Monday, November 22, 2010

All Media Reviews Music Essential: Galactic Cowvboys

The Galactic Cowboys

The Galactic Cowboys I first heard about, basically the day or at least the week-of the 1st King's X concert I saw at "The Mirage" in Minneapolis. I recall it being July or August of 1996. King's X had just come under my radar at that time too. But the Galactic Cowboys were opening for them, but they weren't a typical opening act I found. I just recall going to Cheapo a few hours before hand and listening to one or two of their cassette tapes. In 1996, I was still in the mode of buying tapes 1st, just to evaluate how much I liked a band or an album. I also recall distinctly listening to a Faith No More cd (or two) that very same trip and kind of liking it but not enough to buy it.

But I know I picked up Space in Your Face and I believe the Self-titled album that very trip to the Minneapolis Cheapo, which I also recall at that time being located down the block from where it is now on Lake Street.

So then I saw them open for King' X. I actually recall getting in to the show late or the club not letting everyone inside for the start of TGC's set. And years later being rather pissed about that.

King's X blew me away that night, so the Cowboys impression were not as high as 1 of my newest favorite bands were. But I remember sometime soon after that, stumbling upon a small live photo of them in an issue of Metal Edge with some notes from their tour. And now thinking about it, I may have actually had that issue before the concert, and actually read it. It said something about how the Galactic Cowboys "and their great harmonies" and some other things that weren't as typical in hard rock/heavy metal. And almost sounded more of a progressive rock element.

A few years after I picked up Martin Popoff's 1997 book A Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal that had like 10,000 reviews in it, and at least one or more of the Cowboys reviews said "The Beatles meets Metallica" which really sounded cool to me.

So, they went on to release two albums and an EP after that, one that I caught them on tour again with King's X. I believe it was in 1998 at the Medina Ballroom, one cold winter night.

edit: actually, it may have been two more times. Once on tour supporting The Horse that Bud Bought at Ground Zero in Minneapolis, and once supporting At the End of the Day. But every time was with King's X. I came to almost expect those two bands together.

And that was over the course of 3+ years really. 1996 to 1999. I really loved Space in Your Face and the s/t debut album was another one I enjoyed. SIYF had these cool harmonies, and even the Beatles elements that I loved. They actually had some grunge sound to them, but it was only one side to their music. Really being progressive in a lot of ways. How many bands really were influenced, quite obviously, by Metallica and The Beatles? You could say Dream Theater, but not nearly as blatantly. Machine Fish and AtEotD were also both solid records. And after some years, I actually think The Horse that Bud Bought is actually not nearly as bad as I found it when it came out.

I don't recall how long after, but sometime in the year 2000, King's X went on tour, but not with the Cowboys. And not long after that, I found out about the new album Let It Go which would be their last. I do remember specifically reading either online or in Metal Edge that they parted on good terms, and certainly did not rule out the idea of a reunion some day.

And sadly, Let it Go I never got totally into, at least at the time. It was really, a lot different than any of their other albums. But I kind of felt it was in some ways, a good thing it was. But it also often seemed like the band throwing any and all ideas they had into it. It was a lot more diverse stylistically. They used more synths and frankly, free-form jams in it.

Ultimately, I have revisited it and enjoyed it more in recent years.

A few other notes about these guys that cannot be forgotten. Around 1990 or 1991, a record label representative was scouting talent, looking to sign a new band. And somehow the same representative ended up looking at Nirvana and perhaps one other band, along with the Galactic Cowboys. There have been quotes about the fact the only reason Nirvana was signed over the Galactic Cowboys was due to their name being more market-able. And Kurt Cobain was quoted as being surprised by that after hearing The Galactic Cowboys. Saying something of the effect "I don't know why they signed us over that band the Galactic Cowboys. After all, they actually CAN sing."

So myself and many of the longtime Cowboys fans think about that and what could have been.

The Galactic Cowboys did end up opening for Dream Theater around 1992 or '93. And I don't recall if I realized it before or after I saw them open for King's X, but of course the clip that shows some of the guys in Dream Theater's Music In Progress: Live in Tokyo video with them singing "Take the Time" is priceless. I guess they joined the band on stage for that one, maybe on more than one occasion. They also opened for Savatage around that time, either the s/t or Space In Your Face period. Of course I wasn't aware of any of those bands at the time so I never caught a show from either of those tours.

Awful Truth was a band Monty Colvin and Alan Doss were in in the late 1980's, that released one full-length cd. For many years I wanted to hear it, and I remember Impulse Music or Wild Side Records having it for sale, but I never got around to buying it. But thankfully about two years ago I found a copy on ebay. That along with some of the bootlegs and bootleg videos I have are among my most cherished Cowboys items, from a rarity and collectors stand point.

They were a brilliant band, who maybe even Beatallica fans owe something too now, given what Beatallica are (and TGC's style in a lot ways was), but sadly never were truly understood. Although more so than fellow Texas d-tuned prog band Atomic Opera. They just never fully got the break they deserved. Maybe one reason why I admire their work even more in some ways, some 15 years later. The reunion shows that happened last Summer would have been sweet to see but money and some other factors made it a bit too hard for me to attend. I did see them three times at least, and perhaps they'll do another reunion eventually. Maybe with King's X again.

I've always felt they were better than pretty much every one of the grunge bands of their time. Better songwriters, better at writing melodies, funnier, and better technical players. And definitely much better singers.

Albums: Space In Your Face, Galactic Cowboys, At the End of the Day, Machine Fish
Songs: Blind, Sea of Tranquillity, Still Life of Peace, You Make Me Smile, Where Are You Now?, No Problems, Feel the Rage, Ranch On Mars, My Old School, Tiltawhirl