CD Review: The Dream Syndicate

Dream_Syndicate_Day_Before_OV-72-2The Dream Syndicate
The Day Before Wine and Roses
Omnivore Recordings
by David Chiu

For die-hard fans of the Dream Syndicate, this live release recorded at radio station KPFK on Sept. 5, 1982 is historic in this respect – this performance by the L.A. band from the Paisley Underground scene preceded the recording of the landmark debut album The Day of Wine and Roses. It’s a valuable glimpse of the original lineup – singer/guitarist Steve Wynn, bassist Kendra Smith, drummer Dennis Duck and guitarist Karl Precoda – in action, and the fact that it was done in the wee hours of the morning kind of add something special to the proceedings. Several of the songs performed from the show ended up being on the record: the angular and somewhat jazzy “Some Kinda Itch,” the ragged fiery rocker “Sure Thing,” the noisy “When You Smile,” which could have naturally been on the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat album and “The Days of Wine and Roses” that brought the gig to a thrashy and fiery conclusion. Sprinkled in between were Open Hour (which later became “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” on the band’s second album Medicine Hat) and covers of ragged and raw covers of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul,” Bob Dylan’s “Outlaw Blues” and Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” that contained an epic guitar shootout and Wynn’s screaming vocals towards its end. The mood was pretty heavy as it was incendiary during the performance music-wise but it’s interesting to hear the humorous banter with the audience from Wynn —  in one case, you could hear him comment about his then ex-girlfriend had to be escorted out from the gig out for being unruly. This release, now reissued for the first time in 20 years, is a document of a band on the rise just before putting out one of the greatest and acclaimed records of that decade.

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