Richard Hell and the Voidoids
Destiny Street (Complete)
A Fantastic Re-Package For a Classic Album.
Richard Hell was a Kentucky boy who became a famous New York punk rocker.
No, scratch that.
He was a punk rock poet and a bass player, known for his torn clothes held together with safety pins, and songs that defined a generation.
Richard Hell was a fearless singer, songwriter, and bassist who influenced countless punk rockers, and has gone on to write several excellent books.
Okay, one more try.
They broke the mold when they made Richard Hell.
Every punk rocker after him who tries to do what he did just looks foolish, stupid, or both. He’s a one of a kind writer, singer, bassist— Okay, I give up.
Richard Hell’s legacy is tangled, manifolded, and—like many of the best artists—the legends are the only facts that matter.
Hell was seminal to the New York punk scene, playing in some of the most important and influential bands in the early seventies such as Television, the Heartbreakers, and The Neon Boys, before forming the Voidoids in 1976. Richard Hell and the Voidoids first album was punk rock naivety mixed with some of the finest ensemble playing around. His rhymes were never as sublimely poetic as Patti Smith’s, but did fit the seventies punk rock esthetic just fine.
The Voidoids’ second album, Destiny Street, definitely showed his progress both as a songwriter and a singer. The songs are less novelty and more thought out in arrangement and lyrics. He’s still fearless, still reckless, still funny when warranted, but more assured.
The only other original member was guitarist Robert Quine and as anyone who’s ever heard Quine can attest, he was the real deal.
Nobody—NOBODY—played guitar like Robert Quine!
Unafraid of noise or slop, but with a jazz musician’s ear, and a true student of technique, Quine’s guitar textures were legendary throughout New York and beyond. Destiny Street is some of his finest playing for sure.
So what we get here is not one, not two, but THREE versions of Destiny Street: The original tracks remastered; a version redone in 2009 from a backing track of just the bass and drums where Hell resang the vocals and—since Quine passed away in 2004—added guitar tracks by former Voidoids Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, and Ivan Julian.
We also get a version remixed from the original 24 track master tapes which were long thought lost.
Kicking off with the manic fury of “The Kid with the Replaceable Head” and bookending that with the quirky hyper disco beat-poetry of the title track, the album holds up rather well all the way through, and I must say that every version does kick ass.
I thought I was going to get disinterested while listening to this album (Three versions of the same songs, plus a few demos and live takes? Yawn.)
But I was happily mistaken.
Each version is fresh and new. The different vocals done decades apart actually work and the other guitarists do an admirable job with the songs, neither relying on Quine’s parts, nor copying them, nor straying afield from the subject matter.
Nobody can out-Quine Quine, yet the Destiny Street Repaired section of this set is highly satisfying listening. Now let’s talk about cover songs for a moment, shall we?
For a true original personality like Hell to have even one single cover song on any album says multitudes. Well, Destiny Street has three covers: “You Gotta Move” written by Ray Davies, “I Can Only Give You Everything” originally done by Van Morrison with his band Them, and a dark and dismal version of Bob Dylan’s “Going, Going, Gone” which fits right in with Hell’s originals seamlessly.
Hell owns this song. (Yes, I’ve heard the recent version by Emma Swift and it’s good. Very good. But—and I say this with reservation—It’s a little too nice. This is not a nice song. This is an end it all song, a jumping off the cliff moment.
Self devastation at it’s most inward.
Dylan writes many songs which could be considered as “not nice” and “Going, Going, Gone” is definitely one of them.
Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” is one of the biggest “Fuck You!” songs ever written, yet most cover versions of this epic rant do it as sweet and pablum-like.
This is what makes Hell be able to pull off such a song as “Going, Going, Gone” and make it his own.
He understands the pain, the vitriol, the apathy, and how to make it breathe without choking on it’s vomit.) And no all-inclusive CD set would be complete without extensive liner notes and Richard Hell himself has gone gleefully overboard with a personal history of how all this came to be, a song by song description, and plenty of photos.
A fantastic release of a classic album.
Review by The legendary Roy Peak.