CD Reissue Review: George Thorogood – The First Two Albums
George Thorogood unleashed his Delaware-born and Boston-bred blues just in time to catch a transition in FM radio. Pressured by the growth of AOR stations, and striving to maintain currency with younger audiences, freeform stations were both tightening their playlists and stretching beyond their heritage artists. Thorogood’s tradition-laden blues (eight of this debut album’s ten cuts are covers) was an easy bridge from alternative FM’s roots, and the ferocity with which he and his band (not accidentally christened “The Destroyers”) played was fresh, powerful and a surprisingly good fit with the punk rock and new wave that were just starting to pick up commercial notice. The eight-minute “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” quickly became a bathroom-break staple on both commercial and college stations, and covers of Earl Hooker, Elmore James, Robert Johnson and Bo Diddley sent DJs to the stacks for some history lessons. Thirty-six years after its initial issue, the album hasn’t lost a bit of its drawing power, and the steady, unrelenting drive of “Ride on Josephine” will still make your feet move. Rounder’s 2013 reissue is a straight-up reproduction of the album’s original ten tracks, with a four-page booklet that includes a double-panel gatefold photograph and back-panel credits.
Thorogood’s debut had been a turntable hit on freeform FM and college radio stations, fitting well with both those station’s heritage artists and the punk rock acts that were just starting to gain commercial traction. Thorogood’s no-holds-barred approach had roots in both blues and early rock, and though he was clearly a practiced player, there was a rawness (even a purposeful lack of finesse) that mated well to the rejection of studio-bound prog rock and overblown stadium prattle. His second album doubled down on the swagger of his debut, with a tour de force cover of “Who Do You Love?” whose howling vocal and rumbling rhythm figuratively and literally amplify the essence of Bo Diddley’s classic. The set’s opening take on “Move it on Over” likewise finds a second gear for Hank Williams’ first country hit. As with his debut, Thorogood leans on material from Elmore James, Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Brownie McGee and others, wearing his influences on the album sleeve and leading fans to look back in awe. Rounder’s 2013 reissue is a straight-up reproduction of the album’s original ten tracks, with an eight-page booklet that includes the label’s original liner notes.