Rose Tattoo – “Outlaws” CD / Limited Edition LP (Cleopatra Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Still defining Australian hard rock since 1976, with vocalist Angry Anderson the only living member alive from their early years, the cult of Rose Tattoo is even greater than that of AC/DC (who recommended them to Albert Productions), with more members having passed through it than roadkill on an Aussie highway! Recruiting a bruising line up in preparation for their first US tour since 1981 including original AC/DC bassist Mark Evans, Dai Pritchard (endorsed by co founder slide guitarist Pete Wells as an ‘..unbelievably talented maestro of rock mayhem..’) on slide, guitarist Bob Spencer (who played in two of Australia’s significant rock bands in the 70s and 80s, Skyhooks and The Angels) and lastly, Jackie Barnes on drums (who is the son of Cold Chisel vocalist Jimmy Barnes), Anderson has decided to proudly show off this line up in an ambitious re-recording of the band’s self titled 1978 debut. No mean feat considering this is still considered a classic and in some eyes, still the band’s best work produced by the then famed line up including the aforementioned Wells, along with Mick Cocks, Geordie Leach and Dallas ‘Digger’ Royall. That recording would also feature Ian Rilen, who co founded Rose Tattoo with Wells. As such, it comes as no surprise that “Outlaws” is ‘…all about honouring the past and respecting the present…’. Crucially, it also includes 3 songs that never made the debut, from ‘Rosetta’, a love song written by Anderson and Rilens back in 1975, along with ‘Snow Queen’ and ‘Sweet Love Rock N Roll’ which were both penned by Rilens. Given the caliber and pedigree of this Rose Tattoo line up, “Outlaws” is thankfully no mere set of covers, nor is it a radical re-work, but rather a careful but subtle interpretation keeping to the original style, but allowing the new musicians to add their own renowned skills to the material. Most of all, the whole album takes a live in the studio approach which definitely adds that special gig feel which anyone who’s seen the band live will know about, making “Outlaws” a worthy purchase for longtime fans while pretty much essential for anyone newer. While long familiar with the songs, I particularly enjoyed the fast rocker ‘Tramp’, here given a steaming rendition with Spencer really capturing the essence of Aussie pub rock in his riff sound while Pritchard’s slide work, while being different in style to Wells, lived up commendably to his predecessor’s recommendation. Of the newies, ‘Sweet Love Rock N Roll’ with its monster chorus fed by deep blues rock and laced irresistibly by Pritchard once again made this song fit right in as if it were part of the original song list, thus proving the measure of this latest line up of Rose Tattoo. With the hard to resist classics gnawing away, the epic ‘Butcher And Fast Eddie’ took on an almost gospel style, with Anderson introducing the background as he would to a live audience, then singing with amazing lyrical clarity and when added to by the resonating twin guitars and not forgetting Mark Evans’s heavy humming bass, bringing all the drama and passion of this classic track back once again vividly to life as it did when I first heard it. Mate, you can almost hear the cops coming around again….!