Georgia Satellites – Ultimate (Lemon Records)
“We played whatever we wanted and answered to no one.”
Rick Richards might have been referencing the early days of Georgia Satellites in the sleeve notes complementing Ultimate’s essential 80s soundtrack.
But a reassuringly familiar ‘fuck you’ refrain runs right through this delightfully off trend three-disc set.
Rarely fashionable, regularly refusing to toe the line and always up for a fight, the Satellites were a fans’ band.
Making the music they loved, rather than writing the hit songs that could have made them a fortune, the quartet (almost) always stayed true to their dyed-in-double-denim rock and roll roots.
And Ultimate is a glorious trip down memory lane as Dan Baird and co. journey towards greatness before settling, somewhat appropriately, In The Land Of Salvation And Sin.
Georgia Satellites raise the bar
During a short but sweet assessment of Georgia’s finest, Richards also describes the Satellites as a ‘bar band – nothing more, nothing less’.
Whether he means to or not, the legendary lead guitarist is doing his mates a major disservice.
Even in their early days the Satellites were always much, much more than a bar band.
Or at least their songcraft and ambition clearly didn’t belong forever shackled in a back-alley Atlanta dive.
Baird’s ear for an authentic tune and eye for a catchy lyric was captured to perfection on the band’s raw and riotous self-titled debut.
Only Bon Jovi kept Keep Your Hands To Yourself off the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987.
And the band just about kept the pot boiling with their version of Terry Anderson’s Battleship Chains.
Baird’s ability to blend Southern rock with outlaw country struck a chord even as hair metal’s heroes launched their spandex-fuelled assault on the mainstream.
And much like fellow misfits Tesla, Georgia Satellites’ determination to stay true to their roots helped grow a loyal fanbase and a solid reputation.
Closing the door on Open All Night?
Baird often describes 1988’s Open All Night as a difficult second album.
And he refuses to dig too deep into that period of the band’s history during an otherwise illuminating contribution to the new interviews included here.
But Baird does admit that the addition of Ian McLagan on keys was a masterstroke and the top tinkler’s contribution is writ large across Open All Night.
The Satellites’ second album might inspire mixed feelings in the man behind the mic.
And yet it’s a firm fan favourite that still gains regular rotation on the Rushonrock decks.
The party-starting title track, up-tempo ‘love song’ Sheila, and the McLagan-inspired Whole Lotta Shakin’ and Hand To Mouth showcase Baird and co. at their affecting best.
Bundled with the Ultimate version are six bonus tracks including Hippy Hippy Shake (featured on the Cocktail soundtrack) and a brilliant live blast of Battleship Chains.
But the pick of the bunch for Open All Night afficionados is the remix of Sheila — surely one of the finest Satellites’ tracks of all time?
Baird belongs In The Land Of Salvation And Sin
If Baird can take or leave the band’s second album then he’s convinced 1989’s In The Land Of Salvation And Sin represents a coming of age for Richards’ bar band.
And he’s not alone.
In a recent Rushonrock interview, Quireboys’ Paul Guerin (who’s performed live with Baird) said: “Dan’s writing reached its pinnacle on In The Land Of Salvation And Sin.
“He calls it ‘The Divorce Album’ and it’s his emotions laid bare.”
Never a truer word spoken from a self-confessed Satellites fan and it’s true that ITLOSAS elevates the band to an exciting new level.
The stars align on a record that mixes astute musicality with painfully raw emotions.
Bottle O’ Tears, Another Chance and Days Gone By ripple with underlying angst.
And yet there’s a sense of hopefulness at the heart of this criminally underrated classic.
Still not sure about the Satellites as a songwriting force? Skip to Stellazine Blues and then pass judgement on Baird and his buddies.
Five bonus tracks are bolted on to ITLOSAS’s powerhouse 14-track set and it’s the groove-laden That Woman which stand out as an ass-kicking hidden gem.
Three discs, 54 tracks and a neat career resume of a booklet ensure Ultimate does what it says on the tin.
This is the throwback celebration of the Satts that fans have craved for decades.
Dive in, shake out and recall one of the greatest rock and roll stories rarely told.