Into Music Review: Primal Scream – The Original Memphis Recordings

25 years ago, Primal Scream flew to Memphis to work with the famous Tom Dowd and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section of David Hood and Roger Hawkins to record the follow up to Screamadelica. On return to the UK, Creation Records, well, Alan McGee, said the record wasn’t quite right and the band agreed.

Re-records happened with Black Crows producer George Drakoulias. McGhee always wanted him to produce this album, as The Black Crows were selling millions and Creation had just been sold to Sony …and the album Give Out But Don’t Give Up, as we know it, was born.

Last year, Scream guitarist, Andrew Innes found the tapes of the Dowd sessions and sent them to Bobby Gillespie, who had always had a bit of regret about how the band never set out what they had meant to do. On listening back to the sessions, Gillespie and Innes agreed that they had captured exactly what they set out to do but just didn’t realise it at the time!

At the time, Gillespie appeared in make up and looked an hour from death, giving the glam sleaze of Rocks his best Bolan and Jagger. It seemed a bit of a departure for all who had only gotten into them after the success of the house music and acid inspired, Screamadelica.

A classic rock lineage has always been there and the birth of Screamadelica was drinking from that bottle rather than pill popping.

The Sonic Flower Groove and Primal Scream albums owed more than a passing debt to The Byrds, The Stones and MC5, and the Dixie Narco EP hinted at a more American state of mind.  The look of the band was always uniformed leather trousers rather than baggy smiley shirts (check out their Top Of The Pops appearance for Loaded) and the only surprise should have been that they went all in with guitars, not that they went in at all.

This uncertainty seemed to play a large part in these sessions being jettisoned. Primal Scream weren’t ready for the party to end with the release a purely blues/ country/gospel album into the world. The songs were beefed up to give the impression that the party had just moved to harder drugs, rather than abstinence and God.

The under current of the songs weren’t lost. That Gillespie was being at his most personal still shines through on the original album, but with these versions we can feel the stripped down broken soul pouring out in morning’s comedown. The lighter touches bring out exemplary playing of the band. The horns add soul and Denise Johnson comes to the fore on the heartbreaking Free and the forgiveness heavy Jesus.

The album is a triumph to the playing to Robert ‘Throb’ Young. He makes this album not so much a comedown album but an album where redemption chimes from every guitar note and lick that is played. Every element of guilt and excess is cleansed by the time Cry Myself Blind fades to an end. His playing is so soulful that the darkness doesn’t throw itself in front of the train but it gets on it and goes on a journey to the light.

Young’s creative input to The Scream diminished after this album as the well-worn path of excess took it’s toll. This is his album right from his sunglasses down to the tips of his cowboy boots. A fine legacy.

Screamadelica opened with the line: “I was blind but now I see” and we can be thankful that this album was found and the band can see it for the masterpiece it is. That it was almost lost is not worth thinking about.

Kevin Graham



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