The Unforgiven (review)

The Unforgiven – The Unforgiven (Real Gone Music) review

Hard rock meets spaghetti westerns – only in the Eighties!

The Unforgiven’s debut arrived in 1986, amid an unprecedented record company bidding war.  The concept was certainly an intriguing one – take LA rock and infuse it with spaghetti western and surf music.  The band boasted FOUR guitar players, and donned long dusters and cowboy hats, creating an MTV-ready image.  All the elements were in place for this band to be huge.  Yet, after all the hype, the album completely tanked.  Almost 30 years later, Real Gone Music has made this curious album available again.

The band knew how to write big, sweeping melodies, but the lyrics – all playing up the group’s outlaw image, may have been too much for rock fans to take, with titles like “All is Quiet on the Western Front” and “Hang ‘Em High.”   The album’s single, “I Hear the Call,” is a decent rocker that sounds similar to the Alarm, who also had trouble garnering much success, partly because they straddled too many lines.

The fault here can be placed squarely on producer John Boylan, whose production is just too clean, and the Western & Surf elements were downplayed, in favor group shouts as background vocals (listed in the liner notes as “Gang Vocals”).  This would’ve been much better with a little more punk attitude.

The midtempo “Cheyenne” would’ve made a better single, while “With Boots On” is one of the songs that actually has a decent country overtone, and “The Preacher” features some pretty nice country picking.

As a bonus, the band reconvened recently for “The Long Run Out (The Ballad of the Unforgiven),” their first new recording in years.  Surprisingly, this track has more meat than anything from their debut.

If you’re a fan of mid-Eighties, fist-pumping rock, this one is worth a listen.  —Tony Peters