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The Stick Against Stone Orchestra’s latest album, titled Get It All Out, is a true labor of love. Friends Richard Vitale and Brook Duer founded the Stick Against Stone Orchestra in Pittsburgh back in the summer of 1981 and their sound expressed their post-punk appetite, West African rhythms and even fused strains of the free jazz movement of the 1960s. Front man John Creighton conveyed his scorching tunes and uninhibited musical range. They developed a cult following but fell into obscurity by the mid-'80s, especially following Creighton’s departure and subsequent death.
But, in 2006, soundman and filmmaker Will Kreth came across dust-laden tapes of the band’s extraordinary shows and decided he couldn’t let their music die. With the idea of making a documentary about the band, Kreth hunted down the band’s original members, eventually working with Vitale in Brooklyn in the spring of 2010 to resurrect SAS.
Yet sadly, that summer, Vitale succumbed to a brain seizure and Kreth found himself at a crossroads. Going back to the footage he’d shot four days before Vitale passed, he paused on Vitale’s quote: “It’s one thing to have the [old] recordings, but this music needs to be played.” This encouraged Kreth to trudge forward with his vision of reviving SAS’s groundbreaking sound.
The resulting album Get It All Out takes its title from one of the last songs Creighton wrote and recorded before he left Stick Against Stone in 1983. After Kreth was able to wrangle some of the original SAS members, music director David Terhune enlisted an impressive company of players to finish the endeavor including singer Cedric Lamar, Burnt Sugar’s Paula Henderson on baritone sax, the Lounge Lizards’ Michael Blake on soprano and tenor sax, Shudder to Think and Time of Orchids bassist Jesse Krakow and drummers Tony Mason and Denny McDermott, who was later known for his stint with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen. Combined, these musicians channel Creighton and Vitale’s pioneering sound, giving it a modern twist but keeping loyal to the power of their music.
The album’s opening track “Everybody’s Song (The Music Business,)" has a feverish beat accompanied by original SAS singer and clarinetist Geraldine Murray wailing away with lyrics such as, “Now it’s just a business, now it’s all so normal, we're in the music business.”
Mason and McDermott’s pulsing drumming is just as frenzied as Murray swiftly goes on about the music industry belongs to everyone who lends an ear. Meanwhile, “Wasted Lives” takes a dissimilar approach with tribal percussion as Mason and McDermott’s drumming could make listeners envision hearing this track in a motion picture depicting aborigine ancestral dances.
With “Moonlight Finds a Face,” Murray sings Creighton’s lyrics of active revolt with matching passion as she croons lines like, “I want to be awake now … break it through.” Mason and McDermott’s pounding drums make their presence known along with Blake’s booming tenor sax play and Henderson’s sweet baritone sax. Listeners also might find this a motivating song to work out to with its samba-jazz rhythms or they picture hearing on the next season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars as celebrities and professionals shake their hips to its infectious beat.
“Face Down” follows a similar formula but with a ska bend. Krakow’s bass play gives the track a jazzy flow while the hard tone of the lyrics and Mason and McDermott’s thunderous drumming make this a song destined to be played in clubs as crazy patrons sway their heads and bodies to its frenetic pitch.
“Elephants” departs from the formula of the previous tracks in that it’s slower and jazz enthusiasts may feel the band is invoking the spirit of jazz pianist, arranger, composer and bandleader Gil Evans with the song’s big band feel. Mason and McDermott’s drums are considerably slower but no less stirring while Henderson’s baritone sax only adds an even cooler jazz vibe.
“Medicine Wheel” also has a different rhythm than the previous tracks. Singer Mark Rinzel brings forth a new wave funk groove as he emotes lyrics such as, “Don't be afraid of the power of the circle.” Blake’s expansive soprano sax play along with Mason and McDermott’s drums and Krakow’s bass give the track a relaxed feel without sacrificing the funk element.
Finally, the title track is a genuine funk song that makes no apologies. An extremely danceable song, it’s one that listeners could definitely crank up on their MP3’s and feel empowered by while working out or when they need to fee energized.
In the end, Get It All Out from the Stick Against Stone Orchestra does what it’s title suggests. It liberated the band’s inner funk and is sure to release the same in anyone who listens to it.