Time Never Forgets: The Anthology (86-88)

Scruffy The Cat

Legacy Recordings, 2014

http://www.scruffythecat.com

REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/26/2014

Well, here it is at long last: Boston college rock gods Scruffy The Cat, long revered, long out-of-print, is seeing their catalogue being released digitally for the first time. They were originally signed to the long defunct Relativity Records. Sony now owns the label, and Legacy has lovingly released the band’s recorded output, which includes two EPs and two full-lengths, together with remastered sound for a treasure any fan of ‘80s college rock will lovingly embrace.

Kicking off with the High Octane Revival EP from 1986, the band was off to the races from the beginning. Living up to its title with fast rocking rave-ups like “40 Days & 40 Nights” and “Buy A Car,” the band showed that they were different from the rest of the pack. College rock bands were a dime a dozen back in the ‘80s, but by adding newer sounds to the mix like accordions, mandolins and banjos, the band put a different slant on what was by this time a tried and true sound. You can hear the amount of fun the band was having in every song. To me, that’s the sign of a band in control of their future.

This wasn’t a band where one member wrote everything. In Scruffy’s case, every member contributed their own songs and that collaborative spirit helped the band create many memorable songs that still sound great even twenty-five years later.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

1987’s Tiny Days full-length picks up where the EP left off with frontman Charlie Chesterman’s earnest vocals and the sometimes-manic guitar work of Stephen Fredette bouncing off each other, making the music really pop! With this record, the band’s folkier, eclectic elements come to the forefront, thanks to musician extraordinaire Stona Fitch contributing harmonica, keyboards and whatever else was necessary. Songs like “Shadow Boy” and “Time Never Forgets” are a bit more subdued than others, but the band makes it work with musicianship and great songwriting. “Upside Down” and “My Fate Was Sealed With A Kiss” are more hard rockers and really help to enliven the entire record. With this all-around eclecticism, it was easy to not pigeonhole Scruffy into one category. The main thing is that great music like this will always sound amazing without sounding old or dated.

A quick promo EP follows, featuring live tracks that show how great a band Scruffy was live. It also contains one of the greatest versions of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” that this writer has ever heard. Other than that, this second EP is easily skippable. The band’s final full-length, 1988’s Moons Of Jupiter (produced by the legendary Jim Dickinson), is a more streamlined production that yielded the band’s most recognizable song in the title track.

The final record seems to lack a lot of energy that was so prevalent on the earlier records, which might be due to Stona leaving the band and being replaced by a new keyboardist. Throughout the record, the band just seems to be running out of gas. Certain songs like “I Do” and “One Bad Apple” sound like early Scruffy with a bit of a new spin, a touch of twang added.

“Kissing Galaxy,” “Bucknaked” and “Moons Of Jupiter” are very tongue-in-cheek but have more pep and energy. “Kissing Galaxy,” in particular, contains a scorcher of a guitar solo. “Moons Of Jupiter” even contains a nice rip-off of ‘ol Tommy James. With the band slowing down, Moons Of Jupiter for the most part ends up the most disappointing section of the anthology.

The band disbanded around 1990 and the members went their separate ways before reuniting in 2011 for a benefit for Chesterman, who was then battling cancer. Unfortunately, Chesterman passed away in November 2013, but this collection stands as a shining legacy to a great singer and a wonderful band that deserves their chance to be rediscovered.

Rating: B

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