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The members of Stick Against Stone have certainly paid their dues. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pa., by 1984 the band had already gone through several lineup changes and relocations before finally settling in Eugene, Oregon. Their latest release, The Oregon Bootleg Tapes Live, to be released on May 6, is a collection of long thought-to-be-lost tracks recorded in the summer of 1985 at Eugene’s Outdoor Saturday Market.
Once settled, the band’s sound evolved into a post-punk sound that fused reggae, Afrobeat, Art Rock, and group improv. The band’s current lineup includes lead singer/percussionist Sari Morninghawk, guitarist Daniel Ramirez, Robert “Xeres” Shepard on the alto sax and flute, drummer Richard Vitale, and bassist David Soule.
The opening track, “The Hopping Frog,” has Morninghawk’s soulful yet rebellious vocals. The playful ska vibe is undeniable along with the call-and-response musical dialogue between Morninghawk and Shepard. The song’s beat is jumpy yet infectious as Morninghawk, who wrote the lyrics, croons lines like “It is very late/ A frog is hanging out, a frog is hanging out/ He is considering language/ He has a bright idea/ It makes him hop, hop, hop…hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop/ He’s having a great day and think he’s bad.” Odd lyrics, but they work with Vitale’s drumming and Soule’s light bass in the background.
“Rhetoric,” the album’s third track, has a danceable samba vibe. Morninghawk, again wrote the lyrics as Vitale’s drums pound away and Shepard’s alto sax gives the track a jazzy tone. Morninghawk then delves into passionate lines like “Creation, fashion, lament…Communication/ Sensation, passion, intent…Penetration/ Liquidation, expire…Initiation.” The upbeat tone of this song could make listeners envision hearing it on an episode of ABC’s dance competition show Dancing with the Stars as a professional dancer and their celebrity partner swing their hips to the irresistible rhythm.
The fifth track, “Products Throughout the Store,” has a whimsical percussion-laden intro along with Vitale’s soft drumming and Ramirez’s fanciful guitar play. Vitale and Morningside both wrote the song’s political lyrics, which include “War going on in El Salvador/ Where people work harder for us to have more/ Puppet government of the USA/ Human right not important today…money/ Salvadorans struggle to regain their lives/ Fighting big bombs with guns and knives.”
“Cramphead,” the album’s fourth track, has an incredibly danceable buoyant intro with Ramirez really working his guitar skills along with Vitale’s rhythmic drumming. Vitale also wrote the song’s lyrics, which include “Here we go/ Summer of love long time ago/ Let it go/ Punk rock has its faults/ Let it go/ Cramphead from hairstyle show.” It seems he’s trying to put out the message not to let a lost love “cramp” one’s head. A unique way of putting it, its bouncy tempo could make listeners forget about losing the object of their affection completely and just concentrate on just letting their bodies be taken over by the beat.
In conclusion, The Oregon Bootleg Tapes Live by Stick Against Stone is a treasure that fans of rock, ska and other lively musical genres will be happy was found and released for all to enjoy!