BUST MAGAZINE
Summer '03 Issue

THE BELLRAYS
RAW COLLECTION

The joy of watching Oakland's BellRays play live is seeing them knock unenthusiastic, middle-aged punks on their asses with some "maximum rock 'n' soul." They're the real deal - a band that can play like Black Flag with giant afro-ed lead singer Lisa Kekaula belting it out like Aretha. Given their rep, it's a shame that this album is such a mixed bag. songs like "Swastika" never ignite, while others like "The Same Way" get stuck in your head for days, and a few, like "Say What You Mean" can produce that getting-your-ass-kicked-by-James-Brown feeling so characteristic of a BellRays live show. But this hit-or-miss feeling is common with most collections of B-sides and outtakes. If you want to get a true sense of what the band is like, better to start with Let It Blast or Grand Fury. Better yet, you could just put early Ike and Tina in your Walkman and push yourself down a flight of stairs. Either way, don't consider this album to be an accurate measure of the full lurid fury of the BellRays. - Rufus F.


The Big Takeover
issue #52
The BellRays - RAW COLLECTION


The BellRays seemed to be flavor of the month for a while a couple years
ago - after all, since the '60s, who's ever heard of a band with
hard-edged rock backing fronted by a soul-wailing black woman? But
attentions have drifted away, and now the band isn't given the credit it
deserves for having both a brilliantly original sound and a passion and
intensity that few other groups can rival. This album is a collection
of singles and compilation tracks, and despite a few second choice
moments it mostly delivers a punch that can knock down walls. Singer
Lisa Kekaula can do justice equally to a firestorm performance of THE
SAINTS' "Nights in Venice" or to the soulfully crooned "Mind's Eye."
The BellRays deserve to be thought of as a lot more than this week's
model - they're one of the significant American bands of the past five
years, and this record is just one more piece of evidence. - Steve Gardner


 

May 28 - June 3, 2003

THE BELLRAYS
Raw Collection
(Uppercut)
Odds and sods set from essential L.A. outfit.
The BellRays are one of SoCal's greats, particularly singer Lisa Kekaula, a no-bullshit belter with a voice as hot as a blowtorch (reviewers reference Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin and easily get away with it) and a backing band to match, a telepathically tight three-piece that does everything the MC5 did—and with 40 percent less manpower. Their debut full-length, Let It Blast, and follow-up, Grand Fury, are mandatory for new listeners; fans not true enough to have picked up the vinyl the first time around can chase off most (but not all) of the guilt with this, a collection of B-sides and rarities going all the way back to 1995, when garage—as far as the glossy music press was concerned—was just something to keep your oily rags in. There's enough here to basically count as an unofficial album, anchored by such standouts as "Tie Me Down," "Suicide Baby," and "Say What You Mean," all released the same year Blast came out and all bursting with the same pulverizing energy. The final, less frantic, and most recent tracks ("I Lost the Feeling" and "The Same Way," both from Brit import singles) offer more of a chance to catch your breath in between the BellRays' Godzilla blues, a welcome comedown from a bracing ride. A band that can put together a non-album-tracks compilation (traditionally, something between freak show and graveyard, unless you're the Velvet Underground) that's this consistent should be a hipster household name by now, and anyone who wants to play around at rock 'n' roll should have half these songs already.
-- CHRIS ZIEGLER


May 23 - 29, 2003



THE BELLRAYS
RAW COLLECTION
UPPERCUT

The BellRays are one of SoCal’s greats, and singer Lisa Kekaula is one of our greatest, a no-bullshit belter with a voice as hot as a blowtorch—reviewers reference Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin and easily get away with it—and a backing band to match, a telepathically tight three-piece that does everything the MC5 did with 40 percent less manpower. Their debut full-length, Let It Blast, and follow-up, Grand Fury, are mandatory for new listeners; fans not true enough to have picked up the vinyl the first time around can chase off most (but not all) of the guilt with this, a collection of B-sides and rarities going all the way back to 1995, when garage—as far as the glossy music press was concerned—was just something to keep your oily rags in. There’s enough here to basically count as an unofficial album, anchored by such standouts as "Tie Me Down," "Suicide Baby" and "Say What You Mean," all released the same year Blast came out and all bursting with the same pulverizing energy. The final, less frantic and most recent tracks ("I Lost the Feeling" and "The Same Way," both from Brit import singles) offer more of a chance to catch your breath in between the BellRays’ Godzilla blues, a welcome comedown from a bracing ride. A band that can put together a non-album-tracks compilation (traditionally, something between freak show and graveyard, unless you’re the Velvet Underground) that’s this consistent should be a hipster household name by now, and anyone who wants to play around at rock & roll should have half these songs already. -- Chris Ziegler


3/28/2003

I want to be annoyed at the BellRays for doing this. I mean, come on -- Raw Collection, which gathers compilation tracks, vinyl-only-rarities and various oddities from their recent past, is their second reissue-ish disc in as many years. We haven't had new material from the band in almost three years. I salute the BellRays for not attempting to latch onto the whole garage-rock trend, and support their right to tour in support of reissued material that relatively few people caught the first time around, but I'd sure like to hear some new stuff!

On the other hand, Raw Collection is so good that I'm willing to wait.

As the title implies, this is the BellRays at their most passionate and unpolished shy of a live recording. Mind you, they're a tight-as-hell ensemble, so we're not talking about sloppy playing -- we're talking about the unbridled, skin-searing electricity of the band's rock-and-soul rave-ups. Guitarist/songwriter Tony Fate and show-stealing bassist Bob Vennum are a winning combo, comfortable on everything from "Mind's Eye"'s sunny sixties soul to "Pinball City"'s feedback-drenched, solo-happy excesses. Ray Chin rips into his drumkit like a man possessed, as does Todd Westover on the sizzling "Rude Awakening". Guys like Vennum, Fate and Chin are the unsung heroes of rock and roll -- they're such loose, instinctive, unaffected players that you'll truly believe they can play absolutely anything with 60 seconds notice. I'm sure they could wipe the floor with your favorite Brooklyn-based saviors of rock 'n' roll.

Much has been written about BellRays vocalist Lisa Kekaula, and rightly so; her R&B-turned-punk approach, inner demons channeled into ferocious quasi-religious fervor, is far more sincere, and far less laughable, than your favorite hardcore screamer's bloody-throated angst. She's relatively calm here, at least in comparison to the band's live shows. Skip ahead to "Gather Darkness", "Tie Me Down" and "Say What You Mean" if you haven't heard what Kekaula can do when she gets fired up.

While younger punk-rock types might be put off by classic-rock-leaning tracks like "The Same Way" and "Mind's Eye", Raw Collection offers enough indisputably magical moments to satisfy all comers. The ferocious "Gather Darkness" tops Kekaula's rage with Fate and Vennum's acid-drenched interplay, while "Rude Awakening" compresses classic R&B into a double-time punk-rock sprawl (if you've ever seen the band live, you've probably seen them do this one). Spasmodic instrumental "Swastika" casts doubts on At The Drive-In's originality, and the BellRays' cover of the Saints' "Nights in Venice" -- a pogo-crazed classic -- threatens to outdo the original.

Here's a slightly more pragmatic reason to nab a copy of Raw Collection: it includes the entire Smash The Hits EP, better known as "that damn eight-inch single". An eight-inch single sounds like a great collector's item, but it's actually a horrendous pain in the ass. Not only is it pressed on shitty thin vinyl, but it won't fit with your 7" singles, gets lost among your LPs, and, well, let's be honest: if you have a crate specifically designated for 10" singles and other offsize vinyl, you need to get out more. Now, at last, you can let Smash the Hits sink in among its larger brethren. Slip it in a polybag, tell your friends you bought it as an investment, and never look back.

If you ask me, any new BellRays material, even new BellRays material that isn't really new BellRays material, is a good thing. There's a sincerity here that you won't find in most other rock music; the BellRays rock because they've got to rock, even if their songs are issued on cheap vinyl in 500-count runs. They're getting the word out, dammit, and you're either with them or against them. If Raw Collection doesn't make you a willing conscript to their cause, you have no rock in your soul. Or vice versa. -- George Zahora
 


The Bellrays
"Raw Collection" CD
(Uppercut Records)

(REVIEW BY RUTLEDGE) Now Wave Zine   

One of the most heavily-publicized underground bands of our time, Riverside, California’s Bellrays have never failed to live up to the hype. The very IDEA of the group (booming soul-sista vocals meet kick-out-the-jams-motherfucker punk rock n’ roll and maximum R & B) was a stroke of brilliance from the beginning. And the group has always brought that vision to life with enough verve, style, and sheer sonic force to power a thousand rock revolutions. The devastatingly sexy Lisa Kekaula is indubitably the finest crooner in the land, and no band on the planet makes music more visceral and powerful than the Bellrays’ gutsy, sweaty brand of high energy soul-punk. The hoopla is dead-on: The Bellrays really ARE the missing link between The Stooges and James Brown!

RAW COLLECTION is probably not the best place to start if you’re looking to check out The Bellrays. But diehard fans will surely be THRILLED by this singles collection, which compiles 15 rare, out-of-print ’rays tracks from the years 1995-2002. 11 of the songs are appearing on the CD format for the first time ever! Once again you can hear full-blown scorchers like “Pinball City” and the band’s INCREDIBLE cover of The Saints’ “Nights In Venice”! Also essential are the sultry R & B gem “You’re Sorry Now”, the Who-like pop song “Mind’s Eye”, the Memphis soul workout “Mother Pinball”, and the stoner sludge-metal anthem “Gather Darkness”.

As advertised, the tuneage on this disc is truly RAW in the best sense of the word. Minus any studio trickery or big-budget sheen, the sound here is ferocious, primitive, and flat-out kick-ass. And with so much of today’s punk music sorely lacking in heart, fire, and originality, it’s always a pleasure to rock out to The Bellrays.
 



The BellRays
- Raw Collection (CD, Uppercut, Rock/soul/pop) By LMNOP

The BellRays are one hell of a quartet. Unlike most super hip bands...they are truly deserving of all the praise they receive in the press. If you've heard the band then you already know the score. If you haven't heard them yet, The BellRays can best be described as power soul. The band plays hard rock with one unique difference. Vocalist Lisa Kekaula is the Tina Turner of underground rock in the United States. This charged up lady can belt out tunes like nobody's business. She's got the voice...she's got a great sassy look...and she has a voice that'll literally knock you out of your seat. Raw Collection is exactly that. The album collects previous vinyl 7" releases, compilation tracks, and other various choice nuggets by the band...all slapped together on one goddamn rockin' little motherf*ckin' CD. The sound quality varies from track to track (which is to be expected)...but that detracts little from fifteen cuts that reaffirm this band's position in the undercurrents of American rock music. Includes "You're Sorry Now," "Half A Mind," "Suicide Baby," "The Same Way," and much, much more. Killer stuff. (Rating: 5+)

 



The Bellrays
Raw Collection
Upper Cut Records

"Punk and soul" is the best way to describe the music from this soul-styling, punked-up rock band. This retrospective is subtitle "A collection of 7", 8", compilation tracks and occasional stray dogs from 1995 to 2002." These "odds and sods" typify a muscular, serpentine blend of the emotive (soul) and explosive (punk). Rather than try to mollify this dynamic blend with nicey-nice vocals, lead vocalist Lisa Kekaula deals it out just as unrestrained as the rest of the quartet. Her husky delivery moves this band into the arena of the early, '60's Detroit-Ann Arbor rock-n-soul of MC5, The Rationals and The Up. Take "maximum R&B" of The Who's Live at Leeds crossed with The Stooges Fun House and you have an idea of what Raw Collection is. (4.5)


Suite101.com

Artist: THE BELLRAYS

Album: Raw Collection

The Scoop: A treat for fans and newcomers alike. L.A. soul-punkers The BellRays have built a solid critical following with their unique blend of MC5/Detroit frenzy and the power generator vocals of Lisa Kekaula. Raw Collection is a compilation of cuts from out-of-print singles and other odds-and-ends (11 of the album’s 15 tracks appear on CD for the first time), so while it offers an enlightening timeline of the band’s sound, it is by no means a Greatest Hits. Sometimes a B-side is really just a B-side. But, perhaps surprisingly for a collection of its nature, there are more gems than duds. Tony Fate, the band’s main songwriting force, slows things down slightly for the uber-accessible jangle of “Mind’s Eye.” Mostly, though, the needle rests lovingly on overdrive. The band takes on The Saints with “Nights In Venice” and achieves delirious, dance-demanding results. Bob Vennum’s bass is mixed in to make you feel like the band is rattling your walls from down the street.

Highlight Tracks: “Mind’s Eye” and “Nights In Venice”