Review: Sonny Vincent ‘Primitive 1969-1976’

Born in 1952 in New York, Sonny Vincent has an extensive music career which stretches right back to the late 60’s and it’s this early period which this compilation focuses on. His early bands Distance (1969-71), Fury (1972), and Liquid Diamonds (1973-75) are all represented, as is his legendary proto-punk outfit Testors with the latter touring with the likes of Suicide, The Cramps and the Dead Boys. It’s also worth pointing out that Vincent collaborated with Maureen ‘Mo’ Tucker (The Velvet Underground) for nearly a decade. Impressive, eh?

Sonny Vincent 'Primitive 1969-1976' Artwork
Sonny Vincent ‘Primitive 1969-1976’ Artwork

Newcomers and younger listeners may be more familiar with Vincent thanks to his recent work in the supergroup The Limit which featured Bobby Liebling (Pentagram) and Jimmy Recca (The Stooges/Ron Asheton’s New Order). Indeed, our own Tim Keppie reviewed their Caveman Logic debut album back in 2021.

Starting chronologically, Distance are up first. Indecision is a lovely slice of post-Hendrix hard rock with vocals bearing a similarity to Jimi himself as well a little early Alice Cooper. Lament is raucous with a sound that would be later built upon by punk blues outfits such as Surgery and Laughing Hyenas. It gets the blood pumping and is an exhilarating aural delight of the first order. She’s Like Hiroshima reminds me of Randy Holden with its heavy psych blues and it would be interesting to see whether Shaman favourite Tony Reed was taking notes as there are similarities there too, especially in the vocal department.

Fury next and the main riff for Flying, holy cow it’s no wonder it was chosen to open the album. It’s certainly appropriately named as that’s what it does right off the bat, demonstrative of the sort of hard rock which even hardened punks would be able to appreciate, packed as it is with attitude. Outstanding. 100% Proof is simple yet effective, think what Ted Nugent would produce post Amboy Dukes but before he started spouting utter nonsense when he would just let his music do the talking. Concrete Bliss is a lot punkier with some serious The Stooges/New York Dolls vibes, unfussy and direct kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll.

A fantastic compilation that should incentivise you to check out more of Vincent’s work…

Liquid Diamonds represents the lion’s share of the material on Primitive 1969-1976 with five tracks, commencing with Long Ago. The track exemplifies Vincent‘s growth as a musician with its newfound sense of self-assurance. Musically it’s a slow-burning, slightly doomy number, not a million miles away from what Pentagram were producing at the time. You could say AWMAW is proto-thrash, one of the heavier tracks, it puts a lot of the NWOBHM bands to shame and is a personal favourite while The Good Well taps into Rocket From the Tombs, Electric Eels and the Cleveland scene as a whole.

Never Die at over eight minutes is the album’s longest track and a much proggier affair with some pleasant psychedelic flourishes, again Hendrix’s influence looms large ala Axis: Bold As Love. Fancy a bit of 13th Floor Elevators? Then look no further than All Day with its nifty garage-rock/Nuggets-era flavourings. Finally, there is Testors‘ sole contribution Scary, one of their earliest demos from 1976. There is some nice angular Television work going on and cool as fuck surf touches. I was reminded of The Wipers early work too due to the omnipresent darkness throughout, and as a huge fan of Greg Sage and co, this made me very happy indeed.

Thanks to Todd Severin and his crew over at Ripple Music, Primitive 1969-1976 will appeal not only to long-term fans but also to curious newbies. A fantastic compilation that should incentivise you to check out more of Vincent‘s work.

Label: Ripple Music
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Scribed by: Reza Mills