CD Review: Raging Fire - Everything Is Roses: 1985-1989

This overlooked 1980s Nashville band gets a second chance with an excellent new compilation.
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In the mid 1980s, big hair, spandex and keyboards were all the rage in the music industry. Hard rock and wild guitar solos dominated radio and the ever-important MTV. For a band such as Raging Fire, it was hard to fit in. That's not to say they didn't get noticed. A CMJ readers' poll voted them, along with The Pixies, as one of America's best unsigned bands. Their sound, which mixed elements of punk, with Led Zeppelin and the Who and which featured the distinctive vocals of Melora Zaner, was ahead of its time however, predating grunge by half a decade. Raging Fire wasn't really grunge either though. Labels and radio liked them, but no one really knew what to do with them and the band eventually parted.

Now the band's catalog is being rereleased, including its EP A Family Thing, an album Faith Love Was Made Of, and a host of unreleased tracks. The best of these tracks have been compiled, along with a 2015 rerecording of "More Than This," on the excellent new compilation Raging Fire - Everything Is Roses: 1985-1989.

The compilation opens with the title track to the band's EP, A Family Way. The song begins with a bluesy, acoustic guitar progression and Zaner's distinctive, breathy vocals before slamming into a raw, full-band effort. The track shifts effortlessly between blues, rock and punk and really sounded like nothing on mainstream radio in 1985. All four songs from the EP are included, highlighted by "You Should Read More Books," a track that features an infectious bass, drums and guitar groove.

The next four songs come from the Faith Love Was Made Of album. "Knee Jerk response finds Zaner's vocals drenched in echo over a funky groove while "You And Me" showcases the powerhouse drumming of Mark Medley and some killer slide guitar from Michael Godsey. The song is a hard-driving rocker that highlights all of the band's many influences.

The remaining songs are either unreleased demos or live cuts with two songs featuring on the Ten Of A Kind and Hear Rock City Tennessee Tracks compilations, respectively. "Locusts Sing" is driving hard rock with a dissonant guitar intro predating Nirvana while "The Morning In Her" mixes blues with some intricate picking from Godsey. Zaner gives a gritty vocal on "The Marrying Kind," a song that would not be out of pace stylistically on a Cheap Trick album while the band takes on 60s power pop on "A Desire Scorned." The 2015 rerecording of "More Than This" is a blistering slab of hard rock that shows the band has lost none of its potency to the passage of time.

Raging Fire was a band that was ahead of the curve musically. They never really got their due when they were together and its members have moved on, with some still involved in music. Raging Fire - Everything Is Roses: 1985-1989 offers a fine introduction to this overlooked band.