I was walking through our new HMV at the weekend (it used to be Zavvi), and I just happened to spot this Reel Big Fish CD hiding in the front right corner of the shop. Being a Reel Big Fish fan I couldn't believe that I hadn't heard it was coming out, so I just had to buy it!
Who are Reel Big Fish?
Reel Big Fish are a Ska band from Orange County, California in America. They began performing as a six-piece band in 1992, Aaron Barrett being the only member that has stayed with the band in their seventeen year long career.They mix vocals, guitar, brass, woodwind and percussion instruments to create a tremendously upbeat blend of music, and currently the members and their instruments are:
* Aaron Barrett - Lead vocals, guitar
* Scott Klopfenstein - Trumpet, keyboards, backing vocals
* Derek Gibbs - Bass
* Dan Regan - Trombone
* John Christianson - Trumpet
* Rlyand Steen - Drums
Before releasing their latest offering, Reel Big Fish released six other studio albums, those being:
* Everything Sucks (1995)
* Turn the Radio Off (1996)
* Why Do They Rock So Hard? (1998)
* Cheer Up! (2002)
* We're Not Happy 'Til You're Not Happy (2005)
* Monkey's for Nothin' and the Chimps for Free (2008)
Fans of Reel Big Fish are usually also fans of bands like [Spunge], Goldfinger, Less Than Jake, Zebrahead, Sonic Boom Six, Streetlight Manifesto and Fandangle.
Fame, Fortune and Fornication
Released on 26 January 2009, Fame, Fortune and Fornication is a cover album, which fuses together songs from the likes of Poison, Slade, Van Morrison and the Eagles.The additional musicians used in session during the recording of the album, are:
* Tatiana DeMaria (Tat) - Vocals on Talk Dirty to Me
* Brian Klemm (Suburban Legends) - Gang vocals
* David Irish - Wall, shakers, claps
The album was recorded at Music Inc. Studios in Orange County, California, produced by Aaron Barrett, and is available on a limited special edition vinyl. It was launched to coincide with a major world tour with Streetlight Manifesto, One Pin Short and Tip The Van, which will see Reel Big Fish visiting the USA, UK, Europe and Russia.
The front cover of the album features the Reel Big Fish logo in black and white, shrouded in a pink hue in the top right corner of the CD cover. Underneath that, it says Fame, Fortune and Fornication in text that resembles the stereotypical ransom notes that are made up of letters cut out from magazines. Along the left side of the cover is a man and woman dress in 80's rave gear in a provocative pose.
The back cover features the barcode and production information along the left hand side of the cover. The main background is made up of blue, yellow, pink and green Reel Big Fish logos, with a picture of all six band members at the bottom. The ten tracks are written in a yellow and blue text box above the picture of the band.
The inlay where the disc sits is leopard print, and the album booklet has the names of the tracks and original artists on a green background, and then production and band information on a pink background.
I shall now talk about each of the ten tracks on the album.
Track One: Nothin' But a Good Time - 8/10
Originally by Poison, Nothin' But a Good Time was the first single from their second album, Open Up and Say... Ahh! in 1988.
The Reel Big Fish cover version begins with a brass/woodwind intro, and the guitar slowly creeps in. It then generates a reggae vibe, and Aaron Barrett begins his vocals, supported by gang vocals from the other band members. The ska guitar riffs are even more apparent after the first chorus, and then the guitar gets heavier in the second chorus.
It breaks down as Barrett sings about raising "a toast to all of us", before a trumpet solo takes the spotlight, which then gives way to Barrett's guitar solo. He then counts the others back in after the instrumental, and they come back to the chorus. It ends with a very rock and roll solo.
I've only heard the original a couple of times, but I believe this cover does do it justice because it is a different genre.
Track Two: Mama We're All Crazy Now - 7/10
Mama We're All Crazy now was the third number one single for British Glam rock group Slade, released in 1972 from their album Slayed?.
You are launched straight into this song with Barrett singing/shouting "Mama we're all crazy now!". The other band members join in, and the ska riff picks up, before being joined by percussion for the chorus. It has a brass/woodwind solo like Nothin' But a Good Time, and then goes into a bass-y breakdown. It ends with Aaron saying "mama... we're all... craaaaaaaaaaaazee!"
I think this song really sounds like a group of friends who are singing along having a really good time, and you get swept up in the positive mood as a result of that. It's so weird that this song features on the album, because my friend has just got a number of local bands in my area to come together and record this song for Comic Relief.
I tried to listen to the original of this song, but I couldn't find a long enough clip to make a proper comparison. I do like this track performed by Reel Big Fish though.
Track Three: Veronica Sawyer - 6/10
Originally by Edna's Goldfish, this song probably isn't all that well known unless you are a bit of a hardcore ska fan. The band were only around for about three years, though they are coming back together for a performance in New Jersey in May 2009.
On first hearing this track, I thought it sounded very similar to Reel Big Fish's cover of Another Day in Paradise. When you really get into the lyrics though, it sounds completely different. The chorus again sounds like a big group of friends getting together for a good old sing-along. The harmonies are pretty good on this one, and the guitar is a lot more rocky. It ends with a sort of fanfare.
I actually think this would make a good track on a future edition of Guitar Hero. It has a lot of body and is the kind of track you could listen to over and over again without getting bored of it.
Track Four: Authority Song - 8/10
Authority Song was a 1980's hit for rocker John Cougar Mellencamp, which got to number 15 in America's billboard charts.
This track is very up-tempo, and features heavy use of percussion. It's quite punky in that it almost sounds like shouting rather than singing in some places. It has an effective reggae-style guitar riff, and when you listen intently you almost feel as though the song is speeding up, but I think this might be an aural illusion. There's a key change a few versus in, then it fades into Brown Eyed Girl.
I really like this song - it's a real alternative anthem, and a rebelious one at that. It's one I can imagine would be fantastic to watch live - I really hope they play it when I see them at the end of February!
Track Five: Brown Eyed Girl - 8/10
If you don't know who originally sang this, I'll be very disappointed! But for those of you who don't, Van Morrison penned this song, and released it in 1967. It was on the album Blowin' Your Mind!.
Reel Big Fish take the tempo down a little here, though it is still a lot faster than the original. Aaron Barrett's vocals are actually quite similar in pitch and tone to Morrisey, but his American accent gives it a different edge. All the band join in for the "sha-la-la-la-la"s, and the brass instruments take the recognisable musical line.
This song seems a lot shorter than the original, but then I guess this is because they are playing it at a faster tempo. It is a really nice alternative to the original, though I think I'd get lynched if I even thought about saying it was better!
Track Six: The Long Run - 5/10
The Long Run was released as a single in 1979 by the Eagles. It reached number 8 in the US Billboard charts.
The Fish really bring the tempo down for this one, changing it from a rock song to a reggae song. The backing instruments are very calypso-like, and Barrett's vocals are once again complimented by his band. The other lads perform some really high harmonies in this one, which I thought was really impressive!
I don't like this track as much as some of the others on the album, but I'd say it was still definitely worth a listen.
Track Seven: Won't Back Down - 6/10
Tom Petty recorded this track in 1989, and it got to number 28 in the UK charts.
This has quite a quiet intro to begin with, so much so that I almost thought there was something wrong with my player. Anyone who knows this song already knows that there aren't many lyrics, Tom Petty used the words "I won't back down" to their full potential! This track is a lot more mellow (or mellow for Reel Big Fish anyway), and it sounds like the band are really trying to sing properly rather than their usual playful tone.
I quite like this track as it is a bit different for Reel Big Fish, but I don't know if other fans will like it very much.
Track Eight: Keep a Cool Head - 7/10
Desmond Dekker was a Jamaican ska and reggae singer. I can't actually find any information about if and when he released Keep A Cool Head, so I'm guessing it may have been a B side, or an album track.
The percussion at the beginning of this song really transports you to Jamaica, and Barrett adjusts his vocals accordingly to take on a comical yet impressive Jamaican accent. It's quite laid back and tropical as you might imagine a reggae track to be, and by the sounds of it there are possibly only around three chords played in the guitar part for the entirety of the song!
This song fades out fairly early compared to the others, so I couldn't help feeling a little short changed at the end! But what I did get pleased my ears greatly.
Track Nine: Monkey Man - 7/10
Reggae band Toots and the Maytals released Monkey Man in 1969. It has been covered by many bands including No Doubt and The Specials, but Reel Big Fish have covered it twice!
The band take on the Jamaican accent this time, and their version really reminds me of The Specials. Again, there don't seem to be many different chords in the guitar part. It goes into a particularly slow breakdown, then speeds up for some "la-la"ing, and then comes back round for the chorus.
This one was quite different for Reel Big Fish, but still stuck to their ska/reggae roots. A good listen.
Track Ten: Talk Dirty to Me - 10/10
Poison's second single, Talk Dirty To Me was released in the late 1980s. It has been rejuvinated not only because of Reel Big Fish's cover, but also because it features in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
This is obviously where David Irish (session artist) and his claps come in. I really like Tatiana DeMaria's vocals here, they sound brilliant next to Aaron's, even if his vocals are really really low compared to normal. I also think it's pretty good because it has a lot of elements, but they have brought it down to an almost acoustic element.
Tatiana's vocals bring in a British element - she fronts a punk band called Tat from London - and I really like this collaboration. It sounds very different from the original, which I think makes it stand out from most of the other tracks on the album.
I've been a big fan of Reel Big Fish for quite a while now, and have been fortunate enough to see them live twice previously, and will be seeing them later in February. I think it's fair to say that there may well have been a fair bit of bias as a result of this, but I tried to rate the songs properly based on their sound quality and whether I truly though they were any good.
So tallying up the scores, I gave this CD 72 out of 100. I think this is a pretty fair rating, because although it is a really good collection of covers, this album certainly isn't Reel Big Fish's best offering. I want to make it clear though that it is still a very decent album, and worth a listen.
I think the CD would be suited both to hardcore Reel Big Fish fans, people who heard the original songs and are intrigued to hear what Reel Big Fish have made of them, and also for those who just fancy listening to something different.
* Release date was 26/01/09
* Released on ROCKRIDGE records
* It is a one disc CD
* RRP is £11.99
* I bought the CD from HMV (in-store)
* The price was £9.99, but I got it for £8.99 with my student discount :D
* I've since found that it is available for £7.99 on HMV.com, which is quite annoying, but it was a spur of the moment buy, and an album I felt I just had to have
(Written for Ciao.co.uk)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Nothin' But A Good Time
2 Mama We're All Crazy Now
3 Veronica Sawyer
4 Authority Song
5 Brown Eyed Girl
6 The Long Run
7 Won't Back Down
8 Keep A Cool Head
9 Monkey Man
10 Talk Dirty To Me