Citadel Years - Deniz Tek (Citadel)
Even if Radio Birdman were the sum of its parts, the solo output of its members surely deserves more than the cursory consideration many have been prepared to give. Case in point is this album. Deniz Tek has built a formidable body-of-work outside the framework of
It's by no means the whole picture; the clean and lean "Take It To The Vertical" and its calculatingly lethal follow-up, "Outside", were out-of-bounds because of licensing complications. It is cleverly tracked to both deliver maximum impact and smooth out the inevitable sonic variations that come from drawing songs from half a dozen albums and two EPs. Most of "Citadel Years" is out-of-print or hard to find so pulling the pieces together isn't such a bad idea.
As well as the "Equinox", "Le Bonne Route" and "Got Live" albums, selections come from the fringes of the Tek solo oeuvre with the East Coast garage outfit Deep Reduction, Detroit alumni super group Dodge Main and raucous power trio Golden Breed. Tek's contribution to hardcore punk band The Last Of The Bad Men is overlooked and would have been out of place. Also MIA is his two albums with fellow Ann Arbor old boy Scott Morgan.
You probably know what you're going to get. If not, this is a good place to start to catch up on the Tek story, outside the confines of Birdman. There's some wickedly powerful guitar-playing, while Deniz's workmanlike guitar player's voice (or "the damaged instrument" as he's called it) holds the fort adequately. Tek's natural turf is over-driven guitar rock and ther's only as handful of contemporaries who can hold a candle to the playing on this collection.
The lesser-heard gems are the supercharged "2 Pam Chloride", recorded in front of an audience with the mercurial Godoy brothers on board, a stupendous "Steel Beach" and a re-worked live "Hand of Law." The surprise is a "Zeno Beach" pre-production demo of a song called "Photo Album", by Radio Birdman. Tek takes the vocal on an "Exile"-styled ballad that's worthy but ultimately probably wasn't obtuse or dark enough to have made the final cut.
At the core of "Citadel Years" is the two-album combo of Tek-Dickson-Rieth-Steedman and the group's recordings recall what a powerful force of nature they were. Some of Deniz's ventures have been criticised for being hastily committed to tape but this version of the Deniz Tek Group never put a foot wrong.
"Doom-laden" is a term that's been applied ad nausueum to Deniz Tek compositions and there's a lot of those descending chord progressions in evidence, but to characterise all his music that way sells it short. There's a deft lyricism in "Heavy Air" with its descriptions of childhood's senses while "Imaginary Man" tries to get inside human consciousness.
The other inevitability - Stooges comparisons - gets left at the door at the get-go. "Christmas Eve" leads off and owes more to Hendrix than being real o-mind, while Johnny Winter's "Meantown Blues" shows the Tek influences go much wider. The early Deep Reduction tracks ("Black Tulip", "Last Flight of the Owl") reside in jangly '60s territory, but of course there's plenty of the harder stuff if you want it.