When Death released For the World to See (recorded in 1975 but only saw its official release in 2009), no one paid much attention. A careful listen to the album will reveal a fast and furious punk sound with socially conscious lyrics, something punk fans have become accustomed to … except these boys were Black (not too typical of the Punk scene) and a few years too early. How Death got overlooked is the subject of many bloggers and music historians but most feel it was their name that drew controversy from the record execs. Drag City Records re-released the album in 2009 as the band has undergone somewhat of a revival playing live shows recently. In early 2111, Drag City will release a companion to the original album titled Spiritual, Mental, Physical; a collection of demo recordings and rough cuts predating the 1975 full length release.
Rough is a good word to describe these recordings. Most of the tracks sound like a 3 mic job recorded in someones garage including the classic analog tape hum. The result is a certain appealing rawness that delivers a moment of history and celebrates the DIY spirit of punk. The 10 tracks are diverse often straying from the punk formula that bloggers have praised the 3 brothers from Detroit for on their full length. The album ends with ‘Bobby Bassin It’ and ‘Dannis on the Motor City Drums’ which are basically solo jam sessions with no other accompaniment. ‘The Change’ and ‘David’s Dream (Flying)’ are two dreamy and soft instrumentals that borderline on more of bluesy feel with interplay between two guitars meandering about. ‘World Tomorrow’ has some ballad qualities with a slower tempo and the overdrive turned low, but it delivers great classic rock feel.
The real draw is provided from the songs that have that Death sound they were so unfamous for. ‘Views’, the opening track on the album, features a great guitar riff and a very catchy, repetitive tune with hard hitting drums. ‘The Mask’ kicks it up a notch initially only to slow the tempo down for the band to sing what sounds like an old Beatles tune before returning to the bedlam. ‘Can You Give Me a Thrill’ is perhaps the highlight of the rough takes; lightening fast work on the snare and toms, great intense vocals and a striking overall hook. It is the quintessential punk piece with a little rock and roll swagger to finish.
Listening to the demos, It is clear this band had a lot talent for their unbridled craft before punk was popular genre. Though the sound quality is a not clean, the collection of recordings present the band in a raw and unpolished form. Spiritual, Mental, Physical is a historical time piece, but it will not be shelved and forgotten about; there are some real great moment that will undoubtedly find their way on your favourite mixed tapes.