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Review: 'GIANT SAND'
'Returns To Valley Of Rain'   

-  Label: 'Fire Records'
-  Genre: 'Alt/Country' -  Release Date: '10th August 2018'

Our Rating:
'Valley of Rain' was this prolific Tucson band's debut album released on Enigma Records in 1985. A 25th anniversary edition was presented by Fire with a paltry 2 bonus tracks and then the same label put out a more substantial 30th anniversary double LP entitled 'Beyond The Valley Of Rain' with a dozen bonus + live tracks. This seemed to be the final word and Howe Gelb and the distributors appeared to concur since the album was billed as being "as originally intended".

Certainly, Giant Sand aficionados who paid good money for one or both reissues would have every right to be miffed that Fire Records now want them to buy the selfsame eleven tracks all over again on the basis that "this new re-recording of that first album now sounds like it should’ve sounded".

The punkish energy they captured is part of the album's appeal but Gelb, it now transpires, always had the nagging feeling that it could have been even better if they'd only used better equipment.

The raw original recording of 1983 was done in an impromptu studio session in under two days. It featured Howe Gelb on vocals, guitar; Scott Garber on fretless bass with Winston Watson on drums for most of it and Tommy Larkins on drums for some of it.

Band leader, Gelb was a novice to the recording process and, knowing nothing of the possibilities of tube (valve) amps, recorded with a Roland JC120 at the 8 track facilities of The Control Center in Korea Town, Los Angeles by Ricky “Mix” Novak. The total cost of the day and a half recording was $400 including one 1” reel of 30 minute tape.

The same line up reconvened for this new recording with both original drummers and bassist Scott Garber on five tracks (Thøger Lund plays bass on the rest).

The trio is supplemented by the two newest members Gabriel Sullivan and Annie Dolan on guitars, neither of whom were even born when the original record first came out. Kid Congo Powers plays slide on Artists and Man Of Want.

It was re-done for the same cost ($400) ,in the same day and a half session time as the original (at Tucson's Dust & Stone Recording Studio) but this time round they used a Fender 30 amp.

It all sounds remarkably fresh and spontaneous, giving the impression that all concerned had a blast in the studio. Gelb's voice is a little deeper now but he seems re-energised by revisiting these old tunes as if the whole project was a cunning plan to offset a mid-life crisis. Annie Dolan also sings backing vocals to give some extra range.

It's all good, vibrant stuff with standout tracks being Down On Town/ Love's No Answer and Tumble & Tear. The latter now opens the album in place of the title track

All things considered this should finally be the last 'Valley Of Rain' release but who knows what will happen when the 50th anniversary comes round!

Howe Gelb & Giant Sand's website
  author: Martin Raybould

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GIANT SAND - Returns To Valley Of Rain