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- Posted on Aug 1st 2010 11:15AM by Kenneth Partridge
Ponderosa Stomp is dedicated to giving unsung American musicians their due and until last year, few bands were more obscure than Death. The group formed in 1973 when three black teenagers -- brothers Bobby, Dannis and David Hackney -- stopped playing funk and soul and started kicking out MC5-style jams, much to the consternation and confusion of their East Detroit neighbors. Death lasted only a few years and its music might have been completely forgotten had it not been for the discovery of some vintage recordings, which were released last year as the seven-track album '...For the Whole World to See.'
Saturday afternoon, Death resurrected -- the possibilities for such puns are endless -- those seven tunes and played one not included on the collection, announcing that a second disc, 'Spiritual, Mental, Physical,' is scheduled for a fall release.
On such tunes as 'You're a Prisoner,' a Hendrix-gone-garage rave-up, and 'Keep on Knocking,' no doubt inspired by the Who concert David attended in 1973, the band sounded sharp and rehearsed -- anything but rusty. This isn't surprising, since Death wasn't the end for the Hackney brothers. The trio continued playing together after relocating to Vermont, and for the last few decades, singer and bassist Bobby and drummer Dannis have been performing together in the reggae band Lambsbread. Saturday afternoon, that group's guitarist, Bobby Duncan, filled in for David Hackney, who died in 2000 before history got around to validating his faith in Death.
"He believed to the day he died our music would reach the world," Bobby Hackney told the audience, which was also treated to sets by reunited trash punkers the Gories, garage stalwarts Question Mark and the Mysterians and rock/soul lifer Mitch Ryder. As a tribute to their fallen brother, Bobby and Dannis decorated the stage with two life-sized photos of David. Pictured with his guitar, wearing an afro, muttonchops and white karate gi, he looked like the star of the greatest rock 'n' roll kung-fu blacksploitation flick never filmed.
On 'Let the World Turn,' a quiet-loud-quiet prog-punk mini-epic, Bobby sang, "Whatever is behind you / leave it in the past / can't you see what's coming?" Nearly 40 years after those words were written, Death doesn't have to choose between the past and the future. They're the same thing.