The New Barbarians – Buried Alive: Live In Maryland
The band The New Barbarians was formed in 1979 as a means to promote Ron Wood’s most recent album Gimme Some Neck. The album was a minor success peaking at number 45 on the Billboard charts and was the first to feature Wood’s own artwork on the album cover including a self-portrait. The band and the subsequent eighteen gig U.S. tour may have gone largely unnoticed were it not for the exceptional musicians that accompanied Wood on the tour. The stellar line-up included Ron Wood and Keith Richards on guitar, Stanley Clarke on bass, former Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys, and Joseph Zigaboo Modeliste drummer for the extraordinary N.O. funk band The Meters.
This line-up first appeared as the opening act for The Rolling Stones for a charity concert put on in Toronto as part of the fulfillment of Keith Richards’ sentence on Heroin possession in 1978. You and I go to jail for twenty years, Keith Richards puts on a concert and takes more drugs. What started as a benefit concert ended up being an 18th-month “guy’s night out” with the two hardest partying Stones setting off on a “Thelma and Louise” type adventure across The United States.
The tour began immediately after the charity concert and the good vibes were soon marred by a riot at one of their shows in Milwaukee in April of 1979. When the lights came up at concerts end and the rumored and hinted-at guest stars, Neil Young, Mick Jagger, and Bob Dylan, were a no-show, a small riot broke out. Actually, the audience wrath was understandable, because if any band needed to borrow a singer the New Barbarians were at the front of the list. As an attempted make-up to help the promoter recoup some of the damages caused by the riot, a revised line-up with Andy Newmark, Reggie McBride, MacKenzie Phillips (yes THAT MacKenzie Philips), and Johnnie Lee Schell replacing Clarke, Modeliste, and Richards. Shockingly, another riot did not break out.
The group never did make a proper studio album but did record a live double album called Buried Alive: Live in Maryland. The album, a double cd release included a mix of rock, country, and blues numbers along with a healthy dose of Ron Wood solo material, Keith Richards’s solo material, and some Rolling Stones songs for good measure. The album recorded in 1979 was finally released by Ron Woods’s record label in 2006.
The album opens up appropriately enough with the Chuck Berry penned “Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller”. The guitar work as you would expect is stellar on the songs, however the Wood vocal here as well as the subsequent Keith Richards vocals led one Rolling Stone critic that was reviewing the tour to write “Ron Woods Dylan-esque wheeze had all of the nuances of a busy fingernail file, and Keith Richards’ ragged moans, however fervent, needed his legend (Mick) to prop them up”. In other words, these blokes can’t sing. I had a sudden flashback as to how great this band might have been with Paul Rodgers of Bad Company fame on vocals.
But they sure can play, and the chemistry between the two guitar whizzes perfectly complements the rest of the band when they go on their mid-song playing sprees. The third song” F.U.C Her”, a Ron Wood tune is a perfect example of the band showing their chops and sounding like they had been together for years rather than the reality which was they were hastily brought together at the beginning of this tour with little time for rehearsal. The Bobby Keys solo mid-song is tremendous.
“Rock Me Baby” lets the band get down and dirty, with the two guitars talking to each other, you almost expect a catfight to break out between the two instruments. The gritty, dirty vocals actually work on this. This is not a song that should be sung by Freddie Mercury. The vocal needs to be strained and come from the gut. And it is both on this stand out blues tune.
The biggest audience reaction seemed to come from the Stones songs. “Love in Vain” is a good “sway in the audience and light one up” slow blues number, but you really appreciate the Mick Jagger vocal after listening to this version.
Kith Richards gets his Gram Parsons “country jones” in with the David Alan Coe penned “Apartment No. 9”, a slow tear in your beer type of song delivered with passion.
“Am I Grooving You” provides a brief glimpse of the brilliance of Stanley Clarke with his bass lines holding up the groove side of the song quite nicely with a grand bass solo thrown in for good measure.
The set closes with the Richards classic “Before They Make Me Run” which is a more ragged whiskey and cigarette soaked version than you are probably used to hearing, and Keith appears to wander away from the mike at times, but it is still exciting to hear Keith belt out his own stuff.
The last song of the disc “Jumping Jack Flash” has a feel to hit similar to when you are at a party and the guy with the guitar keeps wanting to play when he has drunk too much, smoked too much, and you haven’t done enough of either and you are ready to go home. It is ragged, the sound quality seems to be diminished on this track, but the energy is certainly there.
Rolling Stones fans will find this album enjoyable and a nice addition to their music collection. Fans of live music will like this because it captures perfectly the 70’s concert experience with the “never know what you are going to get” type of listening experience that was common back in the day.
For me, this album was like the scene in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest where McMurphy breaks the patients out of the hospital and takes them on a field trip. You like the fact that they have escaped from authority and are singing, laughing, and having a good time, but you also want to see their safe return back to the hospital and the safety of their caretakers.
— Walt Falconer