Monday, November 03, 2014

The Hot Dogs - Say What You Mean (Good Rock Album US 1973)

Size: 89.3 MB
Bitrate: 256
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Artwork Included
Source: Japan 24-Bit Remaster

The Hot Dogs were a Memphis group who recorded for Stax offshoot Ardent Records in the early- to mid-'70s. Ardent was also Big Star's label and studio during this time period, and the Hot Dogs were a similar band in many respects, drawing on the same mix of Beatlesque guitars and harmonies, although without the skewed, edgy deconstructive feel that made Big Star so distinctive and posthumously revered. 

A loose conglomeration of Stax session players, including singer and bassist Bill Rennie, singer, guitarist and pianist Greg Reding, and later, guitarist Jack Holder and drummer Fred Prouty, along with producer and lead guitarist Terry Manning, the Hot Dogs released two albums, the pretty, harmony driven Say What You Mean in 1973, and the rockier, less distinctive Hot Dog in 1977. Say What You Mean is a lovely set, highlighted by the title track, which features some spot-on George Harrison-styled lead guitar work, and "Morning Rain," which sounds like a lost Zombies song with some funky Memphis organ tossed into the mix. 

"Take the Time to Let Me Know" is another gem, with its massed acoustic and electric guitars building to a nice, leisurely crescendo. Mellow, melodic, and full of wonderful vocal harmonies, Say What You Mean will be of interest to Big Star fans (producer Manning also worked with Big Star member Chris Bell at Ardent), and is a stellar of example of that curious Memphis power pop micro-genre that centered around the Ardent studios in the early 1970s.

The Hot Dogs featured the talents of Memphis-based musicians Greg Reding and Bill Rennie.  keyboardist/guitar player Reding had previously been a member of Village Sound, while singer/bass player Rennie had been in The Poor Little Rich Kids (he was known as Bill Renni).  Along with former Piccadilly Circus guitarist Jack Holder, in 1970 the pair started playing together under the moniker Silver.  The same year the trio went into Memphis' famed Ardent Studios to record some demos. The demos caught the attention of producer Terry Manning who brought in sessions drummer Prouty for backup.  Unfortunately Silver  fell apart before anything could come of it, with Reding and Rennie subsequently paying their bills as touring sidemen for Albert King.   

Back in Memphis, 1972 saw Reding and Rennie renew their relationship with producer Manning and with his support went into the Stax-affiliated Ardent Studios to record an album.  With backing from Holder, guitarist Robert Johnson, and Prouty, 1973's Manning-produced "Say What You Mean" was a surprisingly likeable set of British-influenced power pop.  With Reding and Rennie responsible for much of the material (Manning also contributed several tracks), these guys clearly had an affection for English-styled pop with more than a passing nod to the Fab Four.  In fact, imagine what Badfinger would have sounded like if they'd been from Memphis and you'd be in the right aural ballpark.

The Hot Dogs - US Single 1974 (Terry Manning)
01. The title track 'Say What You Mean' was a gorgeous ballad with a haunting melody and some beautiful harmony vocals.  Even better were the stunning guitar solos (I'm guessing Holder and Johnson were the featured performers).  You had to wonder how this was overlooked as a single. 
02. Kicked along by a xylophone (?), 'Morning Rain' started out with a beguiling laidback tropical feel, before taking brief detours into Uriah Heep organ terrain, following by a Hammond B3 cocktail jazz interlude, and ending with a tasteful lead guitar (Terry manning?).  For some reason this one's always reminded me of an early Steely Dan track.  It would have slotted nicely on "Can't Buy a Thrill".  Very nice.   
03. Shifting gears 'When I Come Home Again' displayed the group's proficiency in the country-rock department.  Nice melody with an incidiously catchy chorus be forewarned that  this one will stick in your head.   
04. 'Time Is All' started out as an acoustic ballad, but exploded into an outright rocker before returning to it's roots.  Not my favorite track, though the guitar solo was pretty hot ... 
05. Side one ended with another acoustic ballad in 'Another Smile'.  This one had a pretty melody and some wonderful harmony vocals from the pair.  Always liked the chiming twelve strings and the handclap percussion on this one. 
06. 'Thanks' was one of the track that reminded me of something out of the Badfinger catalog.  Pretty melody and a dazzling guitar solo made this one of the best songs on the album.  Great Rennie bass pattern to boot. 
07. 'Take the Time To Let Me Know' was another pretty ballad, but it didn't really go anywhere.  Once again the highlight came in the form of the tasty guitar solo. 
08. Manning's 'Feel Real Fine' offered up a weird mix of country and rock influences.  It was definitely weird and almost sounded like a "White Album" outtake. Kicked along by some acoustic slide guitar and harmonica, this was actually one of the catchiest numbers.  Beats me why I like it so much.   
09. Starting off as another country-tinged number the mandolin-propelled 'Let Me Look At the Sun' came as another major surprise.  Showcasing a fabulous melody and the album's best lead guitar, this was another lost single. 
10. Following a pattern, 'Way To Get To You' opened up with spare acoustic guitars before bursting into a fuller rock arrangement.  Another pretty melody with glorious harmony vocals ... 
11. 'Lowdown' ended the album with another out-and-out rocker.  While the song was quite good (another killer guitar performance), on this one Reding and Rennie seemed somewhat uncomfortable singing in the high key.  This one was tapped at their third and final single.  

01. Say What You Mean   (Steve Smith - S.T. Smith) - 6:34 
02. Morning Rain    (Greg Reding - Bill Rennie - Terry Manning) - 4:48 
03. When I Come Home Again   (Steve Smith - S.T. Smith) - 2:23 
04. Time Is All   (Bill Rennie - Jack Holder - Terry Manning - Ruleman) - 3:32 
05. Another Smile  (Bill Rennie - Terry Manning) - 2:55 
06. Thanks    (Greg Reding - Bill Rennie) - 2:53 
07. Take the Time To Let Me Know    (Greg Reding - Jack Holder - Bill Rennie) - 3;34 
08. Feel Real Fine  (Terry Manning) - 2:53 
09. Let Me Look At the Sun    (Bill Rennie - Terry Manning) - 3:52 
10. Way To Get To You    (Greg Reding - Bill Rennie) - 2:33 
11. Lowdown    (Greg Reding - Bill Rennie - Terry Manning) - 3:33

1. The Hot Dogs
2. The Hot Dogs


Ice X said...

If you like this, you'll love a self-titled album by Ardent label-mate, Cargoe. Excellent band from Tulsa, Oklahoma. In fact, it's my deserted island disc, if I could only pick one (over Beatles & Dylan, both of whom I love dearly).

Sean said...

Anyone who enjoys Big Star's Radio City (that would be everyone, right?) should get into this. Excellent, thanks.

mdhjhw said...

As always amazing treasure from the past, thanks a lot !!

Anonymous said...


Daniel said...

Thank you Chris, this was totally unknown to me

Daniel said...

It sounds a lot like Stealers Wheel...

Anonymous said...

Great write-up, thanks!

I heard these guys on the "Thank You Friends" Ardent compilation.