Check it out if you like greasy rock and roll, from Little Richard to the Sonics and Nick Curran.— Mother Jones
Whitfield and his band are one of those rare groups whose latter-day post-reunion work sounds just as good as their first go-round.— PopMatters
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.
Barrence Whitfield is a full-throttle soul screamer in the spirit of Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, and Solomon Burke. He has been described as the owner of one incredible pair of lungs, with limitless energy and unmatched enthusiasm for his music and his audience. Barrence is a rarity in this business--one of a few black, rock 'n roll singer/entertainers who Spin Magazine says maintains a frenzied performance. The Savages lay down a groovy racket that's so thick and greasy, you'll need to keep moist towelettes near the hi-fi. Barrence and the boys are to soul what the Cramps are to Rockabilly--a gateway musical drug to America's demented roots underbelly. Whitfield is a performer so consumed with satisfying his audiences that he has been called 'crazed, frenetic and completely unhinged.'
After college, Barrence, like many organic music lovers, found himself working in a Kenmore Square record shop called Nuggets. There, he was discovered by guitarist Peter Greenberg, of the legendary Boston bands DMZ and The Lyres. Through this introduction, Barrence got his first taste of the rock 'n roll life and Boston's music scene. Boston reciprocated in kind with 7 Boston Music Awards.
Barrence Whitfield is a full-throttle soul screamer in the spirit of Little Richard, Don Covay, and Solomon Burke. He has been described as the owner of one incredible pair of lungs, with limitless energy and unmatched enthusiasm for his music and his audience.
Barrence is a rarity in this business--one of a few black, rock n roll singer/entertainers who, Spin Magazine says, maintains a frenzied performance. Whitfield is a performer so consumed with satisfying his audiences that he has been called 'crazed, frenetic and completely unhinged.' Barrence, the singer made up of equal parts Arthur Alexander, Nolan Porter and James Carr this mofo burns.'
BW doesn't want you to come to a show and stand around. He'll do flips if he has to.
"There was one show in England where I opened for The Damned, and I started throwing cans of beer at the audience. The club owners were telling me, 'You can't do that!' I threw them out there for people to drink and have a good time. But I went too far and almost started a riot.'
Barrence Whitfield & the Savages shot out of Boston in the mid-'80s with the force of a cannonball. Through their sweaty dance party shows and love of primal soul, they were to R&B what the Cramps were to rockabilly--a gateway musical drug for nascent underground roots mavens (including a wide-eyed, dewy-eared future Bloodshot co-founder Rob Miller). Along with original Savage Peter Greenberg (The Lyres, DMZ) and Phil Lenker, they released several records on Rounder, became a favorite of BBC DJ Andy Kershaw, toured with the likes of Bo Diddley, Tina Turner, and George Thorogood, and won seven Boston Music Awards. They reunited in 2011 with new Savages Andy Jody on drums, and Tom Quartulli on sax.
Perhaps the world is ready for them this time around.
Official Website: Barrence Whitfield and the Savages Online