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Concrete Blonde

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Concrete Blonde is an alternative rock band based in the United States. They were initially active from the early 1980s to 1995, and reunited in 2001. They are best known for the poignant songwriting and vocals of Johnette Napolitano.

Singer-songwriter/bassist Johnette Napolitano formed the band Dream 6 with guitarist James Mankey in Los Angeles in 1982, releasing an eponymous EP in France on the Happy Hermit label in 1983. When they signed with I.R.S. Records in 1986, labelmate Michael Stipe suggested the name Concrete Blonde, describing the contrast between their hard rock music and introspective lyrics. During an MTV interview, Napolitano can also be quoted as saying that the name Concrete Blonde is just “two words that sound good together.” They were joined by drummer Harry Rushakoff on their eponymous debut album. Roxy Music drummer Paul Thompson replaced Rushakoff on Bloodletting and several tracks on Mexican Moon, while Rushakoff was in treatment for drug addiction. Rushakoff rejoined the band to record 2002’s Group Therapy, but was kicked out of the band for failing to show up for a performance. He was replaced by Gabriel Ramirez.

After venting some severely pent-up spleen on their Group Therapy, L.A.’s Concrete Blonde wandered into the parched desert outback that surrounds their hometown for inspiration. But the fiercely independent spirit that’s been the trio’s evocative creative muse leads them down some challenging gulches here.

Mojave provides a musical postcard from the edge of civilization, where lonely strips of asphalt wind their way through the coyote’s backyard. Now the denizens of the desert that gave the album its name, singer/bassist Johnette Napolitano, guitarist Jim Mankey and drummer Gabriel Ramirez, provide a soundtrack to the scenic Southwest. The desert’s strange beauty is reflected throughout “Mojave”, from the shadowy, bass-driven opening track “A Road” to the sprawling soundscapes and ghostly vocals of “My Tornado at Rest.” Spirit animals come crawling out of the arid night, with reptiles shedding skin in “Snakes” and Johnette explaining the mysterious desert dogs on “Hey Coyote.” The specter-like quality of the desert’s night sky is also captured in a haunting cover of “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” the old Western chestnut re-popularized by Southern rockers, The Outlaws, in the early ‘80s

Their most commercially successful album was Bloodletting (1990), fueled by the top 40 radio hit “Joey”. The band broke up in 1993, but reunited in 2001, releasing the albums Group Therapy (2002) and Mojave (2004). On June 5, 2006, Napolitano announced in a MySpace blog entry that the band has officially retired. From the Concrete Blonde website, there is the following open message: “Thanks to everyone who heard and believed in the music. Music lives on. Keep listening. Keep believing, keep dreaming. Like a ripple, the music moves and travels and finds you. Drive to the music, Make love to the music, cry to the music. That’s why we made it. Long after we’re gone the music will still be there. Thanks to everyone who helped us bring the music to you & thanks to every face and every heart in every audience all over the world.”

In 2007, Napolitano performed the main vocals on the score of the new Australian film West, written and directed by Daniel Krige. She also sings the title song, “Falling in Love”. West had its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festiva. She also supplied music for another Australian movie titled Candy and for two other films as well, besides touring the United States to promote her solo work entitled Scarred in an acoustical set featuring the Concrete Blonde classics.

On November 25, 2008, “Long Time Ago” was used during the final credits during the series finale, Season 7 of The Shield.


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