REVIEW: Richard Hell and the Voidoids “Destiny Street Complete”


Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Destiny Street Complete – 2 CD

For some, this may seem out of place but if assessed closely the punk aesthetic here is rooted more in American music than just an aggressive 3-chord progression of mindless entertaining junk.

Kentucky’s Richard Hell (Richard Lester Meyers) is a singer-songwriter/bassist/writer & former member of Television with Tom Verlaine. Despite punk leanings, he began to inject more songcraft into his 1982 repertoire without adorning it so much in feedback & garage-rock antics.

The original LP was not to Richard’s satisfaction but covered Bob Dylan’s “Going, Going, Gone,” & showed potential thus once punk’s initial thrust wore off Hell with good songwriting, tried to change lanes, but was strict – on himself. If some rebellious folk can be considered Americana why not the non-conformist? Patti Smith did it, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello too.

This Omnivore release (over an hour on each CD) drops on Jan 22. Far from the raw 1977 Blank Generation, this 2/CD has bonus cuts. Disc 1: Original 10-cut 1982 NYC sessions/10-cut 2009 repaired reissue. Disc 2: Produced by Richard & some by Nick Lowe – same 10 remixed 2021/12 demos (1978-1980).

When Hell applies himself, a genuine folky Phil Ochs cum Steve Earle emerges with John Doe/Dave Alvin endurance. The production consistently sparkles.

“Time,” shows Hell could balance himself on a folk-rock tightrope. Listen carefully it’s a good alt-country piece. These are only an arrangement away from Americana. The original is good, the Bill Frisell guitar on the repaired cut is exceptional. Johnny Cash discovered gold with songs written by people Cash didn’t normally listen to.

The genres mix effectively & the majority are simplistic yet heavy. The originals sound quite good, but the repaired ones are buffed to a brilliant shine.

Compare Elvis Presley’s original 50s “That’s Alright Mama,” a midtempo jump-blues with the opening live version at Madison Square Garden. An all-out blistering rocker. Then there’s The Dictators’ Andy Shernoff’s dynamic Stones-type riff song “Stay with Me,” from Bloodbrothers. It mutated into a hot song for doo-wop rocker Dion DiMucci’s Live in New York LP produced by Scott Kempner (Del-Lords/The Dictators).

“Downtown at Dawn,” bristles with excellent production, musicianship & could be slowed to an alt/country tune. The fine-line between songs is an arrangement.

“Ignore That Door,” is exciting in the repaired version with Ivan Julian. Finally, “Destiny Street,” itself is not so much rap as a funky narration set to a tight groove. Hell’s voice is in an Eric Burdon “Spill the Wine,” tradition.

The original 10: Richard (vocals/bass), Naux (guitars), Fred Maher (drums), & Robert Quine (guitar). Marc Ribot (Tom Waits) & Ivan Julian on guitars for the 2009 repair.

The CD has a stitched insert with all credits & backstory.

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