SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Just before grunge draped the West Coast in plaid and distorted guitars, San Jose-based The Raging Marys released “Birthday,” their 12-song indie album produced by Oakland punk legend Kevin Army (Green Day, Operation Ivy).
Released on vinyl and cassette in November 1989, the band’s mix of gritty garage rock and folky strains garnered critical acclaim, steady airplay on college radio and opening slots for heavyweights including Mudhoney, The Young Fresh Fellows and The Tragically Hip.
Now, the Marys are releasing a remastered version of the album, available digitally for the first time and on all platforms May 21, 2021. Preorder now on the band’s website, and starting April 30 on other digital platforms. Some rare original vinyl and cassette copies are also available.
The album’s first single, “BellaRose,” is available April 16 from all digital music sites.
Now, the Marys are releasing a remastered version of the album, for the first time on all digital platforms. (Some rare original vinyl and cassette copies are also available.)
Included with the digital version is a remake of the band's 1989 album track "Shotgun at Your Waist," now updated to "Assault Gun at Your Waist" and featuring longtime band friend and producer Dave Ristrim (Luke Bryan, Jewel) on lap steel guitar.
The album also features college radio favorites “BellaRose,” “Rachael Dear” and a haunting cover of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel,” complete with the voice of the King as the song fades.
Justin Perkins (The Replacements, Bash & Pop), remastered “Birthday” in fall 2020 at his Mystery Room Mastering in Milwaukee.
“One thing I love about remastering old albums is remembering how tight bands had to be before computers,” Perkins says. “Great band, great songs, and great production by Kevin Army.”
Army recorded the band in late 1988 and early 1989 at Sound and Vision in San Francisco and Dancing Dog Studios in Berkeley. John Goulden handled the original mastering at the now defunct K-Disc in Hollywood.
Critics praised The Marys and the album, which hit No. 1 on South Bay college radio and rose to No. 6 in France:
- "On a local record level this is as good as it gets." -- San Jose Metro
- "You can immediately tell when a band is putting out their guts. No formulated or contrived licks here. This is soul music." -- Face It Magazine
- "The Marys show a lot of energy and promise. I am impressed by the group's debut LP and cassette." -- BAM
- "For honest energy, it's hard to touch them." -- Good Times
Managed by Dennis Gonzales, founder of POW Magazine, The Raging Marys formed in 1988 out of San Jose’s London Down after an original member left and the band opted to pursue a harder sound with a new member.
"I wanted to manage The Raging Marys because I felt the band had a creative vibe that had nothing to do with the '80s," Gonzales says. "The Raging Marys knew where they were going with their hard garage and folk sound. I had faith they would exceed in the '90s. The band would have fit in nicely if they stuck it out."
The Marys attracted major label interest, but after constantly touring the West Coast and grinding their way up the Bay Area indie ladder, the band was overtaken by the need to move on in their lives.
The Raging Marys were Steve Hartsoe (lead vocals, guitar), brother Ken Hartsoe (drums, vocals), Chris Carbone (bass, vocals) and Gerry Henne (guitar).
"We’ve always been very proud of this album," Carbone says. "I’m glad we’re finally giving it some new life, and hopefully the music will find a new audience. The mid-to-late '80s was a strange transitional scene in alt music. I think 'Birthday' is a great example of the time period. Combining elements of prior psyche and folk styles and the heaviness to come in the '90s."
Henne, whom band members credit with adding a creative edge to their sound, died of cancer in January 2021. The band has dedicated the new release to his memory.
"The last time I spoke with Gerry was a text when I sent him the remastered album around Thanksgiving last year," Steve Hartsoe says. "He sounded excited, and was psyched that he just got his old Mesa Boogie amp fixed. We are gutted that we will never get to hear him play again." (Watch the remaining band members perform "Rachael Dear" as a tribute to Henne.)
Hartsoe and Carbone also perform again with London Down, which regrouped in 2018 and started releasing new music, including the 13-song “Gnashville” (2018) and “Live in San Jose” (2020).