Music » CD Reviews

The Blasters

Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings (Rhino/Warner Bros./Slash)

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The Blasters, the pioneering roots-rock band from blue-collar Downey, California, were part of the early '80s L.A. punkabilly scene that also spawned Los Lobos, X, the Germs, and others. Led by brothers Phil and Dave Alvin and famous for their incendiary live shows, the Blasters recorded just three studio albums and one live EP for Slash Records, none of which have been released on CD before.

Rhino has rectified the situation with Testament, a two-CD set that contains everything the band recorded for Slash, along with a handful of unreleased tracks. Propelled by Phil's Carl Perkins-meets-Jimmy Reed voice and Dave's sparkling guitar riffs, the Blasters delivered a spirited blend of rockabilly ("Marie, Marie"), rhythm and blues ("I'm Shakin'"), and good old-fashioned rock and roll ("I Love You So"). No mere oldies act, the band was smart and talented, mixing original songs with obscure-but-tasty covers. Their eclectic approach was summed up in the anthemic "American Music": "We got the Louisiana boogie and the Delta blues/Country swing and rockabilly, too/We got jazz, country-western, and Chicago blues/It's the greatest music that you ever knew."

Even at two discs, Testament may be a bit too much Blasters music for all but the most ardent fans. Still, it's about time the band got its due. In an era when rock had lost its bearings -- Styx, anyone? -- the Blasters took it back to basics.

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