Revolutions Reinvented - Chocolate Watchband (Twenty Stone Blatt)
Beware reformations. Nostalgia is huge so trying to recapture past glories looks tempting on paper, but the reality often falls well short. Not so this 2012 re-assembly of Chocolate Watchband with four pieces of their 1966-67 line-ups in place on a redoubtable Scottish label. The band does sound markedly different to its original recorded persona. Drop the preconceptions and prejudices, however, judge this on its merits, and it works just fine.
These tracks are re-imaginings of past recordings and there’s a hell of a lot more polish in evidence. There was a visceral excitement in the original “No Way Out”, “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker”, Are You Gonna Be There” and “Let’s Talk About Girls” that couldn’t be matched if the “new” band tried a hundred times.
Wisely, they haven’t tried. They’ve gone into a studio, applied what they’ve learned over the years and banged it out. But there’s conviction and spirit in the delivery of these songs - much of it via second and best known singer Dave Agguilar’s vocal - that makes “Revolutions Revisited” a worthwhile listen.
Agguliar doesn’t so much snarl as sing these days. Considering he sounded like a stalker on heat back in the day, he might have sounded silly trying to recapture that at his age. His vocal on Dylan’s”It’s All Over Baby Blue” is and almost stately compared to the Watchband’s original cover. “Sitting There Standing” (really “Dust My Blues” under a nom de plume) and “Don’t Need Your Lov” show he can still stand and deliver as a blues shouter. Tim Abbott’s lead guitar-work is sharp (cop the tone on “Sweet Young Thing”) and the sounds the band - and co-producer Abbott - achieve are warm and full.
There are no radical re-writes or jarring re-arrangements. The songs are delivered reasonably faithfully. For every near miss - “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker” throbs too sedately and the closing "Inner Mystique" is self-indulgent - there’s a couple of hits (“I’m Not Like Everybody Else”, the sly and knowing “Let’s Talk About Girls”.)
Whether they knew it or not at the time, Chocolate Watchband were one of the bands that defined the ‘60s punk genre - in reality, their re-discovery meant they did it all again 20 years after their heyday - so even if you can’t improve on your original work, you have to be wary about fucking with your legacy. As unfair as it might be, the music belongs to many more people than the band members.
In way you can judge this album like the output of the re-configured Yardbirds (though there’s more core elements intact with the Watchband.) It’s very listenable - even compelling at times - but a re-casting of past works rather than an attempt to snatch those days back. Respectable? Yes. Maybe surprisingly so.