Raging Fire: Everything is Roses 1985-1989

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Raging Fire

Raging Fire
Everything is Roses 1985-1989
(Pristine)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

There seems to be two reasons why it took until late 2015 to compile the best of this Nashville punk/new wave/blues rocking quartet’s music. First, they were never signed to a major label, something far less essential today than it was 30 years ago but a logical explanation of why they never made it onto the national radar at the time. And also, they just weren’t that memorable.

Much is made in the eight pages of liner notes to this career-spanning 21-track recap about how unique and distinctive Raging Fire’s sound was, but these recordings don’t show that. Rather, the group cobbled together influences from X and the Divinyls and added some Midnight Oil and a dose of Fetchin Bones without creating consistently solid songs or a distinctive enough style to make them rise above the pack. Diminutive frontwoman Melora Zaner had a powerful, riot grrrl voice that could be both laid back and explosive and wrote provocative, non-linear lyrics. But it won’t take more than one spin though this generous, well-intentioned 79-minute compilation to realize there was something special missing, at least in the studio recordings. That and bad luck with record labels put the death knell on a band that surely had talent which, if honed, could have pushed them to better things.

Still, they developed a dedicated following due to extensive touring and a decidedly non–country, somewhat artsy sound that belied their Nashville roots. The audio ranges from the tinny bootleg quality of the live “Angel in Blue” to some surprisingly solid demos and the professionally-recorded “The Marrying Kind.” The latter was included on a 1988 CMJ/RCA collection of that year’s finest unsigned bands, a disc that notably included the Pixies and is perhaps Raging Fire’s biggest claim to fame.

The closing “More Than This” (not the Roxy Music tune), a 2015 re-recording of a track from Raging Fire’s lone 1986 full-length, features typically gnarly lead guitar from guest Warner Hodges (Jason & the Scorchers) wrapping up the final word on a band that remains little more than an also-ran on the pop/punk landscape.

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