Friday, June 21, 2024

Archive Review: Sonic's Rendezvous Band's "Sweet Nothing" (1999)

Sonic's Rendezvous Band's "Sweet Nothing"

When I lived in the Detroit area back in the late 1970s I used to hang out at a place not far from the house called Dearborn Music. A third-generation record store that had been passed down in a straight line from grandfather to grandson, the store had never sent back any records that it ever bought during its thirty-year history. This practice would make today’s retailers, with their sorry philosophy of limited selection and “just-in-time” inventory, wince and cry. But the result was a wonderfully dusty, crowded store that offered everything from still-sealed Big Band albums to ‘60s psychedelica and punk rock imports. Knowing my penchant for loud, high-octane Detroit rock ‘n’ roll, the grandson called me over one day and laid a 7” 45 rpm copy of “City Slang” on me. It was the first release from Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, a local “supergroup” made up of members from the MC5, the Stooges, and SRC and named after guitarist extraordinaire Fred “Sonic” Smith.

Little did I know at the time that this single would also be the last official release from the band. Although a couple of live bootleg tapes have circulated among the faithful during the past couple of decades, those of us thirsting for more had to be satisfied with our rare copies of “City Slang.” Imagine my surprise then when I opened up a copy of Mohair Sweets zine and saw an article on Sonic’s Rendezvous Band and a listing of a web site. Although Smith died a few years back, his wife – the talented Patti Smith – asked longtime associate Freddie Brooks to look through the band’s collection of tapes with an eye towards releasing some of the material. The first result of this jump into the vaults is the “Sweet Nothing” CD, which captures the band alive and scorching during a 1978 performance. Needless to say, I sent in my hard-earned coin as soon as possible and grabbed a copy of this gem before it disappeared on me.
Even though it had been twenty years since I saw the band play live in Ann Arbor, “Sweet Nothing” immediately brought up fond memories of that night. A solid hour-long set of raging “Motor City” rock ‘n’ roll, “Sweet Nothing” does not disappoint, even given my high expectations. Sonic’s Rendezvous Band were a monster of a live band, with Smith and fellow guitarist Scott Morgan dueling like sword fighters in a death match, trading deadly, razor-sharp riffs with abandon. Ex-Stooges’ drummer Scott “Rock Action” Asheton kept up a steady, often-times manic beat while bass maestro Gary Rasmussen laid down a rhythmic groove that propelled the music along like nitro in your gas tank.

With a sound that’s loud, meaty, and muscular, booming out of your speakers like a metal stamping machine in a Detroit auto plant, the songs on “Sweet Nothing” are almost immaterial, given the heaviness of the performances. These are good, not great songs, mostly originals by Smith or Morgan. Some are standard, guitar-driven love songs, like the mesmerizing “Hearts,” the engaging title track or the band’s drunkenly passionate cover of the Stones’ “Heart of Stone.” Other songs – like “Asteroid B-612,” for instance – are more esoteric, blazing a musical trail across territory that’s more akin to Sun Ra than to anything rock ‘n roll was spitting out in the late ‘70s.

That legendary single, “City Slang,” is presented here as an eight-minute, album-closing rave-up that’s guaranteed to stand you on your head, leaving you with the certain knowledge that Sonic’s Rendezvous Band were a great band. It’s a damn shame that they never became huge stars, but then again, their cult status befits them. After all, like Neil Young once said, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away.” For a too-few brief years, Sonic Rendezvous were the underground rock scene’s brightest burning stars, blazing their way through hundreds of live shows. Lucky for us that somebody captured one of these special nights on “Sweet Nothing”. (Mack Aborn Rhythmic Arts, released 1999)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™

Sonic's Rendezvous Band

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