Ferocious Dog – 'Ferocious Dog (10 Year Anniversary Edition)' Album Review
Disc 1 – Ferocious Dog (Remastered)
1. The Glass 2. Lee’s Tune 3. On The Rocks 4. Too Late 5. Freeborn John 6. Hell Hounds 7. Quiet Paddy 8. Lyla 9. Criminal Justice 10. Pocket Of Madness 11. Blind Leading The Blind 12. Freethinker 13. Mairis Wedding Pt II 14. Paddy On The Railway 15. Verse For Lee
Disc 2 – Live At Leeds Orchestral 1. Landscape Artist 2. A&B 3. Class War 4. Mairis Wedding Pt 3 5. Yellow Feather 6. 1914 7. Justice For ’96 8. The Demon 9. Broken Soldier 10. Lacey-Lee 11. Criminal Justice 12. Blind Leading The Blind 13. Too Late (2022)
Ferocious Dog, they’ve been around for a while slowly building up their reputation releasing self-funded albums, playing toilets, festivals and generally being such a kick ass live band that whoever followed them really had to be on top of their game. After years of hard graft Ferocious Dog finally got signed by Graphite Records and released 'The Hope' which charted in the mainstream charts at 31 which is a huge achievement for what isn’t really main stream music. With the release of 'The Hope' and it charting Ferocious Dog have achieved new successes and a whole new bunch of fan as they’ve converted main people with their fun, infectious performances at various festivals. With it being 10 years since the release of their debut album it seems Graphite Records/Ferocious Dog have decided to put a special remastered anniversary edition of the album. Whilst you could say that this is another cash in to focus on the new fans there is a second disc of Live songs (more of that later).
Lets be honest there weren’t many people or rather Hell Hounds aware of Ferocious Dog when they first released their self-titled debut. I won’t claim to be among them, I’d heard the name but nothing else. I even saw them support The Levellers in 2017 (I think) and although I thought they were bloody enjoyable and put on a great energetic show something didn’t connect (too fast, couldn’t understand the songs), That all changed with 'The Hope' album and it all made sense (right time, right songs) – better late than never.
I’d always found Ferocious Dog too Irish Folk Punk compared to say The Levellers and on 'Ferocious Dog' it’s a fair statement – The difference now is I totally appreciate the frantic fast paced nature of what they did back then.
The Glass – Despite the subject matter of the song 'The Glass' has to be one of the most uplifting songs I’ve ever heard that shuffles along on a nice beat and some folk banjo work. The Glass flows right into Lee’s tune which is a frantic folk instrumental work out (very catchy tune). Out On The Rocks another one of those upbeat folk punk songs despite not being Irish singer Red Ken don’t half sound Irish with his singing. Ferocious Dog also use some gang style backing vocals to good effect on this. A change of pace with Too Late this is a song of two halves with the first half being slow paced featuring a beautiful finger picked guitar melody (they are ticking all the cliché boxes for Irish folk punk – just kidding) before kicking off into a frantic punk work out with masses of fiddle all over it. If you’ve never experienced Ferocious Dog before then Freeborn John will throw a total curve ball at you. After the opening four songs of Irish influenced folk punk Ferocious Dog show they are just as much influenced by The Clash and Rancid with the brilliant Freeborn John, A mixture of reggae beats/ clean choppy guitar chords, dub basslines and some really interesting tasteful acoustic guitar licks. The song is about John Lilburne aka Freeborn John and his fight against the oppression of the people of England by the government (sound familiar?) the song slowly builds to a frantic crescendo – lets be honest if the Clash wrote this then it would have been viewed as a classic. It also shows that Ferocious Dog have never been afraid to get political. Hell Hounds is a song that in many ways has become more than its parts, it’s a frantic folk punk work out where the crowd often takes the moshing up a notch. It's an extremely catchy song with a great fiddle hook. If you’re a Ferocious Dog fan then you become a hell hound (it’s what the fans are known as), it doesn’t matter if you’ve just seen the band once or 500 times you're all the same – it’s a beautiful mentality of inclusiveness. Quiet Paddy a quiet fiddle lament begins this song and even though this reviewer couldn’t get into a song like this when I first heard Ferocious Dog it’s actually one of the highlights for me. Once 'Quiet Paddy' gets going it never lets up (bar a quick breakdown) its one of those songs you swear you’ve heard before because it sticks in your head.
Lyla – A welcome change of pace after Quiet Paddy with the dynamic Lyla. A mixture of finger picked acoustic guitar, electric guitar leads and haunting fiddle create an interesting intro that sets a sombre mood. I really struggled to write about 'Lyla' because it is a very interesting song that shows a lot of dynamics that many bands don’t even attempt to write on their debut album (10 years later its clear to see that Ferocious Dog were never going to be a band that just wrote one style of song). Criminal Justice is another one of those fast verse, slow chorus types of song that Ferocious Dog do so well. One of the great things about Ferocious Dog is many of the songs speak from personal experience this is about the miners strikes (which Ken was a part of) and the hated Criminal Justice bill of 1994. Pocket Full Of Madness changes things up nicely with a ska influenced work out (without the horns) driven by a sweet bass line. Blind Leading The Blind despite the obvious lazy similarities to the Levellers this is probably the closest Ferocious Dog come to The Levellers – there is a lot of mandolin work going on here and fiddle all over this track that there’s almost too much going on at once. Freethinker I won’t lie sometimes when I listen to this album I start to fatigue a bit at this point as 'Freethinker' is probably the weakest track on the album and its sort of similar to Blind Leading the Blind. Mairi’s Wedding Pt 2 comes along at just the right time with a thundering kick drum banging before all hell lets lose. This is another of those excellent hybrid songs that Ferocious Dog do, first part Ferocious punk, fast vocals up beat chords, then reggae breakdown before going back to the Ferocious punk all in 3.18. Paddy On The Railway is a cover of 'Poor Paddy on The Railway' by The Pogue’s, here Ferocious Dog take their version and speed it up to break neck speed to the point where you have to wonder how Ken actually sings all the lyrics to the song. Verse For Lee… All that needs to be said is a beautiful heartfelt tribute to Lee Bonsall (Ken’s Son & Fiddle player Dan’s Brother).
It’s kind of weird reviewing an album that’s 10 years old but overall Ferocious Dog was a good debut album (that could now possibly chart 10 years later). With hindsight you can clearly see that Ferocious Dog would achieve things but how many of you (that were there at the start) could honestly say that they’d actually get a top 40 album.
Live At Leeds Orchestral
On paper this really shouldn’t work, given that a lot of FD’s older material is fast paced folk punk you’d be forgiven for thinking that there would be no space for an extra strings to work but FD actually manage to pull this together rather well. The obvious choice for this set would have been to focus solely on Ferocious Dogs slower songs and it’s a credit to Ferocious Dog for not playing it safe by making by taking some risks to attempt some songs you wouldn’t expect them to in this format. Landscape Artist kicks things off and its an interesting choice of opener as its quite a blasting riff to get things going as it shows it’s not just going to be a run of the mill quiet acoustic/strings set. The strings add an extra punch to the fiddle hook whilst subtly in the verses they add different textures. On the second song A&B Ferocious Dog smash it out of the park but taking what was a really gentle acoustic song and elevating to something else. The additional vocals of Lizzey Joy Ross work really well and the strings add a depth of emotion to an already emotional song. Class War take a reggae song throw in some fast punk and add strings, on paper 'Class War' has no right to work and it should sound a total mess but somehow it just hold’s itself together (It’s certainly the most interesting choice in this set). Mairi’s Wedding Pt 3 lends itself really well to this format with the strings complimenting the verses really well and pushing harder in the instrumental sections of the songs to add depth. Yellow Feather the strings compliment the softly driven banjo song brilliantly, you’ll need to listen to numerous times to soak in everything that’s going on there as there seems to be numerous melodies and counter melodies all going at once. One of the great things about this album is it appears that Ferocious Dog are happy to subtly ease off at times to allow the strings to take a more prominent role.
1914 another gentle acoustic song sung by fiddle player Dan accompanied by turns into something different to the album version. It’s slightly more upbeat in the first half the song with the strings complimenting the guys. The outro of the song works really well with the added strings. Justice for ’96 there is a lot of space in this song and the strings fit in perfectly never over playing their hand, the dynamics are used well here with short stabs to make them punch when needed. The Demon apparently Ferocious Dog have never played this song live (you wouldn’t have known it) At under 2 minutes its over almost before its begun so make sure you listen to it again. Broken Solider One of the highlights of 'The Hope' Album given a more stripped back approach, despite being in an acoustic format it still manages to pack a punch with the strings adding some haunting deep sounds. You can hear how much the crowd appreciate this one with the clapping in the breakdown section and the outro sounds great with the extra strings. Lacey-Lee … Lizzey Joy Ross does some beautiful vocal melodies on the intro of the song and throughout. This is another song that seems to be benefiting from an increased tempo. The songs that work the best on this release are songs like Lacey-Lee that were mainly written on acoustic guitar as it leaves masses of room for the stings to create new melodies and it’s a credit to Dan for the work he’s put in to making these songs appear in this format. Not everything works perfectly on this album and Criminal Justice comes off a bit messy (and that’s not a criticism) with the songs fast slow fast dynamic and Kens frantic vocals, it sounds at times like there’s too much going on at once – In all honesty 'Criminal Justice' suffers from how high the bar has been set with the other songs. Blind Leading The Blind finishes the set off nicely with Ferocious Dog once again being content to allow the strings to take centre stage by easing off on their playing. Despite the live stuff being finished there is an added bonus to this 10 year anniversary edition of Ferocious Dog with a bonus track. Too Late (2022) As an added bonus Ferocious Dog have re-recorded a new version of one of their most popular songs from their debut album. The difference between the two versions are night and day, better equipment, better recording techniques, better mixers and even Ferocious Dog being better players all add together to make this a stonking new version of this song (now how about going back and doing the whole debut album like this boys?)
Overall thoughts on Live At Leeds – This is a really well recorded/mixed live album where you can hear everything going on and it’s an album you’ll want to listen to again and again to hear the work the strings are doing. As for Ferocious Dog you got to hand it to them for having the balls to actually try something different (with the extra strings), there have been numerous recordings with strings where its just the band playing over the top of added strings (which adds nothing) or just playing the easy slow songs to play it safe. Ferocious Dog have taken some real risks with this live performance by not sticking with the obvious choices and trying some stuff that had the potential to go badly wrong. I’m sure I’ll upset some Ferocious Dog fans by saying not everything works on this album but that’s mainly down to the high level of the songs that do work.
If you’ve yet to jump on the Ferocious Dog train or have heard 'The Hope' and aren’t sure do yourself a favour, go check out this excellent double disk set (you won’t regret it).
Website - ferociousdog.co.uk
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/FerociousDog
Review - Aleutia Shannon