Spotlight Album Review #6

Reviewed on this page:

The September 2003 death of Warren Zevon, the bitingly satiric songwriter best known for the song "Werewolves Of London", brought to mind the hindu love gods (they spelled their name in lower case letters), an unofficial supergroup that consisted of singer/pianist Zevon and the three instrumentalists from REM (drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills). This very casual band originally got together in 1984, when they recorded a little-heard single. They also recorded one album of blues covers in 1987, though it wasn't released until 1990. The album was out of print for many years, but was reissued by Rhino Encore in August of 2008. The single is still tough to find.

The first recorded appearance of the hindu love gods came as a 7-inch single released by I.R.S. Records in 1986. It featured a cover of the Easybeats' indestructable "Gonna Have A Good Time Tonight". The B-side "Narrator" was written by all four members of REM. At this time, the group was a quintet rounded out by a singer named Bryan Cook, whom the REM guys knew from the Athens, Georgia music scene. These two 1984 recordings have little in common with the full-length album that followed, and were clearly cut just for the fun of it. The sound was more Merseybeat than blues, and Cook sounded like a standard bar-band singer. In a blind taste test, you probably wouldn't guess that better-known musicians were backing him. (Zevon is not even visible in the band photo). A hip collectible item, nothing more.

Track Listing:

a. Gonna Have A Good Time Tonight
b. Narrator

The self-titled full-length album was recorded live in the studio in 1987, around the same time as Zevon's album Sentimental Hygiene, on which the REM musicians guested. Bryan Cook was not involved this time. The album, which was finally released on the Giant label in 1990, contains covers of blues classics from the likes of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, a bluesy interpretation of Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man", and a harder-rocking rendition of the Prince hit "Raspberry Beret". Drummer Berry has said that the album took about as much time to record as it does to listen to. For such a spontaneous work, hindu love gods delivers the goods remarkably well. Zevon makes much of the material (especially the Prince song) sound like his own. The playing by the REM members is strong but straightforward; they don't put much of a personal stamp on the songs (for example, "Battleship Chains" doesn't sound much different than the Georgia Satellites version), but they give them more than sufficient energy. The country picking of Johnny Horton's "I'm A One Woman Man" offers a surprising moment of variance. hindu love gods is recommended for Zevon-philes, blues-rock aficionados, and REM completists, in about that order.

Track Listing:

1. Walkin' Blues -- (Robert Johnson)
2. Travelin' Riverside Blues -- (Robert Johnson)
3. Raspberry Beret -- (Prince)
4. Crosscut Saw -- (Bill Sanders/Fred Ingrahm)
5. Junko Pardner -- (Robert Shad)
6. Mannish Boy -- (Melvin London/McKinley Morganfield/Ellis McDaniels)
7. Wang Dang Doodle -- (Willie Dixon)
8. Battleship Chains -- (Terry Anderson)
9. I'm A One Woman Man -- (Tillman Franks/Johnny Horton)
10. Vigilante Man -- (Woody Guthrie)


Other Spotlight Album Reviews:

#1: Sigur Ros - "Von" (1997)

#2: Various Artists - "Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea" (1981)

#3: Gerry Goffin - "It Ain't Exactly Entertainment" (1973)

#4: Graces - "Perfect View" (1989)

#5: Genesis - "Calling All Stations" (1997)

#7: Various Artists - "Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970" (1996)

#8: Distractions - "Nobody's Perfect" (1980)

#9: Deconstruction (1994)

#10: Juicy Groove - "First Taste" (1978)

#11: Emmylou Harris - "Gliding Bird" (1969)

#12: Various Artists - "Beyond The Wildwood: A Tribute To Syd Barrett" (1987)

#13: Candy - "Whatever Happened To Fun..." (1985)

#14: RTZ - "Return To Zero" (1991)

#15: Klark Kent - "Kollected Works" (1995)

#16: Various Artists - "Rainy Day" (1984)

#17: Alex Chilton - "1970" (1996)

#18: Feist - "Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down" (1999)

#19: Attila (1970)

#20: Slipknot - "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." (1996)

#21: Eyes Adrift (2002)

#22: Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)

#23: Elliott Murphy - "Aquashow" (1973)

#24: Evanescence - "Origin" (2000)