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HITS AND EXIT WOUNDS

Artrocker Magazine

'Hits and Exit Wounds' is a best of/retrospective of the UK band, Alabama 3.  The UK origins should be stressed, as there are many Americans who would claim them as their own.  And that would be quite understandable from a purely aural perspective.  Throughout, the album has an evangelical feel to it.  Evangelical as in the Deep South of the USA, with faith healers and alligator-filled swamps.  However, this is a band/collective of up to nine people from Brixton in London whose clever and inventive fusion of dirty country/blues-based tunes and vocal styles togther with trippy-bass and beats has produced quite a unique sound.

Think along the lines of Canned Heat joining forces with early Dreadzone, around the time of their 'Fight The Power' EP.  Invite along Bobby Gillespie/Primal Scream and the spirit of Johnny Cash.

At this point I feel a compulsion to fall to my knees in a confessional fashion and seek absolution from The Reverend D Wayne Love (vocals) for ignoring his band so long.  Ten years infact.  Since 1998, when the single "Ain't Goin' To Goa' scraped into the top 40, I have been blissfully unaware of Alabama 3 and all they have done.  It's quite likely of course that they have been unaware of my circumstances also, so I ain't gonna beat myself up about it!

However, this 18-track album illustrates perfectly what can be missed if the media continue to dicate what they perceive to be 'cool' or 'new'.  So what if seven of the 18 songs were originally recorded for the band's first album, 'Exile On Coldharbour Lane'.  They were ahead of their time back in the late Nineties, and those songs just sound as fresh today.  'Hypo Full Of Love' ('The 12 Step Plan') is the opener and instantly the listener knows they will spend the next hour and twenty minutes having their soul deep cleansed by some of the most uplifting and smoothest trance vibes The Good Lord has empowered anyone to play.

'Woke Up This Morning' will be familiar to those who were fans of The Sopranos, as this track was used as the theme music.  'Monday Don't Mean Anything To Me' is the only track on the compilation to have come from the 2007 album release, 'M.O.R.'.  This is a really busy track.  Four minutes in length, it passes through various phases: from the Devo-sounding introduction underlying the female harmonies of Devlin Love, to the shuffling beat of the song's body, to the sing-a-long chorus, to the ragga breakdown and finally the funky brass.

'U Don't Danse To Tekno Anymore' and 'How Can I Protect You' are more conventional with their country music influences and placed at tracks 6 & 7 respectively they ease back on the pace, and portray the band in a more melancholic mood, whilst showing why they are not simply the 'gimmick' band they were originally considered to be in some quarters when they first emerged on the scene.  'Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness' is similarly heavily laden but this time with more than a passing nod to Primal Scream.  Album closer 'Peace In The Valley' is the only really heavy track.  Not 'metal' heavy!  More 'heavy' in the lyrical and atmosphere sense, with vocals akin to Lou Reed, or Leonard Cohen.

Colin Jackson

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Classic Rock Magazine

Brixton outlaws still after Tony Soprano's loot


According to the band's official website the 3's theme tune to The Sopranos "bought someone a swimming pool, but it sure wasn't any of us".  Hopefully this career retrospective, which includes Woke Up This Morning, will keep the most famous worshippers of the Presleyterian Church of Elvis (South London Branch) in paddling pools at least for a few more months.
They deserve it; their stylish, slightly seedy brew of country and dance remains devilishly intoxicating and skillfully steers clear of novelty (despite Reverend D Wayne's preacher man delivery).  Steel guitar lament U Don't Danse To Tekno Anymore sums up their festival position perfectly: for those too old to rave but too young for the grave, they remain the ultimate good-time bastardos.
7/10 
Johnny Dee

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BBC MUSIC


Insert Hits And Exit Wounds into iTunes and the genre comes up as 'unclassifiable', which is at least briefer than Alabama 3's own preference of being a 'punk rock, blues and country techno situationist crypto-Marxist-Leninist electro band'. As this hits collection proves, the Brixtonites are one of those rare bands - like the Pixies, early Suede or Klaxons - who construct their own sonic and thematic universe and make you want to live in it.

In the case of Alabama 3, it's a universe where the ghost of Johnny Cash stalks Brixton bars and bedsits, where grizzly harmonicas, house and hip hop co-exist, and where the religion is pro-outlaw, pro-hedonist and righteously anti-hippy. First track Hypo Full Of Love sets out their stall: a swampy groove, American accents turned up to 11 and more drug references than you'll find in a shelf full of medical dictionaries.

And while it's usually best to avoid bands who put as much effort into jokes as melodies, Alabama 3 are an exception, because both are usually so good. Take U Don’t Danse To Tekno Anymore, a tear-stained, whisky-soaked country ballad for an ageing clubber, filled with laugh out loud lines like ''808 and 303 ain't the friends they used to be''. Or how about the inspired debut single, Ain't Goin To Goa, a gospel epic which witheringly dissects backpacker culture as: ''some fool lying on some Third World beach''?

Which isn't to say Alabama 3 can't be serious. The bluesy, impassioned Woody Guthrie indicts gung ho patriotism, race hate and global inequality, before ending with the glorious (and increasingly necessary) cry of ''sing a song for the asylum seeker… pray they reach safe harbour''. And though Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlife is built on a laboured pun, there's nothing glib about its melancholy piano figure and sweltering bassline.

Hits And Exit Wounds isn't perfect. A few tracks could probably have been cut (notably the grating Ska'd For Life) and all the punning, drugs and hipster references become wearying after a while, like being trapped in a lift with Quentin Tarantino for a week. But at its best it's a deadpan and brilliantly realised summary of that rare thing: a unique band.
by Jaime Gill

www.bbc.co.uk

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 ITV.COM

Albums of the week

They've been making music together for nearly 20 years but this retrospective collection proves that there's still plenty of life in London acid-house country hybrid Alabama 3.

At 18 tracks long Hits And Exit Wounds offers plenty of bang for your buck, but perhaps only diehard fans will want to listen to it all in one go. Stand-out tracks include Woke Up This Morning (instantly recognisable to any fans of The Sopranos as the series' theme tune), Hello... I'm Johnny Cash and Hypo Full Of Love (The 12 Step Plan).
Rollicking good fun: Rating 7/10
 by Lucy Corry

www.itv.com

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GIGWISE

4 stars

Formed in South London, when the son of a Welsh Mormon Preacher meets the offspring of a Glaswegian trades unionist at an acid house party in Peckham. Jake Black (The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love) and Robert Spragg (Larry Love) rapidly embarked on a venture fusing musical styles of acid, country and gospel which following what was known between the band as the “wilderness years”, the band expanded into a Brixton based collective and they called themselves Alabama 3. Alabama 3 were dismissed widely in the media as a novelty act, the band eventually signed to One Little Indian records in 1997 and the debut album 'Exile On Cardharbour Lane' was released.

Since then Alabama 3 have had 6 studio albums which includes last years M.O.R which received strong critical acclaim. Fans include authors Stephen King and Irvine Welsh who has been quoted referring to them as “ the first band I could ever dance to in the daytime hours without chemical assistance. That says a lot”. 11 years on and Alabama 3 are releasing 'Hits And Exit Wounds' in celebration of a long, esteemed and wholly unique career that has seen them dubbed “the best live band in Britain”. This retrospective album runs to 18 tracks and constitutes highlights of there career plus a collaboration with Orbital on 'Ska’d For Life'.
 
Opening the superb collection of funky beats and gospel melodies, 'Hypo Full Of Love (The 12 Step Plan)' the renowned party-ready tune which draws you in with its lyrics tempting and teasing you into believing that you need this tune in your life, just like the drug references heavily portrayed throughout the lyrics. As this wets your appetite you are quickly merged into without a doubt there best known track to date. 'Woke Up This Morning' is widely recognised as the Sopranos Theme Tune, however when played in full the track lends more depth with its spoken intro and “rap” interlude over acid bass and vocals not unlike heroes Johnny Cash and Hank Williams “ …You woke up this morning, The world turned upside down, Thing's ain't been the same, Since the blues walked into town”.
In tribute to Johnny, the track 'Hello … I’m Johnny Cash', a song which bases its lyrical reference to songs such as Jackson, A Boy Named Sue and Ring of Fire was first presented on the 2005 album Outlaw and allowed the band to pay there mark of respect to the life of Johnny Cash. Pionneering the spirit of Johnny Cash is very apparent in the back catalugue of Alabama 3 and the bands recent gig at Brixton Prison is neither ther first nor the only time they've been flying the flag for Johnny. 'To Sick to Pray' a modern day gospel track inspired by Mr Cash that see's Larry Love setting the party vibe again and bellows in the chorus "Just Cause I burnt My Bible baby/it doesn't mean I'm to Sick to Pray".
 
'Mansion On The Hill' has had a dance floor shake up from its usually bland self, and moves away from almost sounding like a Fun Loving Criminals B-Side to an up to date party tune which is evident from its brighter intro and energetic drums throughout. The little walk through history see’s tracks such as 'U Don’t Danse To Teckno Anymore', 'How Can I Protect You' highlight there country routes along with 'Woody Guthrie' yet another tribute, this time to the late Woody Guthrie the Americana singer songwriter, and following previous styles, the track has lyrics based on Woody’s music and heavily showing that the band had a strong political message to give “Don't need no country, Don't fly no flag, Cut no slack for the Union Jack. Stars and stripes have got me jetlagged”.

Closing is the beautiful 'Peace In The Valley', showing Larry Love’s vocal talent as pure and perfect as his main influence Mr Cash. With a spiritual plea and heart felt lyrics ….. “But there's gonna be peace in the valley tomorrow. Lord, 'cos tonight we're gonna blow it all away. We feel so fuckin' twisted, we ain't ever gonna fix it, We're just waiting for the light to shine on a brand new day. “ … placed gently over simple harmonica and tasty piano shows that often simplicity is best. 'Hits And Exit Wounds' is good as an introduction to an extraordinary band or a trip down memory lane for there followers along the way. The retrospective collection provides as many tracks that are as Sunday Morning, as Saturday Night, showing the well embossed talent that Alabama 3 have worked hard on over the years.
by Lynsey Ure

www.gigwise.com

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MUSIC.COM

4 stars

The title is that strange thing, both weirdly suitable and slightly misleading. "Hits"? Alabama 3 have never really 'done' hit singles, preferring to spread their gospel through their riotously entertaining live shows and eclectic albums. Yet the one hit they are well known for, Woke Up This Morning, was of course used as the theme tune for The Sopranos, so that "exit wounds" reference seems designed to bring back memories of Tony, Christopher and Silvio.

Yet after 19 years together and six studio albums, the time is ripe for an Alabama 3 retrospective. Some people may have unwisely written them off as a comedy act - perhaps understandable with band members called Larry Love and The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love, plus a fondness for fake American accents (they're the most unlikely Brixton natives you'll ever come across) - but this would be a grave underestimate of their talents.

As you'd expect from a band who blend country and western, blues, folk, rock and mix it all together with a whole host of acid house beats, Alabama 3 have a unique sound. Each track here is uplifting, danceable but also gives you something to think about.

Take Woke Up This Morning for example. It may be impossible to hear the song now without imagining Tony Soprano driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, but separate the song from its televisual cousin and you'll find lyrics about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship who ends up shooting her husband. And it's little surprising touches like that which run all through the album.

The collection is pretty evenly spread through all of Alabama 3's albums and throws in the odd rarity (the impressive Orbital collaboration Ska'd For Life) and a couple of cover versions, such as John Prine's Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness. The highlights though inevitably come from the brilliant Exile On Coldharbour Lane, with Hypo Full Of Love making for a swampy, sleazy opener, full of bluesy harmonica and some wonderful vocals from the co-vocalists.

Even better is Ain't Gonna To Goa, a hilariously vicious satire on hippy drop-outs ("I ain't dancin trancin, no thanks, no chance to tranquilize me") and fan favourite U Don't Danse To Tekno Anymore, which starts off slow and gospel-tinged before expertly building up steam into a bluegrass stomp.

Perhaps the highlight of the whole album though is Woody Guthrie. Taking the titular folk hero's sound as a template and scattering their trademark beats over the top, the result is a brilliantly written attack on the BNP and racism, bringing Guthrie's famous cry of This Land Is Your Land up to date in the chorus of "I don't need no country, I don't fly no flag". All this and you can dance to it as well.

All this never becomes po-faced, mainly thanks to the band's sense of fun. Hello I'm Johnny Cash is an uproarious anthem which squeezes in as an impressive amount Man In Black references into the lyrics, while the Dylan-referencing Sad Eyed Lady Of The Low Life is a superbly funky groove of a song.

At 18 tracks, the album is probably a bit too long. A few tracks could have been chopped off without affecting the album's flow and the hardcore fan may be scratching their heads at the omission of tracks such as Cocaine Killed Our Community and Bulletproof.

Yet that's always the danger with 'greatest hits' packages, and overall Hits And Exits Wounds does a decent job at introducing the band to those people who only know them as 'that band who did the Sopranos theme tune'. As this retrospective proves, they deserve to be known for much more than that one track.
- John Murphy

www.musicomh.com

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THE SUN 

 4.5 stars

IF you haven’t ridden that train with these Brixton cowboys, this is the perfect place to jump on board. Taking a backdrop of pumping acid house, they throw in large doses of country, gospel and blues. Songs like Hello . . . I’m Johnny Cash is almost mainstream country while Mansion On The Hill is a furious dancefloor banger.

The sound of Wild West London.
SC 

www.thesun.co.uk