1. Masters Of War
  2. Black Girl – Acoustic May-June 1984
  3. Wreck Of The 809 – Acoustic May-June 1984
  4. Further Along – Acoustic May-June 1984
  5. The Rains Came – CBGBs April 1984
  6. You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover – West End, Chicago Nov 1984

Disc Two: 1985

State Of Our Union:

  1. Looking For Lewis And Clark
  2. Lights Of Downtown
  3. WDIA
  4. Mason-Dixon Line
  5. Here Comes That Train Again
  6. Years Long Ago
  7. Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today
  8. Two Kinds Of Love
  9. You Can’t Ride The Boxcars Anymore
  10. Capturing The Flag
  11. State Of My Union
  12. Southside Of The Story
  13. Child Bride
  14. If I Were A Bramble And You Were A Rose
  15. Looking For Lewis And Clark – OGWT
  16. Lights Of Downtown – Captain’s Mix, Island Studios
  17. Capturing The Flag – Captain’s Mix, Island Studios
  18. Christmas In New Zealand – State Of Our Union
  19. Encore From Hell

Disc Three: 1986

Two Fisted Tales:

  1. Gunslinger Man
  2. I Want You Bad
  3. A Stitch In Time
  4. The Light Gets In The Way
  5. Prairie Fire
  6. Baby’s In Toyland
  7. Long Story Short
  8. Man Of Misery
  9. Harriet Tubman’s Gonna Carry Me Home
  10. For The Rest Of My Days
  11. Spectacular Fall
  12. Ring Bells

Demos:

  1. 17 Ways
  2. Basic Black
  3. Pushin’ Uphill
  4. How Do We Feel What’s Real
  5. He’s Got Himself A Young Girl (And He Can’t Keep Up)
  6. He Can Hear His Brother Calling
  7. Sad Sad Songs
  8. Flak Jacket
  9. Blues Theme

Disc Four: Live ’T Beest, Goes, The Netherlands (1985)

  1. Mason Dixon Line
  2. Time Keeps Traveling
  3. (Sweet) Mental Revenge
  4. Run Dusty Run
  5. You Don’t Know What’s Right…
  6. As God Is My Witness
  7. Ivory Tower
  8. I Can’t Hide
  9. Masters Of War
  10. Wreck Of The 809
  11. Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today
  12. Six Days On The Road
  13. Southside Of The Story
  14. Still Get By
  15. Tell It To The Judge On Sunday

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13 responses to The Long Ryders / Final Wild Songs

  1. Philip says:

    ……………….already ordered. Fine chance to catch up on a band I missed out on to an extent first time around.

  2. Eric says:

    Great band. I met them on the State of our Union tour when they opened for Bruce Cockburn at my college…darn that was a long time ago!

  3. Seth Hollander says:

    Thanks for posting this. Already knew about it, but love seeing the word spread on this great American band (and so-o-o-o-o American!).

  4. Jules says:

    No studio version of Still Get By and that can’t help but rankle. Apparently Stephen McCarthy didn’t want it included. That strikes me as mighty odd. Perverse even. Especially as a live version is included on the last disc.

  5. Dave says:

    Long overdue, well deserved overview of their albums,ordered on cherry red website for £12.99. Bargain !!!

  6. Wayne Klein says:

    Excellent! I’m jazzed!

  7. Martin Stockdale says:

    Excellent band, let’s hope for some UK gigs. Saw Sid’s Coal Porters at close quarters recently at a private gig – spectacularly good.

  8. Glenn Burris says:

    Great to see this appear, and I’ll look forward to seeing it in the mailbox. Met Sid Griffin in the lobby of the Fillmore in glorious Detroit City just before a Ryders gig there in ’86 or so. At the time, they had just done a TV spot for a beer company – Miller, I think. I asked Sid if they would play the advert song at the show that night, and he responded “I HATE that thing!” and left me standing there like a jerk. He was right to do it.

  9. Jim Horan says:

    Looking forward to this as well, tho much of it fans have, it looks like a wonderful package…saw them a few times here in Boston, as well as LA in the 80s, always a great show…that Miller beer commercial the Long Ryders did (and US band The Del Fuegos also did one) did a LOT of damage to their ‘credibility’ of those bands, for reason I can’t quite figure out to this day!!!!

  10. Philip says:

    Just seen on the website that :

    “Disc one contains the 10-5-60 EP and MOST of the Native Sons album”

    How much is missing????

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