Ultimate bar band tears it up
It’s nice to know that in this ever-changing world, some things remain constant. George Thorogood and the Destroyers have been playing the same brand of guitar-heavy blues boogie for thirty-plus years, anchored by George’s gravelly vocals and slide guitar, wedded to a pounding rhythm section and (in this case) Hank Carter’s honking sax. The formula hasn’t changed much: for proof, bend your ear toward Live in Boston 1982, then compare it to, say, 1995’s Let’s Get Together. The sound is the same, and even the patter between songs is largely recycled. When I saw the Destroyers play in New York in 2008, I could have closed my eyes and imagined myself back in the Reagan era.
This is no bad thing. George knows what he does well and sticks to it. Highlights on this record include the chugging “One Way Ticket”, whose classic thumping riff anticipates “Bad to the Bone”, and the Isley Brothers’ “Nobody But Me”. Thirteen minutes of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” is either an extended exercise in brilliance or else too much of a good thing, depending on your point of view. John Lee Hooker’s “New Boogie Chillun” and Elmore James’ “Can’t Stop Lovin’” are among the numerous covers of classic blues artists that the band strove to keep current. With few hits so early in the band’s career—a fiery version of “Move It On Over” is likely to be the only song a non-fan will recognize—the record relies on deep cuts and previously unreleased live songs. There is a certain redundancy to the frantic tempos, but it’s tough to argue with the energy.
Everybody should have at least one Destroyers album in their collection. This fine document of the ultimate hard-rocking bar band is a good place to start.