Under the Savage Sky
Vinyl LP includes digital download version of the album
With the raw vocals, thick and nasty guitar tones, and preternaturally locked-in rhythm section, Under the Savage Sky might be the most soulful punk record—or perhaps the most punk soul record— you’ve ever heard.
When asked about the methods and the madness behind capturing the scorched earth soul of Under the Savage Sky, guitarist Peter Greenberg explained that the band was eager for something “harder and garagier” than their previous record, while still connecting with the energy and originality of the classics. Given that the previous release, Dig Thy Savage Soul (their 2013 Bloodshot debut and first U.S. release in a couple decades), was a 12-round sonic knockout, the R&B wallop of Under the Savage Sky may very well stand for ‘Roundhouse & Beatdown.’
There’s no harder hitter than frontman Barrence Whitfield of Boston, MA. When he hits the boards with the Savages, you’re either gonna ride the energy or be crushed by it. We’re talking Joe Louis, Howlin’ Wolf, Wilson Pickett, Smokin’ Joe Frazier. Barrence has what these greats all possessed, the one thing a trainer cannot teach a fighter: a lust for mayhem. The wilder, louder, more insane the Savages bring it, the more BW is ready to attack the mic, to bring it high, to bring it low, to wear you down on the ropes, and eventually drop you.
With the raw vocals, thick and nasty guitar tones, and preternaturally locked-in rhythm section, Under the Savage Sky might be the most soulful punk record—or perhaps the most punk soul record— you’ve ever heard. Compact, three minute-or-less blasts rocket back to the explosive heydays of The Dirtbombs and genre godfathers The Sonics. Don’t believe it? Just check out “Incarceration Casserole” (with its wild, Little Richard-era sax), the muscularity of “The Claw” (after all, every album of quality should start a dance craze), and “Katy Didn’t.” “Rock and Roll Baby,” “Bad News Perfume,” and “I’m A Good Man” play like a high school sock hop invaded by a biker gang. It’s the kind of hip-shake proto-rockabilly that once had parents dragging their kids to the confessional for listening to that devil music. “Adjunct Street,” a haunting, grinding ballad, gets you absinthe-drunk on Greenberg’s warbly guitar and Barrence’s deep growl, and “Full Moon in the Daylight Sky” brings the brooding, ‘60s 3 a.m. soul.
One of BW&S’s signature moves is their unpredictable, deep-catalog choice of covers and Under the Savage Sky unearths some exquisite gems. Getting the Savage treatment in this bout are Timmy “Mr. Soul Satisfaction” Willis’s “I’m a Full Grown Man,” all peacock-strut garage blues with an above-the-pulpit B3; Kid Thomas’s “The Wolf Pack,” done here with stalking, back-alley toughness, burlesque sax lines and a lurid invitation to howl along; Eddie Snow’s “I’m a Good Man”; and Ace recording artist Mercy Baby’s “Rock and Roll Baby.”
Taken from the album’s liner notes (written by John Swenson, noted scribe for such illustrious rock and boxing mags like Crawdaddy, Circus, and Ring): “Backing Whitfield are the best cornermen in the business, led by garage/punk guitarist Peter Greenberg, the visionary who started the Savages after a legendary stint with the Lyres, and his sidekick Phil “Mr. Tenacious” Lenker on bass. Greenberg works his guitar with the ruthless intricacy of a chain saw ice sculptor. Lenker meshes with drummer Andy Jody for an unrelenting sequence of haymaker beats. Tom Quartulli’s saxophone rips like a foghorn through the mist.”
Under The Savage Sky rains soul and brimstone from the heavens. Keep your eyes to the sky… ain’t no umbrella gonna help you here.