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Dictators, The - 1978 Bloodbrothers

ARTIST: Dictators, The
ALBUM: Bloodbrothers
LABEL: Asylum
SERIAL: 6E-147
YEAR: 1978
CD REISSUE: Reissue List


LINEUP: Handsome Dick Manitoba - vocals * Ross 'The Boss' Friedman - guitar * Scott 'Top Ten' Kempner - guitar * Andy Shernoff - bass, keyboards, vocals * Richie Teeter - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Faster And Louder * 02 Let's Do The Twist * 03 No Tomorrow * 04 Minnesota Strip * 05 Stay With Me * 06 I Stand Tall * 07 Borneo Jimmy * 08 What It Is * 09 Slow Death


The history books would indicate The Dictators to be the originators of the U.S. punk scene, pre-dating the likes of The Ramones and bridging the gap of earlier bands like Blue Cheer, The MC5, The New York Dolls and The Stooges etc. I've always been slightly confused by this stale observation by the critics - to me the New York act was always a pure hard rock band with the attitude of punk, but little else. The band made an impression with their 1975 debut 'Go Girl Crazy' and reinforced it with 1977's 'Manifest Destiny'. Both albums are critical entries in the hard rock stakes of the era, with the band led by Andy Shernoff, who wrote most of the music. Vocalist Dick Manitoba was as enigmatic and abrasive as a frontman ever got, while obviously Ross 'The Boss' provided formidable presence on guitar before his Manowar days. Twisted Sister's Mark 'The Animal' Mendoza was briefly a member, but had left by the time of 'Bloodbrothers'. This was their third and final album of their original run, one which brought them plenty of acclaim but little in the way of sales. It's as bemusing now as it was then how the band never hit the big time, truly one of the best acts of the 70's.

The Songs
The album kicks off with the bands heaviest track 'Faster And Louder' which is more metal than punk, almost like Kiss on massive amounts on steroids. It's a muscular assault and features a much vaunted appearance by Bruce Springsteen. Personally I prefer Friedman's guitar work here more than his stint in Manowar. 'Baby Let's Twist' has a pop edge to the chorus, classic rock and roll through and through. Shernoff was a genius songwriter and seemed to own a mastery of every genre imaginable. The melodic side of the band had reached its peak, 'No Tomorrow' owning a hook of considerable clout, aided by more exceptional guitar work. To some extent 'The Minnesota Strip' has a slight punkish edge to it, but again I hear more Kiss or Aerosmith than anything. It's still a classic regardless. 'Stay With Me' obliterates horrendous bands of the period like Talking Heads and Television, who supposedly were on the cutting edge of the New York scene, displaying a bruising riff section, but melody lines which hint at radio. In the anthem stakes there's little both past and present that compares to 'I Stand Tall'. I must have heard this track over 100 times and I never tire of it, the uplifting chorus about being proud to be an American beyond compare. The lyrics are slightly scathing, but if Donald Trump ever needs a new campaign song, this is it. The guitar harmonies and Manitoba's vocals add to the classic nature of the track and this song alone should have broken the band. 'Borneo Jimmy' and 'What It Is' are another pair of underrated rock classics, the album's reputation complete at this point. A cover of The Flamin' Groovies 'Slow Death' is an aural feast, the wall of noise almost reaching the levels of The Who at their heaviest. The power of this band was so genuine, one of those once in a lifetime bands.

In Summary
When the album went nowhere the band split, although they reformed frequently for live gigs in the 80's, with most of the band pursuing solo ventures. The band reformed permanently in the late 90's and are still out on the road with Manitoba and Friedman forming the nucleus of the band, under the moniker The Dictators N.Y.C. A new studio album was recorded in 2001, although drummer Richie Teeter died in 2012. While fans have their opinions of the band finest work, this for me is by far their most consistent and heaviest album, the pure face of American hard rock in the 70's. It's one of the best albums of the decade, a masterpiece which hasn't aged one bit in almost 40 years.

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#1 | gdazegod on January 11 2017 21:36:47
I recall having several of the Dictators LP's in my colelction at one point. Agree with Alun, this was probably the pick of the bunch, but overall, I never really got into the NYC punk/hard rock crossover scene.
#2 | tompa on January 21 2017 21:47:34
Used to have those first three albums on vinyl and while none of them as a whole were, in my opinion, exactly great there were A FEW great tunes on each. Bloodbrothers had a at least 4-5 of those so I guess that makes it the best. Still awesome though; Minnesota Strip.

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