Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Tell me, who likes a good story with a happy ending? I know I do. And this is the story of Raging Fire, a Nashville band that was together from 1983 until 1989. Back in 83, they were called Ring Of Fire and were comprised of Michael Godsey, Mark Medley, Les Shields, and vocalist Melora Zaner.
The quartet combined the punk and country rock sound of X and Gun Club. They changed their name to Raging Fire in 85, when they released their first EP, A Family Thing. Over the next four years, the band refined their pop-punk-classic rock sound and toured extensively throughout the South and Midwest. In 1987, they were named one of the top unsigned bands, along with The Pixies. Unfortunately, their fate did not end up like the Pixies in the late 80s/early 90s. The band split in 1989 leaving behind a legacy of wonderful music that was under heard.
Michael Godsey passed away in 2012 of a tragic heart attack. Prior to his death, he was discussing plans to release a compilation of Raging Fire’s material called Everything Is Roses 1985-1989. As a tribute to their fallen comrade, Raging Fire released the 22-song compilation with a live performance at Nashville’s Exit/In in 2015. For that show, Zaner and Medley reunited with three former Raging Fire bass players, Les Shields, John Reed and Rusty Watkins. To fill out the band’s sound, they also recruited friends and contemporaries from the ’80s Nashville rock scene — guitarist and vocalist Joe Blanton (Royal Court of China, The Bluefields), guitarist Jeff Cease (The Black Crowes, Eric Church Band) and keyboardist and electronic music composer Giles Reaves.
After the success of the gig at the Exit/In, Raging Fire began playing and recording new material and rarities from 30 years ago. These Teeth Are Sharp is the culmination of the reunion and reforming of Raging Fire. To go along with the great story is an amazing album that incorporates country, rock and roll, punk rock, and a little surf rock. This music is fresh and vibrant and is down right amazing. Zaner’s voice is still great and has that great punk rock grit while still being full of harmony.
The album starts off with the title track, These Teeth Are Sharp. The first few bars of this number starts out like the Peter Gunn theme. That is where the similarities end. This is an edgy surfy number, that explodes at about 50 seconds in with a blazing guitar solo that is a face-melter. There is another solo at the end of this song that turns the intensity up to a 15 out of 10.
They also do an incredibly original version of the ubiquitous Rufus Thomas song, Walking The Dog. Raging Fire take a pretty standard blues song and turn it into a spacey, psychedelic, pop punk extravaganza. It doesn’t happen often that a group can take a song that is as well known as this and make it their own. They are approaching Johnny Cash territory with this one. I thought this song had sexual overtones, but it may be about heroin. Either way, Raging Fire turn it into something completely personal to them. Kudos!
Another stellar number that is absolutely fantastic is Dreams Under The Love Seat (Track 9). This song is pure pop punk from the early 90s. It really reminds me of The Breeders with just the right amount of harmonies, but backed with plenty of gorgeous distorted guitar and noise. This song is a winner in a collection of winners. Run, do not walk to Bandcamp and order this gem.