In late 2004, Orange County, California's own Supertones made the announcement that 2005 would be their final year as a band. Plans had been announced earlier for a fan project containing several re-recorded old favorites and even a Five Iron Frenzy cover song, but as the project developed, many of these treats never made their way onto the final track listing. So with Unite potentially being the end-all collection of favorites for this talented ska/rock band, the question is: How does it measure up?
The problem with hits projects is everyone has their own idea of what the best of an artist is. And when an artist like the Supertones has six full-length studio albums with plenty of material to chose from, sacrifices must be made and key songs will be overlooked. At a quick glance, however, Unite seems to have it all.
Unite opens with the famed "Supertones Strike Back" from their sophomore release by the same title. A fitting opener, this ska/punk tune represents the strongest material this band ever offered, and is aptly followed by this project's title track, "Unite." The first of two brand new recordings of songs from their 1996 debut, "Adonai," is a bittersweet tribute to their beginnings. Sounding crisper and clearer than ever, the band has decided to take an off-the-wall approach to the new version. Lead vocalist Matt Morginsky (aka "Mojo") fills the classic instrumental intro with vocals mocking the song all the way up until the verses begin. With noticeable changes starting with trombone player Dan Spencer offering background vocals, altered lyrics, and a shout-out to defunct ska and punk bands is added at the end, it all adds up to a funny but somewhat disappointing tribute to a great song.
Much of the track selection proceeds strongly, including the radio hit "Away From You," the rousing "Return Of The Revolution," and the classics "Who Can Be Against Me?" and "Little Man." The only weak moment is the inclusion of the acoustic ballad "Old Friend" from Chase The Sun. Considering the omittance of more popular songs like "Sureshot," "So Great A Salvation," "Escape From Reason," "Go Go Go," or even "Wake Me Up On Time," diehard fans might have to wonder where this one came from.
The second new recording, "O.C. Supertones," from their debut, fares slightly better but is also given a silly rendition (complete with a heavy metal wail in the intro) with altered verses. Still a fun outting, it isn't really an improvement on the original.
Unite is a near-solid collection of the best of the Supertones with a few weak links along the way. The new recordings are fun, specifically for the original Tones fans who have been listening since day one, but are at the same time somewhat disappointing. Unite also includes a letter from frontman Mojo that documents the origins of the band and their experiences on the road, making the collection a little more personal. Aside from the letter and new recordings, the track selection is top-notch and is a reminder that the Supertones will be missed, and for good reason.- Review date: 1/30/05, written by John DiBiase
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