[Review] Frank Black: Fast Man Raider Man (2006)

Two dozen new tracks from punk’s black prince, now in a nostalgic mood for classic rock.

Kronomyth 12.0: Music from Big Frank.

This is the basement brain of Frank Black writing a new American songbook with members of The Band, The Swans and anyone else willing to come along for the ride. Sure, it’s stylistically all over the place. And, yes, it could have been pared down to a single album without losing anything vital. But, dammit, you have to love the man for arranging this kind of shotgun wedding between the 70s and the 90s.

Fast Man Raider Man contains remarkably few standout tracks for a double-disc set: “If Your Poison Gets You,” “It’s Just Not Your Moment,” “In The Time of My Ruin,” “Fast Man.” Really, that’s about it. So why do I come away from Fast Man thinking Black is more of a genius than ever? Maybe it’s the fact that he could do this: make a double album that captures the wide-open spirit of Dylan and The Band and populate it with icons like Al Kooper, Jim Keltner, Levon Helm and Steve Cropper. Or maybe it’s the fact that, no matter what Black is singing, he makes you believe it’s the most important song at that moment.

Now, from what I’ve read, Fast Man Raider Man is a continuation of Honeycomb (also recorded with Jon Tiven), so maybe this is the new Frank Black we’re hearing. If so, it’s the new nostalgic Black we’re getting, someone who has spent a lot of time thumbing through his record collection and wants to give a little back to the old gods. There are some who will shrink away from this collection because it lacks the chaotic fury of his early work. I hear it as Frank Black stepping forward in his own work. Remember when Elvis Costello discovered he was actually a good singer? I feel like the same thing is happening here as Frank discovers that his voice can actually carry an entire song without three minutes of bar-chord destruction to drive it along. Like The Basement Tapes, fans will find plenty to pore over here, taking away some as treasured moments while tossing away others, and returning often to gather the loose coins dropped in the discovery of such an unexpected abundance.

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The Songs

Disc One
A1. If Your Poison Gets You
A2. Johnny Barleycorn
A3. Fast Man
A4. You Can’t Crucify Yourself
A5. Dirty Old Town (Ewan MacColl)
A6. Wanderlust
A7. Seven Days
A8. Raider Man
A9. The End of the Summer (music adapted from La Sicilienne by Gabriel Fauré)
A10. Dog Sleep (Frank Black/Reid Paley)
A11. When The Paint Grows Darker Still
A12. I’m Not Dead (I’m In Pittsburgh) (Frank Black/Reid Paley)
A13. Golden Shore (Frank Black/Reid Paley)

Disc Two
B1. In The Time of My Ruin
B2. Down To You (Frank Black/Reid Paley)
B3. Highway To Lowdown
B4. Kiss My Ring
B5. My Terrible Ways
B6. Fitzgerald
B7. Elijah
B8. It’s Just Not Your Moment
B9. The Real El Rey
B10. Where The Wind Is Going
B11. Holland Town
B12. Sad Old World
B13. Don’t Cry That Way
B14. Fare Thee Well (traditional arr. by Frank Black)

Japanese CD bonus track
B15. I Don’t Live Here Anymore

All selections written by Frank Black unless noted.

The Players

Frank Black (vocals, guitar, ukelele) with Bob Babbitt (bass), Bobby Bare Jr. (backing vocals), Billy Block (drums, backing vocals), Marty Brown (bass, backing vocals, duet vocals on A5), Violet Clark-Thompson (backing vocals), Jack Clement (dobro, backing vocals), Steve Cropper (guitar), Rick Duvall (backing vocals), Steve Ferrone (drums), Rich Gilbert (pedal steel guitar), James Griffin (backing vocals), Levon Helm (drums, percussion), David Hood (bass), Ellis Hooks (backing vocals), Wayne Jackson (trumpet, trombone, fluegelhorn), Duane Jarvis (guitar), Mark Jordan (keyboards), Carol Kaye (bass, guitar), Jim Keltner (drums, percussion), Simon Kirke (drums, percussion), Jack Kidney (harmonica, tenor saxophone), Al Kooper (organ), Ian McLagan (keyboards), Buddy Miller (guitar, mandoguitar, backing vocals), Spooner Oldham (keyboards, backing vocals), Tom Petersson (bass), Dave Philips (pedal steel guitar), P.F. Sloan (piano, backing vocals), Billy Swan (backing vocals), Planet Swan (backing vocals), Sierra Swan (backing vocals), Akil Thompson (drums), Chester Thompson (drums), Jon Tiven (alto saxophone, guitar, percussion, piano, backing vocals), Brooks Watson (backing vocals), Lyle Workman (guitar, arrangements), Reggie Young (guitar). Produced by Jon Tiven; engineered by Jon Tiven, Jake Burns, Marc Chevalier, Dan Penn, Miles Wilson; mixed by Jake Burns and David Z., additional mixing by Earl Drake.

The Pictures

Illustration by Brent Hardy-Smith and Andrew Swainson. Design by Andrew Swainson. Original photography by Michael Halsband.

The Plastic

Released on 2CD on June 20, 2006 in the US (Back Porch, 55875-2) and Brazil (Deckdisc, 8324302664) and on expanded 2CD in 2006 in Japan (Imperial, TECI-33373/4) with one bonus track.

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