As much as I hate the term "Americana", I do find bands for which the term must have been created—bands which are acoustic enough and stretch the boundaries enough to not be totally one thing or another to the ear. Such is Speed the Plough.
I missed them the first runthrough, which began around 1982 in Hoboken NJ with a band they called The Trypes. By 1984, they were ready to record and the rest is history, a string of albums and songs, some on major-label-distributed labels. Airplay? They got it, much of it from college radio. While they never broke through to superstar status, they were constantly bumping up against it on the underside, playing major venues with major artists. And they had a following. They had, in fact, a very large following.
Enough to warrant this reissue package titled The Plough & The Stars. If you know the band and don't have or didn't keep the early albums, you need this. If you have not heard them (or even heard of them), you might want to check them out. Here is what you get (the info taken from their very own website):
"A 17-song 'Best Of' CD culled from our first four long out-of-print albums on Coyote and East Side Digital (the eponymous first album, 'Wonder Wheel', 'Mason's Box', and 'Marina').
"A split 12" album with six brand new songs grouped together under the title 'Tag Sale', a return to the lush, pastoral sound of our earlier albums. And on the flip side five live songs from our 1993 appearance on WFMU's Live Music Faucet.
"A 16-page booklet featuring photos of all the band's lineups, along with reminiscences by Speed the Plough members, past and present.
"A download card entitling you to digital versions of all of the above, along with 10 additional live tracks from Mountain Stage, WFMU, and Maxwell's, and an interactive version of the booklet with links to more songs and videos."
While I admit to having never heard the music, it didn't take me long to warm up to their almost ambling and rolling style on some songs, sounding a bit like the Dead only these guys can sing and sing well and their guitars seem to stay in tune. They float, jam, folk-out and rock with occasional acoustic abandon that I could not deny, foot tapping on its own and unconsciously at times. They even slip some serious jazz riffs into the musical conversations here and there which made me give them serious points as musicians.
The only similar package I have paid attention to this past year was the Swimming Pool Q's multi-pack and it was a killer. Let us cut to the chase and call this Killer II. Seriously worth checking out. Four out of Five Stars. You can even dance to parts of it.
Great job, Speeders. I don't know where the hell I was, but I'm happy to have a second chance to hear the music.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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