Handsome Dick Manitoba – Born in the Bronx (Liberation Hall)

To think, it’s been 45 years since The Dictators unleashed their proto-punk debut that was Go Girl Crazy! Fast forward to the arse end of 2019 and it’s another debut, this time from the aforementioned legends’ mouthpiece. Yes, the one and only Handsome Dick Manitoba. I say mouthpiece because when Handsome Dick talks – you listen. The man has been there, done it and bought the fucking t-shirt. But what can we expect from Manitoba’s first full length outing? Well, the results are startling.

If you pick up this disc and expect The Dictators Mk. II, then you may be solely disappointed; but don’t take that as a negative. Sure, the punk vibe is present but there’s so much more going on in this collection of songs. Not that he’s ever played by anyone’s rules, this is Handsome Dick doing things on his own terms and at a time in his life when others would happily churn out the “greatest hits” until their twilight years. However, we do get that trademark humour on Back to My TV with reference points to Kojak and Charlie’s Angels, but essentially Born in The Bronx is just as the title suggests. It’s an album bursting with killer tunes from a man who lives and breathes New York City. There’s certainly a whiff of Bruce Springsteen style storytelling too, but hey, The Boss is already a fan. Thicker Than Blood is a prime example of this, with its soulful delivery. See also the boastful Soul Punk King of NYC where Handsome Dick gives us a yesteryear tour of the city that he holds so dear to his heart.

There’s room for one cover, too. The track that’s tackled is Barry Maguire’s protest song, Eve of Destruction. The track was written by P.F. Sloan, who can posthumously be heard on this version, and I’ll tell you what, it’s an absolute belter of a version as Dick puts his righteous stamp on a dark subject matter. Speaking of which, The Cooker & the Hit delves into the grimy world of drugs and it offsets The Beach Boys inspired Surfside. There’s certainly an echo of (I Live for) Cars and Girls which brought a smile to this scribe’s face.

Kudos must also be given to the album’s collaborator, Mr. Jon Tiven, who plays guitar, tenor saxophone, organ and percussion; while his wife Sally takes on bass duties. The drummers on the album include Mickey Curry (Tina Turner, Hall & Oates, Elvis Costello, Bryan Adams), Michael Shrieve (Santana) and Simon Kirke (Free, Bad Company, Ringo Starr). Not bad, eh?

Home is important to Handsome Dick and on Born in The Bronx he illustrates his love and passion for New York City. Christ, the man is so proud of those streets that you can smell the city on his beaten leather jacket. With early album endorsements from Tom Morello, Kenny Laguna and Lenny Kaye, what more could you ask for? I guess just sincere honesty, and you get that in abundance on this long player. I’ll leave the final words to the man himself: “No regrets! Enjoy!” Now, who can argue with that? Ginge Knievil

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