The Cockney Rejects: Hammer – The Classic Rock Years Boxset (The Cadiz Recording Co.)
CD / DL
The Rejects late-period rock years. Not all blow and bluster by any means.
It was seen by some as the downfall of the Cockney Rejects. It’s perceived by others as some great folly.
Following the glory years, the Geggus brothers and company were jaded by the music business and burnt out by the years of violence and carnage that had followed their every move. Having always been fans of classic rock before punks incendiary blaze, they took cover for some months in their Bow rehearsal room and did what came naturally.
Informed by Free, Cream, The Yardbirds and early Queen, The Rejects worked on material that would become The Wild Ones.
I, for one, had never really given The Rejects “metal phase” much thought, although having read Turner’s splendid warts-and-all autobiography I was aware that it was a real labour of love for the brothers and bass player Vince Riordan. It’s most definitely not metal; if anything, the albums are a mixture of bluesey sleaze and classic Brit-invasion rocking
This boxset gathers up the three albums recorded between 1983-ish and 1990 and a bonus disc (Nathan’s Pies And Eels) collecting up demos and extra tracks.
The first thing that strikes one when listening to the first album of the set, The Wild Ones, is the fact that Jeff Turner can actually sing; I’m not dissing his vocals in the “punk” era Rejects one bit, in fact I’m a huge fan of the man. But, listening to opening track, Way Of The Rocker, his Bon Scott-meets-Stevie Marriot voice is a total revelation. Powerful, gutsy and just so soulfully natural sounding. Of course, Mick Geggus could always play; he was one of the best and most technically gifted guitarists in punk and even the early material had a real verve about the writing despite the sometimes patchy production.
Some Play Dirty from the same album has some astonishing lead guitar playing on it; mixed with some real honky-tonk harmonica, it’s a song that could have walked its way onto any Aerosmith album of the era. The AC/DC influence is never far away. Satellite City is plain, good old heads-down balls-out rock. Angus Young and company would be proud of this ‘un and that’s a fact.
Quiet Storm is the album that was critically lauded if not embraced by fans. Sales were poor and it sank without trace despite being a poll-topper in many rock writers end-of-year write-ups.
It’s a more laid-back, stripped-down album in many ways despite the presence of keys for the first time in The Rejects career. Opener It Ain’t Nothin’ has that whole Free / Bad Company blues swagger down pat; Geggus senior does a grand job of the intricate Paul Kossof-style lead licks and it sounds as if there’s very little in the way of overdubs going on in the album, adding to the Southern rock feel. And yes, Oi! fans, as well as keyboards, there’s acoustic guitars, too…..
I was reminded of Little Feat in a few of the songs; languid, stoned vibes emanate from many of the tracks and Geggus’s bass (Riordan had taken a leave of absence at this point) grooves along, particularly in I Saw The Light which has a lightness of touch a la Exile–era Stones. The album closes with Jog On which I assume is an attempt at an Average White Band funk-out. It doesn’t really work and detracts from the rest of the album’s down-at-heel grandeur. Nonetheless, Quiet Storm is all the album that the critics thought it was at the time. Simply irresistable. And Back To the Start is the song that Primal Scream wish they could write…
The original trio is completed by Lethal which is a much rockier, punchier collection. Riordan is back for this one and his solid basslines are stitched tightly to the drums of Keith Warrington. The Aerosmith / Nazareth / AC/DC influences are out in force and that’s no bad thing. The Rejects are clearly having the time of their lives making this album with punk a spitting, snarling memory in their rear-view mirror. Despite nearly revisiting an earlier single title on Bad Man Down, there’s little hint of the days of Greatest Hits Vol 1 here. Geggus’s guitar still growls and the power chords still smash through the songs, but there’s a restraint to his playing and the space the material gives him to stretch out is at times breathtaking. As mentioned before, Turner can hold a tune, and on this album his vocals have matured even further. It’s quite amazing that The Cult (with the greatest of respect to them!) were so successful and highly regarded even today whilst The Cockney Rejects were signing on the dole at this time; these albums would have given any stadium act a run for their money if circumstances were different. Rough Diamond is another classy ballad in the style of Aerosmith and it’s simply gorgeous. It sits amongst the albums slashing guitars and pummeling drumming like, well, a rough diamond. And so it should.
The “extras” disc is no throwaway thing either; a collaboaration with Steve Marriot is described in the liner notes as a troubled monster. The song (Keep Clear) shows none of it’s difficult birth and is in fact a highlight amongst some real gems. Some of the later songs, for instance 2001’s Load Up have the DNA of some of the material on the excellent East End Babylon album from last year in their gene pool and it’s interesting to hear the evolution of a band currently at the top of their game.
They’re enjoying their day in the sun at the moment and long may it last; The Rejects deserve it and these albums deserve your reappraisal. We’ll put the Jeff Turner name-change mid-90’s to Jefferson Turner aside as it was probably in the context of too much Columbian marching powder and let’s face it, The Rejects never took themselves too seriously apart from when it came to the music.
The Cockney Rejects. Always much more than just street punk.
The album can be bought either by clicking the widget on the right (preferred option) or using this link.
All words by Joe Whyte. More of Joe’s writing can be found at his author’s archive.